Digest

CITY / COUNTY DIGEST

August 21, 2007

Maryland tobacco farmers receive $13 million settlement

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced yesterday that the state's tobacco farmers received a $13 million settlement resulting from an agreement reached in the wake of the 1998 case against the nation's largest tobacco companies.

"This decision protects our farmers from the tobacco companies' efforts to deny them the benefits bargained for in the trust agreement," Gansler said.

That trust agreement was formulated to ensure that farmers affected by the settlement against Philip Morris, USA, Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and others would be compensated for their losses. Pennsylvania's farmers also received a $9 million settlement to be paid out through 2010.

A news release from Gansler's office said the tobacco companies maintained they did not have to make payments to Maryland and Pennsylvania after passage of the federal Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act in 2004. That law provided for payments to farmers in other tobacco-growing states, but not Maryland and Pennsylvania; those two states took action in a North Carolina court after the companies stopped making payments.

"We applaud the North Carolina court ruling in the challenge to get the tobacco companies to live up to their agreement with Maryland farmers," Maryland Agriculture Secretary Roger Richardson said in the statement. "This is an important first step to ensure Maryland farmers will receive payments under the National Tobacco Grower Settlement Trust."

Jennifer Skalka

Baltimore

: Southwest

3 families displaced in apartment fire

Three families were displaced yesterday morning when a two-alarm fire burned an apartment in Southwest Baltimore, a city Fire Department spokesman said.

No injuries were reported in the blaze that was reported about 6 a.m. in the 4900 block of Alson Drive, at the Westhill Square apartment complex near Edmondson Avenue and Cooks Lane.

Chief Kevin Cartwright, the fire spokesman, said the cause of the fire remains under investigation. He said it started in an apartment on the second floor and caused damage to adjacent apartments. He said the complex has one vacant apartment where at least one family can stay temporarily.

Cartwright said the fire was under control at 7:10 a.m.

Federal court

Convicted felon admits having guns

An Atlanta man pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to being a felon in possession of handguns that police found during a speeding stop on Interstate 95 in Baltimore, federal prosecutors said.

Kwati Jackson, 35, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 5, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Prosecutors said Jackson was a passenger in a car registered to his wife when it was pulled over March 14. An officer said he smelled marijuana and called in a narcotics dog.

Prosecutors said the dog alerted police to a marijuana cigarette in an ashtray, and police then found two 9mm semiautomatic handguns, two .380-caliber handguns, 27 rounds of 9mm ammunition and six rounds of .380-caliber ammunition.

The prosecutors did not give information on Jackson's prior felony conviction.

Severn man jailed for identity fraud

A Severn man was sentenced to more than six years in prison yesterday and ordered to pay restitution of at least $120,000 for stealing people's identities and gaining access to private and corporate credit accounts, federal prosecutors said.

Ronald Steven Williams II, 32, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to engaging in the fraud from June 29, 2001, to July 14, 2006.

Prosecutors said Williams, using false identifications, also opened lines of credit in the tens of thousands of dollars.

East side

Jury is selected in rape case retrial

A jury was selected yesterday for the retrial of an East Baltimore private-school teacher accused of raping a 13-year-old student.

The first trial of Charles Carroll, 30, ended in a mistrial in January after a school administrator improperly testified about two other teenagers accusing Carroll of sexual abuse.

Opening statements in the new trial are to begin tomorrow.

Carroll, of Baltimore, was arrested in 2005. He had been teaching at Community Initiatives Academy despite having been convicted in 1995 of second-degree murder. Carroll had been released on parole in 2001 and was hired at the school less than a year later.

Principal Christina V. Phillips Holtsclaw has said she hired Carroll because he needed a second chance. She remains principal of the Christian-based school.

Julie Bykowicz

Northwest

Boy, 8, hit by SUV, in critical condition

An 8-year-old Northwest Baltimore boy was in critical condition at Sinai Hospital after he was struck by a sport utility vehicle yesterday afternoon while crossing a street near his home, police said.

Shortly after 2 p.m., the boy, whose name was not released, ran between parked vehicles near Reisterstown Road and Keyworth Avenue and was struck by the SUV.

The impact propelled the child several feet before he landed in the roadway, police said.

Traffic Officer William Murray said the driver of the SUV stopped and remained at the scene.

The boy sustained multiple injuries and went into cardiac arrest, said Chief Kevin Cartwright, a Fire Department spokesman.

Murray said the accident remains under investigation.

Richard Irwin

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