(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) Construction on the widening of the Capital Beltway (I-495) can continue while a lawsuit filed by McLean residents works its way through the court system, a federal judge ruled this morning (Friday).
The Northern Virginia Citizens Association had urged U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema to issue a preliminary injunction against the project that would halt all work until further environmental analysis is conducted.
The ruling, which came after a 10 a.m. hearing at the district court in Alexandria, gave an initial victory to federal and state transportation officials and express lanes operator Transurban, who have argued that the additional review sought by residents is unnecessary.
“We remain confident that this project is in compliance of all environmental regulations and associated requirements and approvals, Transurban Director of Corporate Affairs and Marketing Tanya Sheres said in a statement to FFXnow. “Alongside our project partners, we continue to focus on minimizing impacts to communities as we work to deliver the expanded travel choices, environmental enhancements, and improved safety that the more than 230,000 daily travelers of this corridor are relying upon.”
Filed on March 16, the NOVA Citizens Association’s complaint detailed health and environmental impacts of construction on the I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project, which is adding 2.5 miles of express lanes from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons past the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean.
The Federal Highway Administration approved an environmental assessment for the project in 2021, finding that it would not have a significant impact and allowing it to proceed.
However, the NOVA Citizens Association says that subsequent design changes to stormwater facilities and ramps at the GW Parkway interchange should’ve necessitated another review with an opportunity for public input.
“Defendants’ activities will irreparably damage Plaintiff’s neighborhood and the surrounding human and natural environment in violation of federal law,” lawyers for the association wrote in a memo on their injunction request. “The Project’s adverse effects already vastly exceed the scope of what the Virginia Department of Transportation (“VDOT”) submitted and the Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”) approved.”
In declarations opposing an injunction, VDOT and FHWA officials argue that the changes to the GW Parkway design reduced its impact on nearby residential properties and were accounted for in a Interchange Justification Report Addendum approved by FHWA on Jan. 14, 2022.
“The revised configuration of the GWMP interchange lessened the overall impacts of the Project by eliminating conflicts with large utility transmission towers and reducing the need for right-of-way acquisition,” VDOT Northern Virginia Megaprojects Director Susan Shaw said.
According to Shaw, a relocation of ponds by the GW Parkway interchange improved stormwater management, including avoiding work adjacent to the Potomac River, and the changes stayed within the scope established by the completed environmental assessment.
A one-year delay of construction on 495 NEXT, which broke ground in March 2022, would cost VDOT an additional $16.4 million in management and oversight costs, Shaw estimated. If the delay goes into a second year, another $17.2 million would be added to that bill.
“If the Project is enjoined, the current work would need to be suspended in its current condition, with accommodations as needed to ensure the safety of the traveling public,” Shaw wrote. “This would require the lane closures, concrete barriers, temporary environmental controls, to remain in place with all the traffic congestion and disruption those active work zone features create. The duration of construction impacts would be extended, such as noise, dust, traffic delays, and lack of full shoulders.”
Construction on 495 NEXT is currently projected to continue into 2026, with the new express lanes set to open later in 2025.
The case against a man who allegedly fired a gun at Sully’s Pour House in 2021 is moving forward.
A status hearing has been set for Monday, April 3, a spokesperson for Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office told FFXnow.
The hearing comes after the owners of the gastropub in the Town of Herndon slammed Descano and his office, claiming that they’re pursuing a plea deal against defendant De’Quinn Le’Charn Hall, 29. Hall allegedly fired a gun at the gastropub in November 2021. No injuries were reported.
In several public social media posts, the owner stated that Descano had previously pledged not to pursue a plea deal and intended to pursue felony charges.
“We were PROMISED by STEVE DESCANO himself that he WOULD NOT ALLOW THE PLEA DEAL TO GO THROUGH. HE PROMISED — Why are we still shocked that HE LIED?!” Sully’s Pour House said in one Facebook post.
Laura Birnbaum, spokesperson for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, said that no update on a plea bargain has been discussed.
“There hasn’t been any movement in this case since December or any updated discussion of a plea,” Birnbaum told FFXnow.
