Charges dropped in Reid’s wife’s crash
By TOM JACKMAN, The Washington Post Writer

A Fairfax County judge on Wednesday dismissed a reckless driving charge against a truck driver who rear-ended a minivan carrying Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid’s wife and daughter, ruling there was no proof the truck driver had done anything wrong.

Landra G. Reid, 69, suffered a broken neck, broken back and broken nose in the March 11 accident on northbound Interstate 95 near the Fairfax County Parkway. Lana R. Barringer, 49, had a neck injury and facial lacerations. Both are recovering and were present in court on Wednesday.

In a traffic pileup near the “mixing bowl,” their car was struck by an 18-wheel tractor-trailer driven by Alan W, Snader, 59, of Franklin, Ohio.

But Snader told a Virginia State Police trooper that the Reids had suddenly cut in front of him just before the collision. Barringer, who was driving a 2005 Honda Odyssey minivan, denied that.

Defense lawyer Brendan D. Harold argued that there was no proof that Snader had done anything wrong, and that under Virginia case law the mere fact of a collision is not proof of a crime.

Harold said he had an independent witness who corroborated Snader’s version. But he didn’t need to call the witness. Fairfax General District Court Judge Ian M. O’Flaherty granted Harold’s motion to dismiss the case, saying prosecutors hadn’t proved that Snader caused the accident.
(Copyright 2010 by The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.)

Two Years For Bank Robberies – Defendant made full restitution
By BONNIE HOBBS, Centre View Writer

Granted, Centreville’s Edmund B. Stewart Jr. made full, monetary restitution after committing two bank robberies. But he still had a legal price to pay, and it turned out to be two years behind bars.

Stewart, 49, of 14907 Rydell Road, No. 102, in the Lee Overlook community, was sentenced last Friday, March 28, in Circuit Court for robbing the same bank twice — Cardinal Bank at 14000 Sullyfield Circle in Chantilly.

By all accounts, however, he’d always been a law-abiding citizen until personal circumstances became too much for him to bear and he turned to crime. So in sentencing him to a total of 30 years in prison — and then suspending 28 years — Judge Robert Smith acknowledged his exemplary past.

But, he warned Stewart, “If you’re pulling the wool over my eyes and come before me again, it’ll get ugly.”

FAIRFAX COUNTY police robbery Det. Gary Bailey explained the cases against Stewart in an Oct. 10, 2007 affidavit for a warrant to search Stewart’s white, 1998 Saturn for possible evidence.

Bailey wrote that, on June 14, 2007, a white man walked into Cardinal Bank, implied he had a firearm and robbed a teller of cash. The man wore a green, long-sleeved shirt, green hat, dark sunglasses, blue jeans and white latex gloves. On his left arm, he carried a black bag into which he placed the stolen currency.

On Oct. 9, 2007, wrote the detective, the same man — wearing the same clothing — returned to that same bank and again robbed a teller. This time, though, the teller also tucked an exploding, red-dye pack in among the cash.

“The robber fled to a white Saturn [which] was subsequently stopped by police in Centreville,” wrote Bailey. “The driver, identified as Stewart, was detained. A witness from Cardinal Bank positively identified Stewart as the man who robbed the bank on this occasion.”

Bailey further noted that Stewart confessed to him that day about the robberies and “his confession included specific details that would not be known by anyone but [the robber].”

Police also charged Stewart with two other 2007 robberies: May 2, United Bank, 3289 Woodburn Road in Fairfax; and May 8, BB&T Bank, 11230 Waples Mill Road, in Fairfax. But both charges were dropped, Dec. 19, 2007, in General District Court.

STEWART PLEADED guilty to the Chantilly bank heists, Feb. 11, in Circuit Court, returning last Friday for sentencing. At the outset, Judge Smith said, “This is remarkable and very rare; I understand he sold everything he owned to make full restitution.” And defense attorney Brendan Harold said that was correct.

“This defendant deserves credit for making restitution and not having a gun,” said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Faraji Rosenthall. “But on several occasions, he accomplished [robberies] by putting fear in the tellers’ eyes. He was, in effect, saying, ‘I don’t want to work for this money the way the people who’d put their money in the bank did.'”

Rosenthall called it “the type of crime that shocks the community because it occurred in a place where they should feel safe. His sentence should send a message to the community that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated and, when we catch someone who acts this way, we’ll prosecute that person to the full extent of the law.”

Emphasizing that, “on four, separate occasions, [Stewart] went into a bank and took money that didn’t belong to him,” Rosenthall asked for a sentence of at least 4 1/2 years — the midpoint of the state sentencing guidelines — “to say that nothing can atone for a crime as serious as this one.”

