Thursday, March 23, 2017

Rockville rape suspect "confident he will be exonerated" in brutal Rockville High School assault

Henry Sanchez, one of two illegal immigrants charged in the vicious gang rape of a 14-year-old girl at Rockville High School last Thursday, says he is "confident he will be exonerated," his attorney told the Washington Post Wednesday. Despite the tremendous physical evidence of rape detailed in a police report, Sanchez, 18, is now claiming he and fellow defendant Jose Montano had consensual sex with the victim in a school bathroom.

While Montano, 17, is being represented by a public defender, Sanchez mysteriously has been able to lawyer up with criminal defense attorney Andrew Jezic. It's hard to believe any respectable attorney would want to get anywhere near a couple of toxic defendants like these. Interestingly, the Post closed the comment section on its article reporting Sanchez's 100%-not-guilty stance. The only good news about Sanchez's bizarre legal strategy is that it will increase the chance of him receiving a life sentence, by not seeking a plea deal in what should be a slam-dunk case.

Meanwhile, Montgomery County elected officials who were stone silent on the brutal rape for days now have a lot to say about outrage over their appalling handling of the incident expressed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. Roger Berliner, who delivered a tone-deaf, belated response to the gang rape three days later, lashed out at Hogan. So did Delegate Eric Luedtke (D - District 14).

Here's what's interesting: Much like Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith, who is now the subject of a citizen petition calling for his removal, Berliner sounds angrier when he talks about critics of the Council and MCPS for their role in this rape, than when he speaks about the rape itself.

Also interesting: Check out Del. Luedtke's Facebook feed. He is exploding with rage against his own constituents, Hogan and the White House for their criticism of all who bear responsibility for this attack at the county level. But scroll back several days to Friday, when the gang rape was publicly announced. On none of those days did Luedtke lash out against the accused rapists, or even mention the rape at all!

I scrolled and scrolled, and could find no Friday post by Luedtke condemning the accused rapists, nor expressing concern for the victim. Saturday? Nope. Sunday? Nada. Monday? Zippo. The first mention of the rape case on Luedtke's feed was on Tuesday, and it was attacking Hogan.

Luedtke was not moved to respond with horror for the victim's ordeal, nor with anger against the "alleged" perpetrators. Only after justified criticism started being aimed at Montgomery County's "leadership" did Luedtke feel compelled to respond, and address this gang rape on Facebook. It's beyond belief.

Not only has the response by our county elected officials been weak, empty, and with no palpable feeling behind it, but it seems that only some actual "adult supervision" by officials at the state and federal level will result in any meaningful and necessary policy changes within MCPS and Montgomery County. Hogan and the U.S. Justice and Education Departments may well have to pull the proverbial car to the side of the road, and "come back there," if MoCo's childish leaders can't get a grip on one of the most horrific events in MCPS history.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

MCPS super "sounded like an idiot" as MoCo officials' weak Rockville HS rape response continues

Facing heavy local and national criticism over the Montgomery County policies that enabled two college-age illegal immigrants to allegedly gang rape a 14-year-old girl in a bathroom at Rockville High School last week, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith spoke at a PTA meeting at the school closed to reporters last night. Attendees I spoke to left disappointed in Smith's performance and the meeting. "He sounded like an idiot," one said. Reportedly, only a few people were even allowed to ask questions. But, along with Smith's 5-day silence and bizarre press conference prior to the meeting, expectations should have been low.

Sounding like an even-more-mellow cross between Stuart Smalley and the economics teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Smith half-heartedly lamented the "terrible, horrible thing" that happened last Thursday at his press conference. His responses echoed the almost-sociopathic, emotionless comments of Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner, whose tone-deaf performance at a Monday press conference generated outrage and disbelief on social media after I reported on it yesterday (hard to believe I was the only media outlet that did, with empathy-free gems like "Bad things happen").

Smith said the alleged rapists "chose to do something very, very bad, from all of the allegations. People choose to do very bad things." I mean, the guy sounded like a 5-year-old tattling on a classmate. "We're talking about, 'Why was this student in this school?' And he was there to get to the services that were best suited to his needs. He chose to go outside of that purpose, and do a really bad thing." Give me a break! He's talking about a vicious gang rape, a brutal physical assault, a 14-year-old girl being raped and sodomized by two men in a restroom as if it was a prankster setting off a stink bomb at school.