The confusion was caused by a clerical error in the court schedule, which mistakenly tagged the case with the label of “plea,” she said.
Birnbaum said there no other substantial developments to share about the case.
In December of last year, the restaurant’s owners voiced frustration with the overall handling of the case by prosecutors.
Photo via Google Maps
In response to calls for additional legal assistance, Fairfax County is poised to establish a self-help resource center in the library of its courthouse complex.
At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (March 21), the board approved a board matter that would allocate $96,000 in fiscal year 2024 to support the project. The board matter was proposed by Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk and Chairman Jeff McKay.
Reportedly the first of its kind in the state, the center would provide legal information, referrals, forms and resource materials on topics related to court issues. The board matter states that it would serve as an alternative option for people who can’t afford legal services and don’t have pro bono help available.
“In my District, we have had constituents contact my office desperate for legal differential last hey are unable to obtain legal aid services. In one instance, a child custody case, the parents had no idea what to expect at their court hearing and thus were not able to prepare for or understand the court process,” Lusk said in the board matter.
First pitched by the Fairfax Bar Association, which runs the law library, the proposal is being led by Fairfax County General District Court judges Susan Stoney and Dipti Pidkiti-Smith.
A 2019 study by the bar association found that the cost of hiring an attorney and the belief that cases can be handled alone are among the top reasons litigants didn’t have a lawyer.
“Access to justice for self-representative litigants is a significant issue facing the legal community today,” the board matter said.
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity noted that the challenge is not limited to “Black and brown communities.”
Responding to Herrity, McKay emphasized that the board matter specifically refers to economically challenged residents and other communities who are most in need.
He said that statement was “absolutely factual” and “all encompassing.”
A newly awarded grant will help the Fairfax County Circuit Court preserve some historical records dating back to the 18th century, including one map that laid out the battlefield in a small legal war between the county and Alexandria City.
The 4-foot-long, 3-foot-tall Alexandria Annexation Map was impossible to fully photograph in its entirety because of its rough shape, but restoration work should help clear it up, said Heather Bollinger, the historic records manager at the Fairfax County Historic Records Center.
Billinger said the unique map shows many of the Black communities throughout the West End, some of which date back to the aftermath of the Civil War. Some were scattered by racist city policies, like the Ford Ward community, which was converted into a park in the 1960s with little regard for where bodies were buried on the site.
“It was a snapshot of the 1950s,” Billinger said. “You can see where there were smaller communities setting up new neighborhoods, a lot of African American communities.”
Billinger said the maps are a testament to the communities that are now lost to history.
“The map itself is fascinating,” Billinger said. “What’s most interesting about it is: it’s a snapshot in time. What we see on this map is several communities owned by African Americans, like Dowden Terrace.”
Billinger said the maps of that area look very different today.
“Now, that area of Fairfax and Alexandria is heavily developed,” Billinger said. “This is what it looked like before that westward expansion. We don’t have many maps that show that westward expansion. The post-World War II major population explosion was just starting to happen…If you were to do an overlay of the map now, it doesn’t look anything like it did.”
The map came to the forefront of a legal fight in 1951 when Alexandria filed a lawsuit to annex the West End from Fairfax County, citing a need for extra territory and being in a better position to offer utilities to West End residents.
Billinger said similar lawsuits were the common method of sorting out issues of annexation and ceding territory. There was a similar case when the City of Fairfax sought autonomy from Fairfax County. Most of it comes down to who is in a better position to provide utility coverage, Billinger said.
The Fairfax County Circuit Court was awarded a grant for $22,419.50 that will also be used to preserve records related to deeds and land taxes.
In addition to being physically housed at the Historic Fairfax Courthouse, the records will be made available digitally through the circuit court’s online Court Public Access Network, a subscriber-based database that has records dating back to 1742.
An Arlington man was indicted by a Fairfax County grand jury yesterday for allegedly shooting and killing Gret Glyer, founder and CEO of the nonprofit crowdfunding platform DonorSee.
Joshua Danehower, 33, faces felony charges for murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, the Office of the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney announced today.
