Charlottesville Breaking News

Biscuit and gravy: Lawmakers dodge calls to unshroud millions

The loudest voices on both the political left and right have voiced outrage, but future Hunter Craigs can continue to secretly extract millions from taxpayers. That's because the Charlottesville-area delegation of state lawmakers demonstrates little interest in forcing disclosures of the tax credit system that quietly rewards Virginia landowners and stands as the heart of Craig's Biscuit Run controversy.

"We run the risk of intruding on our individual tax benefits if we force others to disclose the tax benefits they receive," says Charlottesville-based Delegate David Toscano, soon to be House minority leader, in a letter specially prepared for the Hook and cc'd to Bath-based Senator Creigh Deeds. "It's like the camel's nose under the tent," agrees Deeds.

The two Democratic lawmakers, the latter the architect of the controversial system that pays $107 million annually to some of Virginia's most well-heeled investors, assert that disclosing who gets the money could destroy the hallowed concept of taxpayer privacy. Republicans Rob Bell and Bryce Reeves similarly appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach rather than actually initiating reform.

 

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Wild horses: Equine encounters of the worst kind

Pooh Johnson still shudders when she thinks how much worse it could have been. She's the owner of the two horses who fled her farm Thanksgiving Day and ran head-on into 70mph traffic on Interstate 64.

Johnson's chestnut mare, Bunny, collided with a westbound Nissan SUV driven by David Firth, 62, of Lynchburg. Jaws of life were necessary to extract Firth from beneath the sheared-off roof of his crumpled vehicle before he and his wife, Kathy, were taken to UVA Medical Center with serious, but non-life threatening, injuries.

Johnson, who owns Old Poorhouse Farm on Black Cat Road in Keswick, says her daughter had been riding, had groomed the horses, and was putting Bunny in the paddock around dusk when she heard gunshots.

"The horse backed up when going through the gate and started down the drive," says Johnson, who was in Richmond when the escape occurred. "The other one followed."

She's still puzzled about the direction the horses took.

"Why would they leave the farm and head to the interstate with all that noise and lights?" Johnson wonders. "I almost think she went nuts."

Bunny, whom Johnson says was between 18 and 20 years old, was killed by the collision, but Johnson's daughter was able to walk the other horse, a white male named Spanky, back to the farm. "It's a miracle he wasn't killed," says Johnson.

Johnson has lived at Old Poorhouse since 1971 and remembers one other horse getting loose during those 40 years when a ga...

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Not over: Both sides appeal in Lester v. Allied Concrete

The lawsuit that resulted in one of the largest wrongful death jury awards in Virginia has been appealed– by both sides.

Plaintiff Isaiah Lester, widower of 25-year-old Jessica Scott Lester, who died when an Allied Concrete truck rolled onto her car in 2007, saw his $8.6 million award slashed by $4.1 million by a judge, who also sanctioned him for $180,000 for destroying evidence. Also punished was attorney Matt Murray who was hit with a $542,000 sanction. Murray represented Lester but then resigned abruptly in July from Allen & Allen after the defense accused him of misconduct.

The insurance company for Allied Concrete, which asked for over $900,000 in sanctions against Lester and Murray for the removal of a Facebook photo of Lester wearing an "I [heart] hot moms" t-shirt, apparently wasn't happy with the reduced award and sanctions either, and its attorneys filed an appeal November 17 as well.

Nor was a juror on the case happy when Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire reduced Lester's award, calling it "so excessiv...

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Rotunda rehab: Good-bye and good-riddance to magnolias?

As UVA gears up to begin a $4.7 million roof replacement project for the Rotunda, part of a planned $50 million restoration of Thomas Jefferson's famous centerpiece on the Lawn, a major visual transformation of the UNESCO World Heritage site (along with Monticello, one of only four in the country) could take place before the first piece of old sheet metal is removed.

According to a statement by University architect David Neuman, the six 100-year-old magnolias in the two courtyards that flank the Rotunda need to be removed, both because they have become a danger to the structure and because of the need to erect scaffolding for the roof work. What's more, according to UVA'a leading Lawn historian, the giant magnolias, which have grown to the roof line and crowd the Rotunda's curved walls, would mostly likely displease the structure's original architect, who preferred that his major buildings "stand up and stand out" against the horizon.

However, according to over 3,000 people who signed an online petition opposing the removal of the trees, they should stay up and stay put.

As one petitioner put it, "I don't want to stand idly by as they trample over common sense and due decency in the name of sycophantic adherence to the plans of a man who's been dead for almost two hundred years."

As a result, UVA has done some backpedaling. A week ago, President Teresa A. Sullivan fired off an email to students, who initiated the petition...

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Male fondler: Intruder targets UVA men

Women may be the most common targets of sexual predators, but a series of recent break-ins should serve as a wake-up call for men. According to Charlottesville police, at least five male UVA students have been victimized by a home invader who sneaks into their darkened bedrooms late at night and fondles their genitals until they awaken.

"In all the cases, he entered through an unlocked door," says Charlottesville police spokesperson Lt. Ronnie Roberts, who says the intruder, described as a thin black male in his 20s or 30s, flees upon his victim awakening.

The first incident occurred September 29 in a University Circle apartment. The intruder struck again on October 15 and 22 on 17th Street NW and on October 21 on Virginia Avenue. The last reported incident took place November 13 on Wertland Street.

"It's not the norm for a man to become a victim to something of that sort," says Roberts, who fears that men may be less likely to report such assaults out of embarrassment or simply because they're less aware than women of the need to report a sexual assault.

"There may be more," says Roberts, who hopes that by putting out a public alert, other victims may come forward with information that could lead to an arrest.

While male-on-male sexual assault is less common than male-on-female assault, it's not the first time that male UVA students have been targeted. In separate incidents in 2004 and 2005, a local hairstylist was convi...

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EDITOR'S NOTE
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Editor's Note