A pop culture reference can be a tricky thing. Pick the right one and people smile, nodding their heads knowingly.
Miss the mark and, well, you could leave a federal judge befuddled.
Case in point: Defense attorney Andrew White arguing passionately last week that his client, a police officer charged with drug dealing, should be released on bond. He said Antonio L. Murray was an uncover narcotics police officer who might have had to fool dealers into thinking that he was crooked. White said the scenario was similar to those on cable TV's gripping but violent drama The Shield.
And that left U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar confused.
"The Shield?" he asked.
"The Shield - you know, it's a television show," White said.
The judge apparently prefers tamer fare.
"It must not be on PBS," Bredar said.
- Matthew Dolan
After all the speeches, glad-handing and earth-turning at a business center groundbreaking in Sykesville, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. rushed back to his car. A woman intercepted him and timidly asked a favor.
"My son is career Army, serving in Iraq, and a staunch Republican," Fran Froelich quickly said to Ehrlich. "When I told him I would be seeing the governor today, he asked me to shake your hand for him."
Ehrlich immediately obliged with a firm grip and clung to Froelich's hand while she told him of her son, Sgt. Jeffrey Froelich.
Ehrlich then asked his official photographer to snap a picture of mother and governor that will be e-mailed to the 35-year-old soldier. "I wish I could shake the governor's hand for every Maryland troop who is over there," Froelich said.
- Mary Gail Hare
A higher authority
Prosecutors and defense attorneys handling the death penalty case of Kevin G. Johns Jr., the 22-year-old prisoner charged with strangling a fellow inmate on a prison bus in February, were trying last week to settle on a trial date.
Defense attorney William C. Brennan Jr. ruled out September, October, November and December because of a federal case of his going to trial in Boston. Also eliminated as possible dates were parts of March and April, when Brennan goes to trial with a different federal case in Greenbelt. He suggested the judge consider a May 2006 trial date.
Visibly incredulous, Baltimore County prosecutor S. Ann Brobst countered with February.
But that raised another potential conflict. Patricia Lucchesi, the Circuit Court's central assignment commissioner, asked whether anyone was worried about the court proceedings getting thrown off schedule by winter weather.
Judge Thomas J. Bollinger authoritatively settled the matter, saying, "A greater judge than I controls that." He scheduled Johns' two-week murder trial to begin Feb. 13.
- Jennifer McMenamin
And not 1 crab cake recipe!
Baltimore features prominently in the latest issue of hip-hop magazine Don Diva: The Original Street Bible. But it's not the type of press the mayor's office would be eager to brag about.
First, there's the story on Baltimore's Bossman, a local rap artist. The writer, Bopp the Hustla, tells how the city is short on rap music talent but long on "societal ills" such as AIDS, preteen pregnancy and illiteracy.
"I personally would think that any predominantly black city that has earned the moniker `Bodymore Murdaland' would be well in the forefront" of rap music, the article states.
Then the infamous DVD Stop Snitching plays prominently in the glossy, five-year-old magazine: A New York company is selling it on a two-page ad filled with other videos with similar themes.
There's also a published interview with Skinny Suge, the DVD's producer. In the interview, Suge says he will continue to make similar videos. "I wanna expose every rat all throughout the United States so hopefully all rats will be scared to be exposed," he is quoted as saying.
He also clarifies that the video was never meant to intimidate witnesses who are law-abiding citizens, only people who turn informant after getting arrested. "If you out here everyday throwin' it up and you get caught and then decide that you wanna be a law-abiding citizen - you a ... rat."
- Doug Donovan
Another urban blight
Transforming suburban Columbia's central core into an urban downtown offers perils as well as rewards, judging from a written question from one person that was read out during a town meeting of about 500 people last week.
General Growth Properties vice president and Columbia General Manager Dennis W. Miller stood before an interested crowd of suburbanites, many of whom have lived in the planned town for more than 25 years, and described a vision of city-style development, complete with high-rise buildings, shops, cafes and curbside parking.
That's what provoked some apprehension in one person who is obviously used to head-in parking spots so common at shopping centers and townhouse developments.
"I can't parallel park. It's a bad idea. Not efficient," the writer complained.
But Miller, who coolly answered dozens of questions and tried to calm anxieties of every sort, reassured the writer. "It slows parking," Miller said, which is good, in his view. People who take longer to park will calm traffic to help pedestrians get around better.
- Larry Carson