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Should government seize your property without a criminal conviction?

Opinion 

In 2012, Mandrel Stuart, the 35-year-old owner of a small Staunton barbecue business, was stopped for a routine traffic violation in Fairfax County. In his vehicle was $17,550 in cash from his business that was going to be used for payroll and other expenses. Without being convicted of a crime, the Fairfax County Police Officer took the $17,550 under the authority of the current Virginia Asset Forfeiture laws.

He rejected a settlement for half his money, demanding a jury trial. He eventually got all of his money back, but lost his business because he didn’t have cash to pay his costs. Currently a local sheriff or police officer can seize your property without a criminal conviction. In fact you can be found not guilty of the criminal charge and the forfeiture action could continue.

Delegate Mark Cole, representing the 88th District which includes parts of Stafford and Spotsylvania Counties, is leading the fight against this practice with HB1287.

“Current Virginia law allows for seizure of personal property without a criminal conviction. My legislation would require criminal conviction before property could be taken,” said Delegate Mark Cole. I believe most commonwealth’s attorneys, sheriffs, and police are using the system responsibly,” Cole said. “However, there is the potential for abuse and it is fundamentally un-American for the government to take someone’s property when they have not been convicted of a crime. This legislation will protect property owners from potential misuse or abuse of the state asset forfeiture provisions.”

And why would there be potential misuse and abuse of this power? The state collected an average of $7.2 million a year between 2000 and 2008 by seizing cash and selling property involved in suspected drug-related activity, according to the Institute for Justice. Keep Reading…

First quarter campaign funds show competitive race in Virginia’s 29th district

News

The cScreen Shot 2015-04-01 at 11.26.47 AMampaign finance reports for the three Democratic primary candidates in Virginia’s 29th Senate district – Jeremy McPike, Delegate Michael Futrell and Atif Qarni – show that the race is going to be very competitive.

“What these numbers show is, is that we are looking at a competitive race for this Democratic nomination,” said Stephen Farnsworth, professor and director at the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington.

According to the State Board of Elections website, McPike reported $50,000, Qarni reported $35,743 and Futrell reported $31,716 for this first quarter.

“All three [candidates] have shown an ability to raise roughly comparable amounts of money, which will enable them to spend roughly comparable amounts of money – yard signs, and flyers,” said Farnsworth.

Farnsworth stated that while money is typically very important in political races in Virginia, given that the race is a primary, and all three candidates have raised similar amounts – money is not the most important factor right now.

“The turn out in primaries is very, very low in Virginia. As a result, you have to spend a significant amount of energy to convince people to support you – and then after that – you have to spend a significant amount of money after spending [a lot] of energy, to get them to turn out. So it’s a doubly difficult task to win in a primary…Fundraising will intensify in the weeks ahead as more people start to think about the primaries,” said Farnsworth.

All three candidates will be taking part in a primary debate, hosted by Potomac Local, on May 18.

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Sprinkler bursts at Manassas senior home

News
amerisist

Fire and rescue crews were called to Amerisist of Manassas on Saturday.

A sprinkler head inside the building broke and water spewed inside the facility. No one was injured, said Manasass City spokeswoman Patty Prince.

Amerisist in Manassas is located at 10410 Hastings Drive.

Amerisist operates seven locations in Virginia. All are assisted living homes for senior citizens.

Send breaking news and photos to Potomac Local.

Public hearing for $12.9B in road improvements on April 30

News

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will be holding a public hearing for the Six-Year Improvement Program (SYIP) on April 30 in Fredericksburg.

The hearing will be held at 6 p.m. at the Germanna Community College location in Fredericksburg.

The SYIP outlines road improvements that VDOT plans to support in the area from fiscal years 2016 to 2021, said a VDOT release. 

The Commonwealth Transportation Board released their draft of the SYIP on April 15, which outlines almost 3,000 transportation projects to be completed over the 6-year period – totaling $12.9 billion. 

Keep Reading…

Power outage in Triangle effects 1,900 residents

News

More than 1,900 customers have been effected.
Dominion Power is fixing the outage.
Police blocked off the scene of the accident.
A power utility pole will be replaced.

Update

According to Prince William County Police spokesperson Jonathan Perok, the driver in the vehicle that crashed into the utility pole in Triangle has been charged with a DUI.

A resident stated that the power had been out since 2:30 a.m.