But Harold painted a different picture of Stewart. “My client is 49, intelligent, has an honorable discharge from the Navy, a 16-year-old daughter, is a fencing instructor and paints [museum-quality] figurines for mock battles,” he said. “So it’s shocking to everyone why this happened.”

However, Harold said there was an explanation: “[Stewart] told me his health was deteriorating, he had bypass surgery and he was more than $20,000 in debt from the surgery. He didn’t have health insurance and couldn’t pay for his medication. He lost his job, was estranged from his daughter and felt depressed and isolated.”

Yet, despite his intelligence, said Harold, Stewart was “a buffoon” at bank robbery. “Teargas went off inside the car,” said the attorney. “And he didn’t wear a mask or change the license plates on his car.”

Harold said the sentencing guidelines don’t consider Stewart’s character or the restitution he’d made. He also noted that Stewart used the stolen money to pay bills. “We’re doing this ‘pro bono’ because someone in the community asked us to,” continued Harold. “Many people are here in court today to support him — even his former wife. And several people wrote letters on his behalf — even a Massachusetts state trooper.”

He said Stewart’s brief foray into crime was an abnormality and only happened because of a “perfect storm of events” that came together all at once. “Deviate downward from the guidelines,” he urged the judge. “Give him 20 or 30 years and suspend all but two; he won’t be before you again.”

Standing to address the court, Stewart said there’s no excuse for what he did. However, he added, “I was flat broke, had lost my job, had triple-bypass surgery and couldn’t afford my heart medication. Feelings of failure led to desperation.”

Prior to the robberies, he said, he’d withdrawn from his family and friends and isolated himself. But in jail, he started rehabilitation. He took various programs and classes and said he’ll continue doing so in prison and will also continue therapy after his release.

“I’ve reconnected with my family and friends and realize how stupid I was to underestimate their faith in me,” said Stewart. “I’m ashamed, and I’d like to apologize to the bank tellers; I’m deeply sorry. And I apologize to the court, my family and friends and to my daughter — who’s 16 years old today.”

“Mr. Stewart, you didn’t start with shoplifting — you graduated to the big time, right away,” replied Judge Smith. “Many people have gone to bat for you today, and I’ve never seen anyone make restitution for a bank robbery. You were cooperative and didn’t minimize your involvement.”

Smith then sentenced Stewart to 15 years in prison on each charge, suspending all but one year of each sentence and running the sentences consecutively. That left him with two years to serve.

Smith also placed Stewart on 10 years probation upon his release and ordered him to do any treatment or programs his probation officer recommends. “And I’ll request that he do his time in the county jail,” added the judge. “Good luck, Mr. Stewart.”
(Copyright 2008 by Centre View. All Rights Reserved.)

Priest Indicted on Child Porn Charges
By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press Writer

A northern Virginia priest who has been ordained in the Roman Catholic Church for more than 40 years was indicted Tuesday and charged with possession of child pornography.

The Rev. Robert Brooks, 72, pastor of St. John the Apostle in Leesburg, was relieved of his duties in October, as soon as the Arlington Diocese became aware of the police investigation, said Bishop Paul Loverde in a letter to parishioners.

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said there are no allegations of inappropriate contact with children.

Loverde also said the diocese is not aware of any sexual misconduct or abuse by Brooks going back to his ordination in 1961.

“This is the first allegation of anything of this nature with this priest,” said diocese spokesman Soren Johnson. “It is obviously very disconcerting to us because of his many years of dedicated service in priestly ministry. We are cooperating fully with civil authorities.”

Brooks came under investigation in September 2003 when federal agents found evidence that he subscribed to a child pornography Web site, according to police.

Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which initiated the investigation against Brooks, said it stems from a worldwide undercover operation against child pornography on the Web called “Operation Falcon.”

The investigation broke wide open when agents obtained the billing statements for more than 50 child pornography Web sites from a company in Belarus that had operated its own child pornography sites and provided billing services for others.

Since then, more than 1,000 people worldwide, including nearly 200 in the United States, have been arrested, Boyd said.

“We’ve prioritized our targets in this investigation to those who have access to children,” Boyd said. “It’s shocking who has been involved – priests, police officers, camp counselors, Boy Scout leaders. Some of the most troubling cases involved pediatric doctors.”

Loverde urged any parishioners who may have relevant information to the case to contact the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

Prior to his service at St. John the Apostle, Brooks was also pastor at St. James in Falls Church from 1980-1990; pastor at St. Ambrose in Annandale from 1973-1980; pastor at St. Mark in Vienna in 1972; pastor at St. John in Highland Springs near Richmond in 1971; assistant pastor at St. Philip in Falls Church from 1968-1971; and assistant pastor at St. Louis in Alexandria from 1961-1968.

Brooks’ lawyer, Brendan Harold, was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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