Between The Lines

BETWEEN THE LINES

May 03, 2004

Unnatural selection

If you've got Baltimore County jury duty this morning, have an extra cup of coffee -- you could be in for some long deliberations. Legendarily long-winded Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger got his notice and is scheduled to report at 9 a.m. today.

But the danger of a 12 Angry Men situation with one of the county's most verbose politicians playing the Henry Fonda role may not be so great. What are the chances that a defense lawyer would let a congressman, former county executive, former county councilman and former county prosecutor on the jury?

"Um, slim and none," said defense attorney T. Wray McCurdy. "But slim just left town."

-- Andrew A. Green

Where's a calculator?

Like the rest of the City Council, President Sheila Dixon is worried that the 4 percent energy tax Mayor Martin O'Malley is proposing could hit residents hard.

But Dixon seems to think the tax, which also would apply to manufacturers, churches and nonprofit groups, could hit some harder than others.

She offered this hypothetical last week: a resident who has oil heat, electric lights and a gas stove.

"If you have three sources of energy," she said, "then it's 4 percent per source of energy. They'll be taxed three times."

True, but that doesn't add up to a higher tax bill. The amount is the same regardless of whether the taxpayer pays 4 percent on three separate bills, or 4 percent of a single, larger bill that covers all energy costs.

-- Laura Vozzella

Fashion victim

Owings Mills resident Monica King reports she was a victim of an all-too-common crime in the city -- theft of items from a parked car. However, the circumstances were a bit out of the ordinary, as were the articles taken.

King said she was attending a birthday dinner for a relative at the Hyatt Regency at the Inner Harbor on April 25 and turned over her car, a Mercedes-Benz SUV, to valet parking. When the car was retrieved several hours later, $7 was gone and so was some dry cleaning.

It turns out to be very expensive dry cleaning -- $5,000 worth of designer woman's clothes, according to a written report. For the items to be of use to the thief, the malefactor will have to be able to fit into a size 4 lady's business suit.

The Hyatt folks at corporate headquarters in Chicago say a hotel official will be meeting with King to try to resolve the issue.

King, though distressed, said she still paid the parking fee -- and even tipped.

-- Bill Ordine

Drive toward the cure

BMW dealers are pitching an odd combination: Test drive one of their cars and fight breast cancer.

The national convoy of 18 silver BMWs comes to Maryland this week. The company will donate $1 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation for every mile driven during test drives. The company is hoping to raise $1 million during its nationwide tour.

In Baltimore County, the test drives are available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Northwest BMW in Owings Mills on Wednesday, and at BMW of Towson on Thursday.

There's even a $10-a-ticket national drawing for a blue 2004 BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle, signed by the six cast members of the television show Friends.

-- Howard Libit

Finder isn't a keeper

When Clarinda Harriss, the English department chairwoman at Towson University, spoke with The Sun about her donation of 40 crates of her family's books to the Smith College Club's annual used-book sale, she issued a plea for the return of an unintentional bequest.

"If it accidentally got into those sale boxes, I'd be absolutely suicidal," she said of an illustrated first American edition of Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination. She promised a finder's fee -- on top of the tome's purchase price -- to anyone who found it.

This story has a happy ending.

Joan Griffith, the longtime organizer of the book sale, read Harriss' comments in the paper, marched to the silent auction table and plucked the professor's beloved book from the offerings.

The women have discussed the volume's recovery -- and the promised finder's fee.

"It was left unspoken what it will be," Griffith said with a chuckle. "I'm not expecting to get something with a comma in it."

Whatever the amount, it will mean a little more scholarship money for Maryland women attending the Northampton, Mass., college.

-- Jennifer McMenamin

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