Original post

Two outages in Triangle have left more than 1,900 customers without power.

According to Dominion Power, the energy supplier for the area, there are two outages in the Graham Park area.

The first outage has effected 1,902 customers, due to a vehicle accident, said Dominion Power’s outage map. The expected restoration time for the outage is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

The second outage has effected 21 customers, due to emergency work on the scene, according to Dominion Power’s outage map. The expected restoration time from the outage is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Workers from Dominion Power are on the scene at the intersection of Olde Port Lane and Graham Park Road, replacing two power poles that were down.  

Prince William County Public Schools experienced bus delays at several schools in the area due to the road closures where Dominion Power was fixing the downed lines. 

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 9.24.45 AM

Man found shot, killed in Stafford County

News

One person is dead this morning in the White Oak section of Stafford County.

Shots rang out at a home on Clint Lane at 5:01 a.m. Monday, April 27. Sheriff’s investigators found a male suffering a fatal gunshot wound.

“Currently Stafford detectives and deputies are on scene investigating.  There is no further danger to the community,” stated sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy in a press release.

School bus drivers this morning were routed around the area affected by the investigation. A message went out to residents notifying them of the shooting, according to Kennedy.

Clint Lane is off Town and County Drive, just off the busy White Oak Road in southern Stafford County.

Motorcyclist flown to hospital after Stafford crash

News
lake arrowhead motorcycle crash

A driver of a motorcycle was airlifted to Inova Fairfax Hospital after crashing his bike in Stafford’s Lake Arrowhead neighborhood.

The crash occurred shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday when the driver of the bike was traveling on Beech Drive toward Lakeside Drive. The biker was rounding a curve when he lost control of his bike and slid off the road. The bike landed near a tree. Witnesses said the biker was found about 20 yards away from the bike and was unresponsive.

Speed appears to be factor in the crash.

The biker was identified by witnesses as Mike Wells. He was said to be in his 20s.

Friends described Wells as an experienced bike rider.

Wells was flown from nearby Rockhill Volunteer Fire Department. Virginia State Police are investigating the crash.

 

I was stopped by a Prince William police officer after I took this photo

Every photo has a story.

As a reporter for many years, I’ve worked a lot of crash scenes, house fires, and homicide investigations. Never once was I stopped by a police officer and asked for my license and registration.

There’s a first time for everything, they say. Who knew it would be the assignment where I’m taking a photo of a Ferris Wheel?

It was just before 1 p.m. Friday when I was driving along Route 1 and saw a carnival rides erected in a parking lot across from Our Lady Angels church. I pulled into the parking lot to take a photo of the wheel with my camera phone. A police car was sitting in the parking lot.

After pulling in, I stopped my car, rolled down my driver’s side window, stuck my cell phone out the window, and took this photo: Keep Reading…

Coal ash ponds at Possum Point in Quantico pose risk to residents

Opinion

Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new rules on the construction, maintenance and remediation of coal ash ponds which are used at coal-fired power plants.  This has consequences for the 36th District and communities along the Potomac River and other areas of the Commonwealth.

There are currently five old coal ash ponds at Dominion Resources Possum Point Power Station in Quantico, Virginia which is in the 36th District.  Coal ash or fly ash is the end product of burning coal to create electricity.  Decades ago, it was common practice to mix it with water and store it in ponds into a “slurry.”

If ponds are not properly lined with impermeable barriers, then they can leach toxic metals into ground water and surface water.  According to some sources, depending on the coal used, they can leach toxic elements such as arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, hexavalent chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, selenium, strontium, thallium, and vanadium, along with dioxins and PAH compounds.  Metals like this store in the fatty tissues of fish and can aggregate in fish consumers such as birds or humans.  Modern practice is to store ash in dry landfills.  

Keep Reading…

Incumbents keep seats in Prince William Firehouse Primary

News

The field of candidates for local elections in Prince William County is getting smaller.

Republicans held their “firehouse primary” in Prince William County on Saturday. The results of those races tell us which member of the GOP will go on to face their Democratic challengers in the November General Election.

Voting in the firehouse primary took place between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at various locations across the county. The firehouse primary was held instead of a traditional primary on June 9 due to paperwork filing error on the part of the Prince William County Republican Party.

The results of the 2015 Prince William County Republican Firehouse Primary: Keep Reading…

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