Week In Review

June 24, 2007

Annapolis

U.S. court convicts Blake in carjacking

Leeander Jerome Blake, an accused killer whose victory at the U.S. Supreme Court ended the state's case and prompted a frustrated local prosecutor to say the young Annapolis man had "gotten away with murder," was convicted on federal murder and carjacking charges in the 2002 killing of a city businessman just blocks from the State House.

The centerpiece of the successful federal prosecution was Blake's incriminating statement to Annapolis police - remarks that Anne Arundel County prosecutors were barred from using. Blake admitted to police that he and a friend, Terrence Tolbert, were looking to carjack someone - and that he pointed out the victim to Tolbert. Although Blake's attorneys maintained that he didn't participate in the killing of Straughan Lee Griffin, a federal prosecutor dismissed this claim as "laughable."

"Justice was done," Virginia Griffin, the victim's mother, told reporters. "But we're not happy. Nobody's happy. ... It's been hell. We've been going through this and having motions and hearings and trials for almost five years."

Blake, 22, faces the possibility of a life sentence when he returns Aug. 28 to U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson's courtroom in Baltimore.

Maryland section, Friday

Edgewater

KIPP school closes for lack of space

A pioneering charter school in Anne Arundel County, which had raised reading and math test scores among its once-trailing minority and low-income students, has abandoned its two-year hunt for more space and is closing. The Knowledge is Power Program, or KIPP, Harbor Academy in Edgewater made its decision Wednesday and began notifying parents.

"It is with immense sadness that we announce that KIPP Harbor Academy must permanently close its doors this summer," Jallon Brown, KIPP Harbor's founder and school leader, wrote in a letter to parents.

Harbor Academy is the first of 52 KIPP schools in 16 states to close because it had no room to grow.

Maryland section, Friday

Anne Arundel

County to probe school expenditure

A bitter feud over who controls the purse strings of Anne Arundel County's schools escalated when the Board of Education voted to spend $4.6 million on a computer system in open defiance of the County Council.

The county auditor is seeking an opinion from the Office of Law on whether the board had the authority to contract for the payroll and personnel data software Wednesday.

Two nights earlier, the County Council had rejected the school system's request for $3 million to make a down payment on the system, saying it wanted to see whether other county agencies could share it before approving the funding next month.

At issue now is whether the board's action circumvented county and state laws, which dictate that the executive and council have final say over how money is shifted between certain spending categories.

"I don't expect to learn that they intentionally made an expenditure that was not permissible," County Attorney Jonathan Hodgson said. "Nevertheless, we need to see what we see."

Maryland section, Friday

Anne Arundel

Schools squeezed to balance budget

Despite weeks of decrying dire choices, Anne Arundel County school board members passed unanimously an $871 million budget without cutting a job or eliminating any existing programs.

The school board also approved a $132.6 million capital budget that school facilities officials said left in limbo many key construction projects that could accommodate military families moving to the area over the next three years.

Through cuts to more than a dozen areas, the district scraped together $13.5 million to balance its operating budget. Some measures included freezing 100 central office and teaching positions left empty through turnover, cutting conference travel expenses and making classrooms warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter to hold the line on utility costs.

Anne Arundel section, Friday

Fort Meade

Police investigate role in brawl

Anne Arundel County police launched an internal investigation into a brawl at Meade High School that ended with 11 students arrested, and officers and teenagers bruised and cut, but they also defended their actions.

Police responded to complaints alleging excessive force, filed by parents of several of the students arrested in the June 15 melee.

"Based on the information that the department has at this time, the department believes the officers used great restraint and acted appropriately, preventing an escalation to what could have been a very dangerous situation," Cpl. Mark Shawkey, a department spokesman, said in a prepared statement.

The fight, which erupted over a stolen cell phone, grew as students attacked officers trying to restore order in the crowded school gym, police said.

At least three students went to hospitals, while police said that five officers suffered minor injuries but did not require hospitalization.

Maryland section, Wednesday

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