State Digest


November 18, 2006

Fort Meade

Peace activists welcome trial

Thirteen peace activists cited in July for protesting outside the National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade say they plan to use their trial to question the agency's monitoring of nonviolent groups.

Longtime activist Max Obuszewski and five others were arraigned yesterday at U.S. District Court in Baltimore. The other seven did not appear and were excused from appearing until the trial, Obuszewski said.

They are charged with entering a military installation for illegal purposes, which carries a maximum six-month sentence and a $5,000 fine. The activists will defend themselves at their Feb. 9 trial, Obuszewski said.

"We're going to try to turn this into a political trial," he said.

Internal NSA e-mails posted to the Internet showed that the agency used local law enforcement to monitor a previous protest by the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, a group including Obuszewski and many other veteran peace activists. The e-mails appeared to show that the 2004 protesters were closely watched as they assembled in Baltimore.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has submitted freedom of information requests for any documents relating to the surveillance of peace activists.


Cecil County

2 officers indicted in brutality case

Two Elkton police officers have been indicted on assault charges in an apparent police brutality case.

The indictments, handed down this month, accuse the officers of assaulting two suspects at Elkton police headquarters in October.

The officers facing charges are Cpl. David Michael Dixon, 39, and Patrolman Walter H. Jefferis Jr., 38, who is accused of assaulting one of the suspects.

Few details were released about the details of the alleged assaults.

One of the suspects in the case - 35-year-old Scott Randall Leffew - was arrested Oct. 1 after a domestic violence call. Leffew told the Cecil Whig that he was beaten by Elkton officers.

The officers face misdemeanor assault and endangerment charges. They are scheduled for arraignment in Cecil County Circuit Court on Nov. 30.


Caroline County

Preston officials face recall elections

Recall elections have been cleared for two town officials in Preston.

Opponents of Town Commissioner Melissa Phillips and Commission President Rhoda Startt had the required number of signatures to force a recall election, the Caroline County Board of Elections ruled Thursday.

The recall effort began last month after former interim Police Chief Merl Evans resigned, stating the commissioners had been holding unannounced closed meetings to discuss town business.


Queen Anne's

Teacher testifies in sex abuse trial

A former middle school teacher accused of a sexual relationship with a female student testified at his trial Thursday that the girl pulled down her pants in front of him.

Christopher Larry Tribbitt, 27, faces sex-abuse charges for an alleged relationship with one of the students on his volleyball team, then 13 and now 15. Tribbitt testified that the girl twice pulled down her shorts to show her thong underwear. In her testimony a day earlier at the trial, the girl said Tribbitt had asked to see her wearing her thong.

Tribbitt also testified that he chatted with girl online because she was feeling peer pressure to drink alcohol and take drugs, and that the girl wasn't comfortable talking to school guidance counselors.

"I told her to stay true to herself, to not give in to her temptations," he said.


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