News Briefs from Around the State - Southern Maryland Headline News

News Briefs from Around the State

Natural Resources Police Serve Warrants Relating to the Rockfish Poaching Bust

TILGHMAN ISLAND — Several Natural Resources Police officers searched a home on Tilghman Island Friday, where they served search warrants related to the 10-ton rockfish poaching bust last week.

That poaching find resulted in fisheries agencies closing gill net fishing early and offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the fishermen responsible.

Natural Resources Police Sgt. Art Windemuth said that officers served the warrants but that the warrants were subsequently sealed by court order and he could not talk about them any further.

Police were seen going back and forth from a garage and a home on Tilghman Island, carrying boxes and an open laptop computer.

People watching from the street said the officers had been there for several hours by Friday afternoon.

Natural Resources Police found poaching sites of rockfish, or striped bass, in anchored gill nets on the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay three days in a row last week. The nets were all discovered near each other off of Bloody Point on Kent Island.

Anchoring gill nets with weights has been illegal since 1985.

Natural Resources Police have not made any arrests in the case.

— By Capital News Service's Kerry Davis

Developmentally Disabled Rally for Dime-a-Drink

ANNAPOLIS — Protesters rallied Friday outside the State House in Annapolis to show their support for the proposed dime-a-drink alcohol tax.

A group of developmentally disabled Marylanders, their families and advocates gathered, chanting "10 cents makes sense" and "Dime a Drink, DD link," insisting that the revenues from the proposed tax be designated for the Developmental Disabilities Administration.

The tax, intended to raise revenue specifically for health programs in Maryland, has run into opposition both from the alcohol lobby and some legislators.

Advocates say the tax would raise $215 million. The current language in the bill designates that 15 percent, or about $32 million, would go to the Developmental Disabilities Support Fund.

The rest of the money would be used for other health services, including addiction treatment.

Carol Glowacki, a Towson mother of two intellectually disabled adults, said that the high turnover rate and low levels of support staff in residential services is a problem that could be solved by the funds raised from the tax.

Her 47-year-old son, Scott, is living at home but is on a waiting list to get into a residential service.

There is a waiting list of more than 1,000 individuals in need of services, a waiting list that advocates say could be significantly shorter if the tax is raised and designated for health services.

While lawmakers have acknowledged the problems in the Developmental Disabilities Administration, there is significant hesitance to raising taxes. Other concerns are for the bottom line of bars and liquor stores, many of which are small businesses.

The alcohol tax has not been raised since 1955 for spirits and 1972 for wine and beer, making Maryland's rates among the lowest in the nation. The hike would take the rates over the national average.

Here's how it would look from the shopper's perspective:

Beer: The current alcohol tax is about 5 cents for a six-pack of 12-ounce cans or bottles. That would go up to about 65 cents under the proposed law.

Wine: For a standard 750-milliliter bottle, the tax is now about 8 cents. If the legislation passes, that would go up to about 59 cents per bottle.

Liquor: That's about $1.99 for a fifth of liquor, up from about 30 cents.

The tax would be a steep increase, but word of a compromise like 7 or 5 cents a drink, is floating around the State House.

— By Capital News Service's Holly Nunn

Former County Executive to Appear in Court

Former Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson is scheduled to appear in federal court next week for a preliminary hearing after being arrested in an FBI corruption probe in November.

The calendar for the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., shows Johnson is expected to appear before Magistrate Judge William Connelly at 4 p.m Feb. 16.

Johnson was ensnared in a countywide FBI corruption probe in November. Court documents say FBI agents had learned "certain real estate developers in Prince George's County ... were regularly providing things of value to public officials in exchange for official acts that were favorable to these individuals and their companies."

Also arrested in the probe was Leslie Johnson, a Democrat who was elected to County Council last fall. She is Jack Johnson's wife.

Leslie Johnson had been scheduled to appear in court Feb. 16 as well, but requested and was granted more time to prepare.

Leslie Johnson was arrested by FBI agents at home in Mitchellville after her husband called her on his cell phone and told her to flush a $100,000 check from a developer down the toilet, court documents say. She also stuffed $79,600 in cash into her bra as FBI officials were knocking on their front door, documents say.

Earlier that day, Jack Johnson accepted a $15,000 payoff from a developer in exchange for his "official influence and authority," court documents allege.

The countywide corruption probe led to the arrest of nine other people at the end of 2010, including three Prince George's police officers.

Police Sgt. Richard Delabrer, 45; Cpl. Chong Chin Kim, 42; Langley Park store owners Amrik Singh Melhi, 51, and Ravinder Kaur Melhi, 49; Amir Miljkovic, 39; Chun Chen, 34; and Jose Moreno, 49, were charged in a plot to transport and distribute untaxed alcohol and cigarettes from Virginia and Maryland.

That trial was supposed to begin Jan. 11, but it was postponed and has not yet been rescheduled, said a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney. "That's not unusual in a federal case," Marcia Murphy said. "It could be any number of things, like attorney conflicts."

Prince George's County Police Officer Sinisa Simic, 25, and Mirza Kujundzic, 30, were named in a separate indictment related to drug trafficking, including the transportation and distribution of cocaine and illegally possessing firearms. Trial dates for Simic and Kujundzic have not been set.

— By Maryland Newsline's Alexander Pyles

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