Fairfax City police found Glyer shot to death in his Bolton Village Court home on June 24, 2022. They were called to the house by Glyer’s wife, who was home at the time with their two children, according to NBC4.
Glyer was 32 when he was killed. It was the city’s first homicide since 2008, police said at the time.
Danehower was arrested at Dulles International Airport five days later. Police identified him as an acquaintance of the family — possibly through their church — though court documents indicated that he was an ex-boyfriend of Glyer’s wife and had been seeking to “reconnect” with her, FOX5 reported.
According to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, detectives said at a preliminary hearing that they identified Danehower as the suspect “through analysis of the bullet casings found on the scene.”
“My office takes violent crimes like these very seriously, and we are grateful to Dets. Trey Lightly and Matthew Greene for their excellent work on this case in pursuit of justice for the victim’s family and the community,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said in a statement.
Glyer founded DonorSee in 2016, inspired by his time living in Malawi, where he helped start the Girls Shine Christian Academy, according to the nonprofit’s website. The platform supports donations to charity projects and nonprofits, raising $6 million for nearly 14,000 different projects.
The trial date for the case will be determined tomorrow (Thursday), according to Descano’s office.
Danehower is being represented by the Fairfax County Office of the Public Defender, which told FFXnow that it has no comment.
Photo via DonorSee/YouTube
(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) A man from Miami, Florida, pleaded guilty today to assaulting a flight attendant and interfering with the crew on a plane that was headed to Dulles International Airport in October, federal prosecutors announced.
Cherruy Loghan Sevilla, 24, exhibited “erratic and disruptive behavior” during a United Airlines flight from Miami to Dulles on Oct. 4, at one point preventing a flight attendant from getting to her jump seat and groping her, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said.
From the news release:
About an hour into the flight, Sevilla began to exhibit disruptive and erratic behavior, including wandering around the plane, running up and down the aisle, clapping loudly near the cockpit, and yelling obscenities. Sevilla refused to remain seated and laid on the floor in the aisle of the plane, preventing a flight attendant from walking up the aisle to her jump seat to prepare for landing. Suddenly, the defendant jumped up and lunged at this flight attendant, grabbing and twisting her right breast. A passenger, another flight attendant, and an onboard law enforcement officer attempted to pull the defendant off and subdue him. The defendant resisted and, in the struggle, twisted the arm of the second flight attendant.
As USA Today reported in October, the man told agents at the FBI office in Dulles that he took psilocybin — a psychedelic drug also known as “magic mushrooms” — before boarding the plane in Miami, according to an affidavit.
“This was not the first time Sevilla had consumed Psilocybin, and Sevilla said that he was not totally surprised he acted this way after consuming it,” an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit. “Sevilla stated that he was sorry for his actions.”
Sevilla has been scheduled for a sentencing hearing on April 21. He could face up to 20 years in prison, though federal crimes are typically sentenced for lower than the maximum penalties, according to the Department of Justice.
Stories of unruly and combative fliers have multiplied in recent years, as air travel has recovered from the initial months of the pandemic.
Though incidents have declined since March 2022, last year still had 823 reports of unruly passengers — the second-most recorded by the Federal Aviation Administration, behind only the 1,099 incidents reported in 2021.
Photo via John McArthur/Unsplash
Five MS-13 members have been sentenced to life in prison yesterday for kidnapping and killing two teens at Annandale’s Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in 2016.
Elmer Zelaya Martinez, Ronald Herrera Contreras, Henry Zelaya Martinez, Pablo Velasco Barrera, and Duglas Ramirez Ferrera were each handed six terms of life imprisonment as well as two 120-month terms by U.S. District Court Judge Rossie D. Alston, Jr., the Justice Department announced yesterday.
A federal jury convicted the men in July for the brutal murders of a 17-year-old Falls Church resident — identified by prosecutors by the initials E.E.E.M. — on Aug. 18, 2016 and a 14-year-old Alexandria resident, identified as S.A.A.T., on Sept. 26, 2016.
“This is a profoundly disturbing case involving gang members taking the lives of young members of our community,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said. “We are proud to work with our federal partners on cases like this to keep Fairfax County and surrounding communities safe.”