"A really bad thing?" After the performances of Berliner and Smith, I think parents and the community would at least like to see somebody actually express real anger and outrage. Maybe pound a fist on a desk, flip over a tray of deli sandwiches, or otherwise display some other emotion than smug, defensive superiority and condescension toward the public. We're talking about one of the most horrifying things that has happened in the history of Montgomery County Public Schools here. For God's sake, show some humanity, remorse for your failure to protect your most vulnerable constituents - children, and an urgent resolve to change your ways and policies.

What's really scary and concerning for students and parents? Smith only got even slightly animated when he was on the attack against critics and enemies real and imagined, not when talking about the gang rape and the victim. He literally sounded more empathetic toward the illegal man-children trying to play freshmen at MCPS high schools than toward the victim. It's disgusting.

Smith admonished those who "want to make a political comment," and then proceeded to repeatedly make political comments. One of the most hysterical moments of the press conference was when Smith pointedly stated how closely Montgomery County supposedly follows "the law of the land." "We do our business by the rule of law," Smith said righteously, apparently unaware of the extreme hypocrisy of stating that in a sanctuary county that defies federal immigration law on a daily basis. Do you follow "the rule of law," or not? Smith apparently doesn't know. He also placed air quotes around the term, "illegal," clearly a political statement, whether you agree or disagree. Again, it's outrageous that during his political comments, he raised the volume of his voice and became more animated than when speaking about the rape and the victim.

Smith emphasized repeatedly that MCPS schools are "safe," when the reality is that some other parent's daughter is one mad decision away from being victimized by similar criminals lurking in our school system. No criminal background checks are run on any student, Smith revealed. For those parents trying to figure out why adults recently arriving in America are enrolled as 9th graders alongside their 14-year-old daughters, Smith had sobering news: "We have a great number of 18-year-olds and 19-year-olds enrolled across all 25 of our high schools."

The superintendent spoke of there being 5 security guards and one school resource officer on campus at Rockville High School, but couldn't explain where all six were during Thursday's bathroom assault. There is no evidence whatsoever that MCPS students are "safe" from similar sexual assaults in the future.

Officials appear to have completely misread the public's concerns about this particular incident, and what it means for student safety across MCPS. They instead seem to be reverting to the way they respond to immigration issues in general, which is to cast themselves as morally-superior, chastising the evil "racists" daring to question their policies. The problem is, we're not talking about the general immigration debate here, such as the future fate of the 13 million undocumented immigrants in America, and "deporting Grandma." That is, of course, the debate county officials wish they were having, and would like to divert attention to Donald Trump - who is highly unpopular in liberal MoCo - rather than the rape of a child that is "on them."

People are instead demanding answers about the specific policies and decisions of Montgomery County that allowed a 14-year-old girl to be gang-raped in a bathroom inside a Montgomery County public school by two college-age "freshmen" - one of whom MCPS does not even have a home address on file for, much less a criminal history.

Those policies and decision-making priorities need to change, and until they do, no student is truly "safe."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MoCo Council President on Rockville HS gang rape: "Bad things happen"

After hiding from their constituents and the press for four days, Montgomery County elected officials yesterday began to react to the alleged gang rape of a 14-year-old girl by two illegal immigrants at Rockville High School last Thursday. It was notable that County Council President Roger Berliner did not begin his weekly press conference by making a statement about the incident, which is foremost on the minds of county residents and parents. Only after being asked about the rape by a reporter, did Berliner comment. "Bad things happen," he suggested at one point.

Asked about the hot topic of why adults (the accused rapists are 17 and 18) are allowed to enroll as ninth-graders in Montgomery County Public Schools, Berliner endorsed the idea as a sound education policy for those with poor English skills.

In regard to the County's de facto sanctuary policies regarding citizenship status, a reporter asked if officials thought the incident should bring those policies into question now. Berliner disputed that idea in a puzzling way, asserting that the rape incident "reinforces why Montgomery County does what it does."

What was perhaps most troubling, was the passive, past-tense description of how the County would respond to the threat of serious crime, such as the gang rape incident. While most illegal immigrants do not engage in serious crime activity, Berliner said, "some of them do terrible things...and then we need to take care of it." In other words, our elected officials will allow a scenario in which we know "terrible things" will indeed happen, and then the County will "take care of it." That cannot be comforting to the victim of Thursday's brutal sexual assault in a bathroom at the school, who was allegedly gang-raped and sodomized. Wouldn't it make more sense to remove the criminal threat from the community and our schools before "bad things happen?"

Berliner went on to say the County does cooperate in limited circumstances with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when the agency alerts them when prisoners in custody "have committed federal crimes." But just yesterday, Montgomery County was placed on a new federal list of jurisdictions that "limit cooperation with ICE."

