Charlottesville Breaking News

9 1/2 Lounge: Downtown's new speakeasy

Walking up the stairs to the second floor of Fellini's #9 restaurant (where former owner Chief Gordon warned his customers never to go), one starts to get a sense of what it must have been like to step out for a drink during the Prohibition era. Standing at the top of the stairs, one feels that sense which is heightened by a barred door with a speakeasy-style slot. When we knock, the slot slides open to reveal the smiling face of bartender Joan Dunkle.

"What's the password?" she says.


"It's on the door," Dunkle instructs.

Indeed, unlike the real days of Prohibition, the password, which changes from night to night, is posted on a sign on the door.

The brainchild of Joan and her mother, Fellini's #9 owner Jackie Dunkle, the 9 1/2 Lounge quietly opened several weeks ago. The duo got the idea when they visited the "speakeasy" at the Patterson House in Nashville. Then they visited other "speakeasys" that have popped up over the last few years to cash in on the aura of Prohibition-era nightlife that has been brought into vogue recently by Ken Burns' new documentary on the nationwide crack-down on alcohol leading into the Great Depression.

They visited The Gibson and Last Exit in DC, and the Vio...

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Balance of power part 2: What's at stake in the 2011 elections

When the Hook started gathering lists of candidates who would appear on Albemarle and Charlottesville ballots, we came up with an eye-popping 38 names of people who want to govern on the local and state level.

These are the folks who will determine the Big 3 perennial issues– the Western Bypass, the Meadowcreek Parkway, and the water plan– but they're also going to be deciding when schools start, what cases are prosecuted, and how federal funding is spent on conservation in this area.

Last week's issue carried the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and General Assembly contenders. Here are the rest of the candidates on the November 8 ballots.

School matters– Albemarle County

Albemarle's School Board meetings frequently attract irate parents, and in the past few years the Board has garnered a lot of criticism for decisions seen as "top down," such as the 4X4 block scheduling implemented last fall to save money. This year's biggest controversy was the purchase of "glitchy" Schoolnet software, a student information system that created errors in student transcripts and which one teacher described as "like trying to text with...

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Crosswalk case: Taxpayer payout ends cops' black eye

438"Code of Blue" or "Code of Silence" when the lawsuit alleging a police conspiracy went before a jury. But the suit filed by the Charlottesville man struck in a crosswalk by a police cruiser won't reach trial. It has ended not with a bang like the one that began it four years ago but with a secret settlement. Along the way, it pried open several secrets, none of which shed favorable light on the Albemarle or Charlottesville Police departments.

"I've been accused of being a liar; I've been accused of being corrupt," says Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo, whose men made the controversial decision to charge not the Albemarle officer who drove into a citizen in broad daylight– but instead to charge the citizen, a man toppled from his wheelchair as he quietly headed home after buying groceries.

As the dashcam video showed, the overhead traffic light was green when Gerry Mitchell piloted his motorized chair through the crosswalk across West Main Street on the morning of November 5, 2007. As the defendants later pointed out, Mitchell may have ignored a red hand symbol at the Fourth Street intersection.


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Day eight: Abshire defense blames vehicle for neck injury

"This is the kind of injury you get when you've been launched or projected. She's landed on her head."

So testified a forensic pathologist hired by the defense in Eric Abshire's first degree murder trial to offer an alternate theory in the injuries sustained by 27-year-old kindergarten teacher and 1997 Western Albemarle High School grad Justine Swartz Abshire on the  night she died in what initially was reported to be a hit-and-run.

"My opinion is that she was standing at the time she was struck by a vehicle," said that pathologist, Dr. Jonathan L. Arden, a former New York City medical examiner who's been a paid legal consultant since 2003. Arden pointed to the fracture in Justine's femur as evidence of the vehicle involvement in her November 2006 death, and claimed none of her injuries appeared consistent with being run over while already prone.

Instead, he testified, her 113 external injuries and numerous additional internal injuries were likely sustained nearly simultaneously as a car struck her in the pelvis and leg region and sent her hurtling through the air. The broken bones and lacerated organs weren't the cause of her death, he asserted. While he agreed with the prosecution's assertion that a neck injury contributed to her death, he disagreed with the state's assessment of how she might have sustained it.

"I don't believe strangulation played any role in her death," said Arden. "The mechanism of her death is the ce...

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Nevermind: UVA editor's charge dropped at trial

A University Judiciary Committee ruled it did not have jurisdiction over the Cavalier Daily October 18 after it heard the alleged breach of Honor Code confidentiality trial against editor-in-chief Jason Ally.

The case stemmed from a September 12 editorial in which the managing board of the newspaper advised readers that an unidentified columnist had plagiarized material and been turned over to the Honor Committee.

Honor chair Ann Marie McKenzie filed charges against Ally and four other members of the Cav Daily managing board, alleging they'd breached Honor confidentiality in the editorial. She later dropped charges against four of the Cav Daily 5, leaving Ally to face the panel alone.

A Judiciary executive committee ruled September 22 that the case could go forward, despite the newspaper pointing out the UJC's constitution states it “shall not have jurisdiction over the exercise of journalistic and editorial functions by student groups.”

"It's kind of odd to be sure, since that's the same argument we made to the UJC Executive Committee last month, yet they declined to dismiss the case at that time," writes Ally in an email after the three-and-a-half hour trial.

"I'm happy the system worked," says Ho...

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Editor's Note
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Editor's Note