Officer at school pleads guilty to abuse
A Baltimore County police officer who had been assigned to Dundalk Middle School pleaded guilty yesterday to sexually abusing a seventh-grade boy he met at the school.
James Mark Blankenship Jr., 28, of Parkville, entered guilty pleas in Baltimore County Circuit Court to one count of sexually abusing a minor and one count of misconduct in office. State sentencing guidelines recommend a prison term of one to six years.
As part of a plea agreement reached yesterday, prosecutors agreed to dismiss other charges against Blankenship that stemmed from his alleged abuse of another middle school boy and an alleged consensual sexual encounter with a 16-year-old boy who did not attend the school.
Blankenship had been a school resource officer at Dundalk Middle for two years before he was charged in July and suspended without pay. Prior to his assignment at the school, Blankenship worked out of the North Point precinct for about four years.
Police spokesman Bill Toohey said that Blankenship will now be fired.
Jason G. League, an assistant Baltimore County state's attorney, told a judge during the plea hearing that what began as a friendship between Blankenship and the 13-year-old middle school boy in the 2004-2005 school year turned sexual. On several occasions in the spring of last year, Blankenship took the boy in his police cruiser to parking lots in Dundalk, where the officer encouraged the boy to touch his genital area and upper thigh through his uniform pants, League told the judge. Blankenship also invited the boy to his home, where they twice engaged in a sex act, the prosecutor said.
After hearing League's description of the events, defense attorney Andrew I. Alperstein told the judge that his client "doesn't agree with every single detail," but that there was enough to support the guilty plea.
Bill seeks to extend moratorium
A Baltimore County councilman wants to extend a moratorium on development in Middle River to give county planners more time to create a long-term growth plan for the area.
County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder's bill calls for the county to deny building permits in Middle River until Aug. 1. The initial moratorium, put in place in May, was for six months, but was extended for another three months.
The community "sits in a very precarious area as far as current and future development, and rapid development, goes," Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat, said at a council work session yesterday. The council is to vote on the bill at Tuesday's council meeting.
Library construction to start in fall
Construction on additions to the public library and senior center in Pikesville is expected to begin by October, Baltimore County officials said yesterday.
The $2 million expansion will provide the library with a children's activity center, a magazine lounge and improved space for teen-age readers. A "senior-friendly" fitness center, an updated lobby and more classrooms are also part of the 7,000-square-foot expansion, scheduled for completion in June 2007, officials said.
County Executive James T. Smith Jr. unveiled the first set of project drawings at the senior center yesterday, on the anniversary of the combination library and senior center's opening in 1982 on Reisterstown Road. About 15 parking spaces are to be added as part of the project.
Ex-MHIC clerk guilty of extortion
A former clerk with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission has pleaded guilty to trying to extort $400 from a Baltimore County resident applying for a home improvement license, the state attorney general's office said yesterday.
Teera Armstrong Murray, 31, of Parkville was sentenced Monday in Baltimore County District Court to the 68 days she had already spent in jail. Judge Barbara R. Jung also ordered Murray to serve one year of probation, according to the attorney general's office, which gave this account of the case:
On Dec. 7, 2004, while working as an office service clerk with the state commission that licenses and regulates home improvement contractors, subcontractors and salespeople, Murray told a woman calling to check on the status of an application that it had been denied. Murray later called the applicant back with news that the license had been approved but "it will cost you a little," according to the attorney general's office, which prosecuted the case. When the applicant offered to send a thank-you note, Murray responded, "No, I prefer cash."
The license applicant contacted police and on Dec. 9, 2004, with an officer standing nearby, the applicant called Murray to ask what the money was for. Murray responded, "For approving your license." The clerk also said, "The last guy paid $400. I want at least that much," according to Kevin Enright, a spokesman with the attorney general's office.