Along with last week’s major story—no heat in city schools—which went national:
-Bike advocacy group Bikemore pointed out that the city is selectively enforcing international fire code standards so they don’t have to install bike lanes. While construction for bike lanes has been halted for breaking the rule that “Fire Apparatus Access Roads must maintain 20 feet of clear width, and that Aerial Fire Apparatus Access Roads must maintain 26 feet of clear width,” construction not for bike lanes on streets that break the same rule is going along as usual. For those that need a refresher, it was about a year ago that a bike lane in Canton was halted because NIMBYs invoked the 20-26 foot to stop a Potomac Street bike lane. In a city other than embattled and bafflingly anti-bike Baltimore, this would be a bombshell.
-The Baltimore Sun is moving out of its 501 N. Calvert St. building and probably, maybe headed over to Port Covington, where its printing plant already exists. It seems like another unwise move from Baltimore Sun Media Group/tronc, who proclaim “journalism matters,” but also move all their reporters away from where all of the news happens. Just ask Sun reporter Justin Fenton, who tweeted this last week: “This move, from the heart of the city to an outlying (for now) industrial area, brought to you by the bloodsucking corporate vampires who moved our properties into a separate business, sold them, and made us add rent to our costs.”
-Over the past few months, Twitter user @justcuriouskt (display name “Kevin Ma”), who many on Baltimore Twitter say is a Baltimore Police officer—a name has even been thrown around but it can’t be verified so we won’t print it—has been generally trolling users with tweets that veer into harassment at the least. The tweeter themselves said this when faced with criticism: “I can say whatever I want – off duty. I believe you want the room damaged by your tweet. That’s my 1A right, is it not, f’ing snowflake?” It hit a tipping point last week when the user tweeted stuff like this: “You libtards can’t hold your elected ppl accountable so you want to blame others for your lot in life. Weren’t you moving out of city at last bitch session about schools? Aha! You lied, didn’t you???” Emails to BPD spokesperson T.J. Smith—who has been known to critique how citizens and reporters use Twitter—were answered with claims that there’s no way to verify the identity and a link to the BPD’s social media policy.
-Hey, remember that highly-publicized Old Goucher convenience store, the Charles Village Discount Mart, which police made a big show of raiding and claimed was full of pounds and pounds of drugs—16 pounds of fentanyl and 13 pounds of morphine to be exact? Turns out all the charges were dropped and none of the seized “drugs” tested positive as hard drugs. Well, OK, they did turn out to be a different kind of “hard drug”: Boner pills! As reported by the Baltimore Fishbowl, the drugs tested positive for erectile dysfunction drugs Cialis and Viagra, according to police. Two workers at the store, Ahmed Alraohani and Sharif Shaibi, spent a month in jail for the raid and have now been released. What was seized remains unclear—at the time, police also claimed they seized capsules and other equipment connected to drug manufacturing and selling—and both men’s lawyers note that neither had criminal records at all.
-A federal appeals court declared a Baltimore law requiring pregnancy clinics that don’t offer abortions to post signage in their waiting rooms making that clear has been declared unconstitutional. The Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, a Christian nonprofit, claimed their first amendment rights were being violated by having to post the signage. The case has been going on for eight years. It’s a devastating decision for abortion advocates—the law was created to counter misinformation about abortion and reproductive rights.
-Last week, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, one of eight officers from The Gun Trace Task Force federally indicted, plead guilty. Among the things he plead guilty to were the larger racketeering charges we’ve heard about since the indictments were announced in March of 2017, but Jenkins also revealed that he stole dirtbikes, resold seized cannabis and cocaine, and illegally used a GPS tracking device to track people he intended to rob and oh boy, a whole lot more. Jenkins faces a minimum of 20 years in jail and a maximum of 30. Jenkins also admitted to knowledge of drugs planted on a man in 2010—an incident that has become big news after it was revealed because another cop present at the time was slain detective Sean Suiter, who was set to testify about that incident the day after he was killed. The biggest scandal in Baltimore Police history keeps getting bigger.
-More corruption. Via the Baltimore Sun, court documents reveal that federally indicted State Senator Nathaniel Oaks—who in 1989 was convicted of stealing money from his campaign while in the House Of Delegates—took a bribe of $15,300 from “a wealthy Texas businessman.” After cooperating, he agreed to wear a wire and take $2,600 to nudge legislators on a bill that would assist the bail-bonds industry. Oh, and he also tipped off an F.B.I. target. Oaks, who has plead not guilty, remains a state senator, and goes to trial in April.
-Due to an early pre-New Year’s Day deadline last week, the Beat has fallen behind on updating readers on homicides. This year so far—as of Jan. 8, when this issue of the Beat went to press—Baltimore has had five homicide victims: Andre Galloway and Brian Taylor on Jan. 1, and three as-yet-unidentified men (on Jan. 2, Jan. 3, and Jan. 6).