Ranging in age from 24 to 31, the men attacked and stabbed E.E.E.M. over 100 times after meeting him at Holmes Run park, because they “erroneously suspected” that he was a member of the rival 18th Street gang, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office:
On the night of August 28, 2016, the gang lured E.E.E.M. to Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in Fairfax County under the pretense that there was going to be a gang meeting there. Instead, in a wooded area of the park, gang members restrained, attacked, and killed E.E.E.M., stabbing and chopping him more than 100 times with knives, a machete, and a pickaxe. Afterwards, the gang broke one of E.E.E.M.’s legs so that his body would fit into the pre-dug hole that was nearby.
Prosecutors say S.A.A.T. was killed in a similar manner based on an unfounded suspicion that he was a police informant:
The gang told S.A.A.T. that there was going to be a gang meeting later that night and encouraged him to attend. Not long thereafter, S.A.A.T. went outside in his pajamas, telling his mother he was just taking out the trash. Eventually, several gang members picked up S.A.A.T. and drove him to the same park where they had killed E.E.E.M. The gang members restrained, attacked, and killed S.A.A.T., stabbing and chopping him with knives, machetes, and a pickaxe. They also filmed the murder with a cell phone so that they could prove to gang leaders in the United States and in El Salvador that they deserved to be promoted in rank. Once S.A.A.T. was dead, the gang broke his legs and tied him up with his own pajama pants so that he would fit into the shallow grave that was dug for him that night.
Police didn’t find the remains of the two teens until March 2017 after they received a tip that prompted a two-day search of the area, according to news reports at the time. The park was also the site of murders by different MS-13 members in 2013.
The five men sentenced yesterday were all convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering activity, conspiracy to kidnap, murder in aid of racketeering activity, and kidnapping resulting in death.
There was a total of 17 defendants in the case, including nine people who pleaded guilty before the trial earlier this year, according to the DOJ.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Jessica Aber called the life sentences a “fitting” response to “appallingly violent murders” that resulted in “wrecked families and fear-stricken communities.”
“They will protect the public from these five defendants, send a message to other members and associates of MS-13 that there will be severe consequences for committing violent crimes in furtherance of their gang’s illicit activities, and provide a measure of justice for the victims and their families,” Aber said in a statement.
Image via Google Maps
One of the two drivers involved in the Seven Corners crash that killed Maryland father Albert Sweat will face criminal charges, the Fairfax County Police Department announced yesterday (Wednesday).
Yansi Martinez Gonzalez, a 26-year-old resident of Falls Church, was charged on Tuesday (Aug. 30) with reckless driving and driving without a license for her alleged role in the fatal Aug. 18 crash, where two cars collided and one hit Sweat as he was walking in a parking lot in the 6200 block of Arlington Blvd.
According to police, Martinez Gonzalez was driving north in a 2012 Honda Civic on Wilson Blvd when she attempted an “improper” lane change from the left lane, running into the side of a Volkswagen Jetta that was headed in the same direction.
“The collision forced the Volkswagen off the roadway into the adjacent parking lot, striking Mr. Sweat as he was walking,” the FCPD said. “The Volkswagen continued over a median and struck a parked 2010 GMC Yukon before coming to rest in a mulch bed.”
Martinez Gonzalez has been released on a summons ahead of a scheduled court appearance.
A construction foreman, Sweat left behind a wife and eight children. Talking to FFXnow last week, his eldest sister, Jean, and niece, Tierra, described him as a kind, loving person and a music enthusiast.
Tierra Sweat also called for safety improvements around the Wilson and Arlington Blvd intersection where the crash occurred.
Photo via Google Maps
A man who sexually abused children for years at a home day care in Annandale has been sentenced to life in prison, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced today (Friday).
Elwood Lewis Thomas, a 38-year-old man from Alexandria, will serve four life sentences and an additional 36 years in prison after being convicted last year on multiple counts of rape, aggravated sexual battery, and sexual penetration with an object, according to Descano’s office.
“We asked that Mr. Thomas be sentenced to life in prison because of his abhorrent history of sexually abusing children,” Descano said in a statement. “My thoughts are with these children and their families as they begin the journey of healing.
