4BETTER OR WORSE- The week in review

Best plea: One of the alleged murderers of Jayne McGowan, William Douglas Gentry Jr., 23, pleads guilty to capital murder and five related charges in Charlottesville Circuit Court December 15 in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty. Also charged in the November 8, 2007, slaying of McGowan, 26, in her St. Clair Avenue home is Gentry's cousin, Michael Stuart Pritchett, 19, who is scheduled for trial June 8.

Best collision of fashion and free speech: Three civil liberties watchdogs file suit in federal court against the Virginia Board of Elections and the registrars who kept voters from wearing their campaign button or stickers at the polls November 4. Joining forces in the lawsuit are the ACLU, the Rutherford Institute, and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

Worst collision of fashion and free speech: Madison resident Leigh Purdum is the only person arrested in Virginia under the above law when she refused to cover her John McCain t-shirt November 4 and the Madison County Electoral Board swore out a complaint against her, the Culpeper Star Exponent reports. Purdum has been involved in a controversial Freedom of Information case against her former boss, Sheriff Eric Weaver, whose office served the warrant on her.

Most collisions: Genesis Crawford II allegedly strikes four cars at Proffitt Road and U.S. 29 December 12 before wrecking on Pritchett Lane.

Best solidarity with state workers: UVA President John Casteen will forego a raise this year like other state employees

Least like other state workers: Pulling in almost $800,000, Casteen is the third-highest paid public university president in the country, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Worst news for UVA union members: The Communications Workers of America are shutting down the Staff Union at UVA because of lack of membership, Chiara Canzi reports in C-Ville Weekly. The CWA wants 1,000 members; SUUVA has 250. However, they are being offered a merger with the Verizon union in Richmond.

Worst news for Jan Cornell: The SUUVA president is out of a job.

Worst news for Invista employees: The Waynesboro nylon plant announces the layoffs of 210 employees and that it will idle the plant because of reduced carpet demand.

Worst car fire: The occupant of a vehicle that explodes and burns on Gordonsville Road December 11 is unidentified at press time. 

Most controversial appointment: City Council unanimously approves Mike Gaffney to a fourth-term as chairman of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, despite a growing clamor that the current 50-year water plan is too unwieldy and costly.

Most unusual public works outcome: The $7.5 million re-bricking and restoration of the Downtown Mall could come in 10 to 15 percent under budget, say city officials– unless unanticipated costs eat up the savings. Rachana Dixit has the story in the Daily Progress.

Best for tourism: The January 20 inauguration of Barack Obama has local hotels booking up, despite the 120-mile-distance from DC. Brian McNeill has the story in the DP.

Best magazine cover: The Virginia Quarterly Review picks up another accolade with its fall issue on the war at home, which Time lists in its Top 10 Magazine Covers of 2008, along with the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and the Economist.

Best flash mob: UVA students stage an 11:45pm rave outside Clemons Library December 12,  inspired by a December 9 event at UNC.

Best topless protest: In time for the circus coming to town, PETA member Christina Dang goes caged and shirtless December 10 on the Downtown Mall to protest Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus' treatment of animals.