"Is there some coddling [of illegal immigrants] here that might have contributed to this crime?" asked a reporter. Berliner denied that was the case, and claimed those being "coddled" by the Council are longtime residents, whose only crime is being "undocumented." "We're coddling, and I'm proud of it," Berliner said.

Amidst fallout of brutal Rockville HS gang rape, MoCo lands on new ICE sanctuary city list

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division included Montgomery County on a list of jurisdictions that have ignored federal detainers on jailed criminals ICE sought to deport between January 28 and February 3, 2017. It also placed Montgomery on a separate list of "Jurisdictions that have Enacted Policies which Limit Cooperation with ICE." That designation directly contradicts assertions by MoCo officials that the county is not a sanctuary jurisdiction. And it comes only days after the alleged brutal gang rape of a female student at Rockville High School by two illegal immigrants.
Line 3 of this chart details just
one of the ICE detainers ignored
by Montgomery County on an
illegal immigrant charged with
assault here in the county
According to the report, during the six-day period studied, ICE placed a detainer on an unidentified illegal alien from El Salvador who had been charged with assault in Montgomery County, and was being held in the County detention center. Montgomery County declined the detainer in that case, according to ICE records, meaning that individual is back on the streets here in the county after his release.
MoCo lands on list of
jurisdictions that "limit
cooperation with ICE"
four days after two illegal
immigrants sought by ICE
were charged with the brutal
gang rape of a 14-year-old girl
at Rockville High School
Montgomery County's informal sanctuary policies indeed make it an outlier - the list of jurisdictions included on the limited-cooperation list is fairly short, when you consider how many cities and counties there are nationwide. Its inclusion on the list, and refusal to assist ICE in deporting an individual charged with assault here in the county, is not a good look after two illegal immigrants were charged with the brutal gang rape of a 14-year-old girl at Rockville High School last week.

The list is a new publication that will be updated regularly by ICE, and should be interesting reading as MoCo officials continue to make false statements regarding the true nature of their "cooperation" with ICE. This report suggests they have earned a Four Pinocchio/Pants-on-Fire rating with such statements.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Manny and Olga's coming to downtown Wheaton

Manny and Olga's is going to take over the space that used to be home to a video store in Wheaton. The pizza and sandwich chain will be located at 11222 Georgia Avenue. They've had a shop up closer to Glenmont, but this will put them within easy walking distance of Metro and the future town square.

Regal Majestic 20 theater to install recliners

Probably the biggest complaint I hear about the Regal Cinemas Majestic Stadium 20 theater is the seats. They're "too old," "too dirty" and "they don't recline," are the chief beefs. I have good news from Regal for the complainers - the seats are being replaced.

Regal is going to install recliners (which it describes as, "king-size") in auditoriums at the Majestic 20 this year, part of a nationwide seat upgrade by the cineplex giant. They're not just thinking of you, of course. Recliners allow theaters to charge more per ticket. Regal last year stated that recliners reduce the number of seats in each auditorium, boost the number of sold-out screenings, and increase profits through those higher ticket prices.

In regard to the Silver Spring upgrade, Regal says they will also be upgrading the finishes inside each auditorium.

Brutal Rockville High School gang rape exposes two more MCPS security flaws

Henry Sanchez, 18, had an
"active alien removal" case
pending against him - but was
allowed to enroll as a
freshman(!!) at
Rockville High School, where he is
accused of raping a 14-year-old girl
The alleged brutal gang rape of a 14-year-old girl at Rockville High School by two immigrant classmates last Thursday has likely doomed legislative efforts to formalize the existing sanctuary policies of Montgomery County and the City of Rockville. It's inconceivable that any elected official could press forward with that agenda item, now that the horrific details of that sexual assault were followed by word that at least one of the accused is an illegal immigrant who should have been deported - but mysteriously wasn't (shockingly, as of press time, the Maryland House of Delegates is expected to vote today on a similar statewide sanctuary measure).

But beyond the always-controversial immigration issue, the rape incident has exposed two additional security flaws at Montgomery County Public Schools. First is the question people across America have been asking on social media since the rape story went viral Friday: How did a 17 and 18 year old manage to get enrolled as "freshmen" at Rockville High School? And, second, how could Rockville High School and MCPS not have a home address on-file for one of its students?

