Howard Week

February 20, 2005

Man is convicted of destruction of political signs

A man caught using a bayonet to cut up two large Bush-Cheney signs in Ellicott City during a spate of political-sign vandalism last fall was convicted of property destruction by Howard County District Judge Neil Edward Axel. Two other charges were dismissed.

Peter Lizon, 31, was given a year's probation, and ordered to pay $328.04 in restitution to the Howard County Republican Party and provide 32 hours of community service. Axel said that the 24 hours Lizon spent in jail after his arrest Oct. 1 was "significant punishment" and refused prosecutor Leigh Kessler's request for more jail time.

Several incidents of sign destruction, including a Bush sign burned in western Howard and a bullet fired into the home of a Democratic activist, put the county on edge before the November election. After his conviction, Lizon said, "I realize I shouldn't have damaged the signs."

Howard delegation OKs school board measure

A bill that would allow the Howard County school board to investigate controversies involving the school superintendent's staff was overwhelmingly approved by the county's state legislators in Annapolis.

Consideration of two other bills was postponed. One proposes a property tax break for people age 65 or older who have lived in the same house for at least 20 years, and the other would create a county revenue authority.

The school board bill, sponsored by Republican Del. Warren E. Miller, won support from all three senators and five of the eight delegates after an amendment was added to give the school board the choice of initiating an inquiry.

Activism, policing cut crime in Oakland Mills

Strenuous efforts by residents and Howard County police have apparently paid off in Columbia's Oakland Mills village, as new statistics show a significant reduction in crime over the past two years.

"It's not accidental. It's something we worked very hard toward," said Barbara Russell, the village's representative on the Columbia Council. "There's just a whole new feeling now about the village."

In October 2003, Howard County police assigned an officer full time to the village center and surrounding area. In August last year, police opened a satellite office there.

The village has seen double-digit percentage declines from 2002 to 2004 in the number of reported motor-vehicle thefts and loitering and disorderly conduct incidents. The number of burglaries did not change much, but the number of homicides was zero in 2004, compared with two in 2003 and two in 2002.

The turning point, many residents believe, came in the summer of 2003, when the village mobilized and helped to prevent a drug and alcohol treatment center from moving into the neighborhood.

Police say the change in Oakland Mills is due in part to the efforts of Officer Michael Johnson, who was permanently assigned to the village center in 2003.

Baltimorean pleads guilty in stabbing at HCC

A Baltimore man who stabbed a Howard Community College security guard as she reported to work last year pleaded guilty last week to first-degree assault in Howard County Circuit Court.

After a plea agreement, Gilbert Lee Redmond Jr., 29, of Gwynn Oak, was sentenced to 11 years in prison by Judge Dennis M. Sweeney.

Man enters guilty plea in deli owner's killing

A Baltimore man agreed last week to plead guilty to felony first-degree murder and a weapons charge in the October 2003 killing and robbery of Jessup delicatessen owner Kwang Jun Kim; $125,000 was stolen.

Reginald Venable Jr., 46, agreed to accept a life term plus 20 years. Sentencing is scheduled for May 23.

Another man, Walter J. Blannon, was found guilty of first-degree murder Feb. 4 in the same incident. Blannon is to be sentenced May 19.

Merriweather Post opening its season April 16

Merriweather Post Pavilion will soon be open for business. Though questions remain about the Columbia amphitheater's future, tickets for this year's first show - Grammy-winning Maroon 5 on April 16 - are on sale.

I.M.P., the firm operating Merriweather, has a contract that lasts through this year, but General Growth Properties, which owns the outdoor amphitheater, is trying to sell it to a buyer that would transform it into a smaller, indoor venue.

A citizens panel appointed by the county executive, has been investigating whether the county should buy the pavilion. The panel is scheduled to announce its recommendation Tuesday.

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