Week in review

News | Huge hurricane, vibrating voters, FNB fraud, and panhandling plaintiffs
by Eric Burk
Posted 8/26/11, 12:57 pm

Huge hurricane

Hurricane Irene is on a collision course with the East Coast, with potential to be the worst storm in the region since 1985. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management says that the hurricane could cause flooding and winds approaching 100 mph along Virginia's coastline. Thursday night the storm weakened slightly. "Irene's path is not certain, and a small change in the track could bring different impacts," department coordinator Michael Cline said. "Virginia state agencies are getting ready for the storm, and so should residents." Gov. Bob McDonnell has declared a state of emergency but said he would leave evacuation decisions up to local authorities. The massive storm may have a silver lining. Officials hope rain from Irene will help extinguish the 6,000 acre Great Dismal Swamp Fire currently burning in southern Virginia and North Carolina.

Vibrating voters

In balloting shaken up by a 5.8 magnitude Virginia earthquake that forced some voting precincts to move operations outdoors, the Republican and Democratic parties set up sharp contrasts for November elections that will determine whether Republicans take total control of Virginia policymaking for the first time in 10 years. Democrats hold a 22-18 edge in the Senate, while Republicans have firm control of the House.

Among the Republican winners in Senate primaries were former state GOP Chairman Jeff Frederick, 36th district; Dick Black, 13th district; Thomas Garrett, 22nd district; and the lone Senate incumbent to be challenged, Republican Minority Leader Tommy Norment, 3rd district. In other Republican Senate primaries, Jason Flanary, 37th district, won, along with Miller Baker, 39th district.

In Democratic primaries for the state Senate, Barbara Favola, 31st district, won in the most bitter primary in either party, and Adam Ebbin, Virginia's first and only openly gay legislator, won in the 30th district. In the House, the only challenged Democratic incumbent, Algie Howell, won in the 90th district.

Bodies found

State Police say a 48-year-old-Eastern Shore man was dead before his car overturned and landed in a pond on Aug. 20. The body of Lester Wade McMahan of Hallwood was found inside his 1973 Plymouth in Bloxom.

In a separate incident, on Aug. 21 a group of hunters found a deceased adult male inside a camper that been in the George Washington National Forest for some time. Foul play does not appear to be a factor, but the discovery marks the second body found in the forest in August.

Authorities have identified a body found in the George Washington National Forest by hikers on Aug. 12 as Scott Lilly of South Bend, Ind. The agency says the death is listed as suspicious, although no cause of death was released. The FBI says it appears Lilly had been hiking the Appalachian Trail and the agency is telling other hikers to use caution.

FNB fraud

Former FNB Southeast bank senior vice president Russell Kinnard Henry Jr. was indicted earlier this month on two dozen fraud-related charges. According to prosecutors, from May 2003 through June 2005 Henry misrepresented himself as his mother to obtain loans totaling $1.9 million to pay his mortgage, real estate taxes, to buy a pickup, and Coca Cola memorabilia. The indictment was returned earlier in August but unsealed Monday.

Police increase patrols

Virginia State Police are increasing patrols along Interstates 64, 81 and 95 to coincide with students' return to college. Operation Air, Land and Speed will be conducted on Friday and Saturday along the highways' entire lengths. State police are pushing for college students to make safe driving a priority. From Jan. 1 through July 31, 38 people ages 16 to 20 were killed in traffic accidents in Virginia.

Panhandling plaintiffs seek to proceed

Lawyers for five homeless men say their clients have legal standing to challenge Charlottesville's restrictions on panhandling at the Downtown Mall. The plaintiffs are opposing the city's motion to dismiss their federal lawsuit. In a brief filed last week, the plaintiffs' lawyers say the city has to show that panhandlers at the mall have caused harm to other citizens, but the city contends that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue because they haven't been arrested for violating the ordinance. The ordinance prohibits soliciting people in outdoor cafes or within 50 feet of the two streets that cross the mall, as well as people conducting business at any vendor table or cart.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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