So far, MCPS is not revealing the details of how adults can enroll in regular 9th grade classes. Most illegal immigrants are working during school hours, so clearly neither of these gentlemen came here to work. Stunningly, MCPS and its bumbling superintendent were completely silent on a gang rape that occurred in their school four days ago until yesterday. But don't expect any answers, according to said-bumbling superintendent Jack Smith, who arrogantly wrote that "I know community members have many questions about this serious incident. To ensure we do not unintentionally prejudice an ongoing investigation, MCPS cannot provide any additional details about this specific case at this time." And we pay this guy's salary? There is no reference to the bathroom assault on the system's Twitter feed, even as parents have pressed for answers on social media all weekend.

Equally troubling is the fact that Rockville High School and MCPS could not provide Montgomery County police detectives with the home address of Jose Montano. The official police press release described Montano's residence as an "unconfirmed address." Yet a home address was readily available for Henry Sanchez, the 18-year-old illegal immigrant who has only been in the country for seven months.

How can you enroll at MCPS without a home address? How would they have confirmed Montano's identity? How would they know he lived in the Rockville High School cluster?

How many other students does MCPS not have a home address for? How many students are illegally attending schools outside of their actual school cluster, because MCPS is not verifying their home address? Is this part of an exceptional process that applies to undocumented immigrant students? Because I have a hard time believing that an actual legal resident living in Aspen Hill would be able to enroll at Walt Whitman High School without proof of a current address in the Whitman cluster area.

So many questions, for a school system already found to have extremely-lax cybersecurity (including personal student information), and - as we found during recent vandalism incidents - a lack of security cameras on its campuses.

So many questions about how this devastating crime was allowed to happen, yet none of them are being asked by the elected officials whose policies actually did allow this rape to occur - the Montgomery County Council. Constituents took County and Rockville City Council members to task for their silence, which was deafening this past weekend.

Just this morning, the Washington Post is reporting that MS-13 gang kingpins in El Salvador are sending additional gang members north, specifically to Montgomery County, with orders to increase the gang's power in our county. This is serious business, especially in a county where our political leaders have so far claimed we don't have a gang problem. And Montgomery County has now earned the dubious distinction of being the only jurisdiction in our area where two underage girls have been gang-raped by illegal immigrants in a single year. Last April, two illegal immigrants living at taxpayer expense in Montgomery County public housing in Wheaton were arrested for kidnapping and gang-raping a 12-year-old girl.

Both of these girls were let down by our elected officials, and our school system. It's a disgrace. Silence is not the answer.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Wheaton Plaza JC Penney spared the axe in latest round of closures

JC Penney has just this morning released a list of the 138 stores it plans to close. Wheaton Plaza is not on the list, despite rumors to the contrary. The company has not ruled out further closures if the first liquidation doesn't turn around the retailer's struggling performance. For now, one store in Maryland will be closed, and that is in Easton.

Metro power issues at Twinbrook cause outage in downtown Silver Spring

A power problem at the Twinbrook Metro station in Rockville mysteriously also affected homes connected to Metro's power grid in downtown Silver Spring earlier this morning. As WMATA reported an unspecified power problem at Twinbrook around 4:20 AM, residents in the vicinity of the Cameron Hill townhomes lost power as well.

The outage lasted for less than an hour, one resident reported.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Silver Spring construction update: Central (Photos)

The construction of Central remains on-schedule at 8455 Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring. The Grosvenor Americas mixed-use project is scheduled for delivery in Summer 2017. A total of 243 residential units, and 17,000 SF of retail/restaurant space, will be located steps away from the world-class Silver Spring Library and future Purple Line station.
Central (L) faces off against
new neighbor the
Silver Spring Library (R)
You can see the building facade has gone from a stark white in my last update to a chocolate brown. Window installation has greatly advanced, as well.

I like this corner of
the building that faces
the intersection

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

ShopHouse closing Friday in Silver Spring (Photos)

ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen will close forever at the close of business this Friday, March 17, in downtown Silver Spring. Some fans of the "Asian Chipotle" are engaged in a futile effort to save their favorite restaurant. Their @SaveShopHouse Twitter account has 87 followers as of press time. I'll miss my favorite bowl with rice, meatballs and broccoli, but good luck trying to stop this big money corporate decision made months ago. I don't think they could reverse the closure at this point even if they wanted to.

Residents pan new Montgomery County snow plow tracker, fake news on sidewalks

The new Montgomery County "snow portal" touted by County Councilmember Hans Riemer and other officials got a failing grade from residents I spoke to, and on social media, after yesterday's storm. Not only is there no longer a map to view snow operations countywide, or even in your area, but the consensus opinion was that the time estimates were no more useful than the old map. Not to mention that switching to a primitive text format, instead of a graphic map, was like going from iPhone to DOS.
Constituent gives Councilmembers
Hans Riemer and Roger Berliner his
blunt assessment of their new "snow portal"
on Facebook
Riemer provided some additional fake news about his sidewalk shoveling bill, which cost taxpayers $6,458,000, but came up even shorter than the snow portal. In a blog post, he boasted that since the bill passed two years ago, "I find that the County is doing a much better job clearing snow from sidewalks where the County (or Parks) is the responsible party as well as helping clear snow from sidewalks where there may be a public safety concern."