CA Descano announced today that an Alexandria man was sentenced to four life sentences plus 36 years after being convicted of two counts of rape, four counts of aggravated sexual battery, and two counts of object sexual penetration last year. pic.twitter.com/OIZ1zF2tnL
— Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Descano (@FairfaxCountyCA) August 26, 2022
Fairfax County police arrested Thomas in September 2019 and charged him with abusing three kids while they attended Happy Land Daycare from 2006 to 2010. The day care operated in the 6400 block of Holyoke Drive from approximately 1999 to 2012, the police department said at the time.
According to police, Thomas had been employed at the day care and was living in the house between 1999 and 2012. The children were between 4 and 8 years old at the time of the abuse, the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney says.
Thomas had previously been arrested for molesting a girl at the day care in June 2012. The girl, then 14, alleged that Thomas had inappropriately touched her on multiple occasions when she was 11 or 12, The Washington Post reported at the time.
For that case, Thomas was convicted in 2013 of aggravated sexual battery of a child under 13. The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney says he was sentenced to eight years in prison, but seven years were suspended, and he was ordered to spend 20 years on probation.
County Offers New Covid Vaccine — “Starting this week, adults 18 years of age and older who have never received a COVID-19 vaccine and are interested in getting one, can now make an appointment for the recently authorized Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted. Due to limited availability, Novavax will only be offered by appointment only.” [Fairfax County Health Department]
Teen Takes Stand in Springfield Murder Trial — “A teenager on trial in the killings of two Fairfax County high school students took the stand Tuesday and said he was defending a friend when he opened fire inside a Springfield, Virginia, home last year…Ersheen Elaiaiser, 17, was shot twice in the chest and 16-year-old Calvin Van Pelt was shot once in the back at a home in the 8000 block of Winding Way Court, prosecutors said. Both teens died.” [NBC4]
Detective Testifies in Tysons Shooting Case — “A detective told the Fairfax County court that Noah Settles, 22, of Southeast D.C., fired three times inside the crowded mall on June 18, over Father’s Day weekend. The shooting caused scared shoppers to run for exits and hide inside the mall. The mall was temporarily closed by authorities.” [NBC4]
Chicken Restaurant Coming to Annandale — “O’my ChiQ & Bar is expected to open in late September at 7023 Columbia Pike in Annandale. A patio is under construction. The restaurant will specialize in rotisserie, grilled, and barbecue chicken and barbecue ribs, says the future manager, who now works at Omy Hot Pot on Annandale Road.” [Annandale Today]
Firefighter Rescues Stuck Kitten — “Kitten stuck in a storm drain? No problem for the crew of Engine 409, Mount Vernon, B-Shift! Probationary Firefighter James Gupton made the grab to get kitty to safety! @FairfaxCountyPD Animal Protection took the kitten to @fairfaxanimals for eventual adoption.” [FCFRD/Twitter]
Fairfax Speed Cameras Will Be Back Monday — “Speed enforcement cameras have been installed in SCHOOL ZONES on Old Lee Highway, Route 236/Main Street, and Jermantown Road, near the city’s four schools and two Fairfax County schools (Woodson High School and Frost Middle School).” [City of Fairfax Police Department/Facebook]
Community Center and Day Care Workers Needed — “The Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood & Community Services is hosting an Open Hire Event on Wednesday, August 31 to fill multiple Activity Facilitator and SACC Day Care Teacher positions located at various community centers and SACC program sites…The event takes place August 31 from 5-7 p.m. at the Pennino Building.” [NCS]
Family-Owned Fairfax Restaurant Gets Notice — The winners of WTOP’s Top 10 contest are pretty Arlington and Maryland-centric, but Captain Pell’s Fairfax Crabhouse on Fairfax Blvd managed a runner-up mention in the “Best Seafood” category. Other local restaurants are featured further down the lists, which were determined by the news outlet’s readers and listeners. [WTOP]
It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 81 and low of 65. Sunrise at 6:26 am and sunset at 8:02 pm. [Weather.gov]