Charlottesville Breaking News

Saintly move? Poet thieves return St. Maarten's sign

Looks like the people who stole St. Maarten Café's sign had a fit of remorse, which even inspired some poetry.

"I came around the corner last night after having dinner and there it was," says Nicole Hamilton, who is re-opening the restaurant with her husband Russ and several local investors, "bolts too, sitting against the wall."  

On Tuesday, March 6, Hamilton was close to tears after she discovered it missing. She asked that it please be returned, and said the owners would not press charges. 

"We plan on giving it and the wall a good cleaning and getting it rehung very soon," she says. "There was almost no damage to the sign, so I think it was taken out of respect and love of Maartens."

Indeed, Hamilton received an email from the thieves before it was returned, in the form of a poem:

To the good people of St. Maarten's,
Please give a moment to make amends.
We thought your bar was closed for good,
And wrongfully stole your sign made of wood.
We're truly sorry, we mean you no trouble,
Your sign will be back, right on the double.
Returned to the cafe later tonight,
Give us a chance to make things right.
We're dreadfully sorry we caused such a fuss,
...

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Forgotten love is rekindled in 'The Vow'

The Vow is a well-behaved, tenderhearted love story about impossibly nice people. It's not even about whether they'll get married. They've been happily married for four years. The problem is, she can't remember them. She can't even remember her husband.

Paige and Leo are a young Chicago couple. She's a Lake Forest blue-blood who angered her parents by dropping out of Northwestern Law School, moving into the city, and enrolling at the School of the Art Institute, where she sculpts clay into such forms that Leo mistakes a pile of fresh clay for one of her artworks. Leo has opened an independent recording studio, arguing that although everyone may be able to produce songs on their laptops, he can aim higher – at the heights of an old Sun session, for example.

They live happily. They are in love. She is estranged from her parents. They look great together, and played by Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum, why shouldn't they? The actors bring a dreamy warmth to the roles. Then one snowy night they're rear-ended by a truck. He wakes up in the hospital. She remains in a drug-induced coma to assist her brain in reducing its swelling. When she recovers, she has no...

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How is March gonna turn out?

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St. Maarten Café sign stolen

Just a week before the planned re-opening of St. Maarten Café on the Corner, which closed abruptly at the end of January after 26 years, more trouble has struck. On the night of March 5, the massive 200-pound, hand-made sign that has been hanging outside since 1985 was stolen.

"It makes me want to cry," says Nicole Hamilton, fighting back tears. "I'm freaking out I'm so upset."

Hamilton, along with her husband Russ and several local investors, were planning to re-open the popular Corner restaurant, but when they arrived that morning they noticed the sign was missing

"We're just looking to have it safely returned," says Hamilton. "And we won't press charges."

If you have any information about the sign, call Crime Stoppers at 977-4000 or fill out an online incident report.

–->Update: Look what happened next.

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Double-dipping? Man decries rougher justice for black workers

Butch Wells was bothered when he learned that a former employee of his may have been collecting unemployment benefits during the 18 months she earned a paycheck from him. What intensifies his anger is that three others charged with welfare fraud– all of them African American– are getting prosecuted while his ex-employee may be allowed to negotiate her way out of trouble.

Do some government agencies criminalize benefits fraud while others steer clear of the courts? It looks that way.

For example, in early January, three African-American women were arrested and charged with felony welfare fraud for allegedly collecting from Charlottesville's Social Services. That same week, Wells says he was contacted by a Virginia Employment Commission investigator looking into allegations of double dipping about one of his former employees, and the investigator said she'd be meeting with the former employee, who is white, to set up a repayment plan.

From April 2010 to November 2011, Wells, who owns a home health care business called Tassco II, says the ex-worker was paid more than $52,000. And according to his estimates, during that time, she could have reaped as much as $30,000 in unemployment benefits.

"The three arrested for welfare fraud are African American, and one they're negotiating with is white," says Wells. "It has a hint of...

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