Charlottesville Breaking News

What's next? Occupiers ponder the future

Tuesday, November 29 is deadline day for Occupy Charlottesville, but at noon– just six hours before protesters must decide whether to stay in Lee Park in violation of an expired permit or to move to another location– there's still no consensus.

"We just don't know yet," says one Occupier, who declines to be identified before cutting off a reporter's questions to "go check out another option."

Indeed, consensus isn't always easy to reach among the loosely organized group that took up residence in Lee Park on October 15 following the lead of Occupy Wall Street. But if Occupy Charlottesville began as a political rally,  it quickly broadened into an unlikely community, pulling together factions including anarchists, socialists, peace activists, and the homeless.

"Thank God for the camaraderie," says Carey Hicks, a newly homeless unemployed carpenter who moved into Lee Park just before Thanksgiving. Hicks and others say they see value in the Occupation even if, as many critics have pointed out, the mission of the group can't be easily stated.

"Without people coming together like this," Hicks says, "other people, homeless people included, are blind to the magnitude of the problem."

Blake Brame agrees.

A contractor who lives in Afton, Brame, 40, has frequently pitched a tent in Lee Park and says that while he doesn't feel he's part of any one faction of Occupy, the appeal for many of those campin...

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Busted Buddy's: UVA has demolished civil rights landmark

The building that housed infamously non-segregating Buddy's restaurant is no more. Crews were on the scene Tuesday, November 29, tearing down the brick structure near the corner of Emmet Street and Ivy Road.

It was at this site, which later served as a natural history museum and finally as home to the Institute for Environmental Negotiation, that one of the landmark events in Charlottesville's civil rights history occurred. On May 30, 1963, a group of integration-minded protestors– inspired by the visit of Martin Luther King Jr. two months earlier– clashed with patrons of the segregated restaurant.

As detailed in a Hook cover story about King's visit to Charlottesville, it was now-retired UVA prof Paul Gaston who ended up being assaulted and– ironically– arrested for inciting the trouble.

Following through with site-clearing efforts by demolishing the former fuel station that closed last summer, UVA plans a pocket park at the site, according to Charlottesville Tomorrow.

"I'm sad," says Gaston, who learned of the demolition from a reporter and points out that the demolition comes less than two years before the 50th anniversary of that momentous act of civil disobedience. 

"I'm always sad when the univer...

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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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