"It's just as useless
as past versions. #FAIL"

This is simply not true, as I well-documented last winter. On Westbard Avenue alone, sidewalks fronting both Montgomery County (Little Falls Library) and Montgomery County Public Schools (Westland Middle School) property remained unshoveled a full month after the largest storm. Embarrassingly, Riemer himself passed by these very sidewalks after the storm on a carpetbagger's bus tour for the Westbard sector plan, and took no action to get them cleared.
What happened?
Riemer's claim earns him the Four Pinocchios/Pants-on-Fire awards.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Arcing insulator at Wheaton Metro station

Update 9:20 AM: Firefighters are leaving the scene. MCFRS spokesperson says the incident is now an "ongoing maintenance issue" for Metro

More evidence that WMATA's "surge" repair gimmick has utterly failed: Firefighters are right now responding to an arcing insulator incident at the Wheaton Metro station, just as they have regularly along the Red Line prior to the "surge."

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer says a WMATA emergency response team is also en route to the scene. Trains are already single-tracking between Wheaton and Forest Glen.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Wheaton prepares for nor'easter blizzard (Photos)

Shoppers made a run on the bread aisle last night at Target in Wheaton Plaza. A nor'easter is about to hammer the area starting tonight, and residents were stocking up.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Man arrested after elaborate auto theft scheme in Wheaton, Burtonsville

Nicholas Ryan Metz
An alleged Craigslist and 5miles swindler who drove off in a Toyota from a Burtonsville park has been driven right to the slammer. Montgomery County Police announced they have identified Nicholas Ryan Metz, 33, of Jessup, and charged him with vehicle theft, forgery, and other related offenses. Metz allegedly bought three cars in Burtonsville and Wheaton with counterfeit cashier’s checks, and then sold the vehicles to buyers who were unaware they were stolen.

In one of the three incidents, Metz allegedly met his victim at an unspecified Burtonsville park on December 20, 2016. He gave the victim one of the counterfeit checks, police say, in exchange for the victim's 2016 Toyota Corolla. But when the victim informed Metz he was calling the bank to verify the check, Metz allegedly asked if he could test drive the car. The victim agreed. Police say Metz then instead drove the car toward the exit of the park, as two accomplices maneuvered their vehicles to block the victim from chasing the Toyota out of the park.

Detectives say Metz eventually sold the Corolla to an Anne Arundel County resident. Metz has also been charged with in a second incident in Wheaton, where he allegedly defrauded another auto seller out of her 2008 Mercury Mariner and 2000 Ford Explorer. The victim found out the checks were counterfeit after contacting the bank later in the day.

Montgomery County Police obtained an arrest warrant for Metz in early February. Metz is behind bars at the Howard County Department of Corrections in connection with similar crimes elsewhere.

For that reason, Montgomery County Police believe there could be more victims. Detectives urge anyone who has information related to Metz’s scheme, or believe that they may have been the victim of a fraudulent sale of a motor vehicle by Metz, to contact the Central Auto Theft Unit at 240-773-6370.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Public hearing on Burtonsville enterprise zone plan set for March 16

Proposed boundaries of
the Enterprise Zone
A public hearing will be held on the proposal to designate parts of Burtonsville and the Briggs Chaney area as a Maryland Enterprise Zone on Thursday, March 16, 2017, at 6:30 PM at the Marilyn Praisner Library, located at 14910 Old Columbia Pike in Burtonsville.

Businesses located within the zone would receive property tax credits for improvements made to the business. They would also be eligible for an employment tax credit.

The plan is in part designed to offset the economic impact created by the relocation of US 29 in 2005, which reduced traffic to businesses along the original alignment. For more information, you can read Montgomery County's application to the State of Maryland.

Friday, March 10, 2017

New: Follow EastMoCo on Facebook!

It's hard to find news about your neighborhood in eastern Montgomery County - but not if you read East MoCo! Now it's even easier to get neighborhood news in your Facebook feed, by liking the new East MoCo page on Facebook. Breaking news from Silver Spring to Aspen Hill, from Wheaton to Burtonsville, and all points in-between. 

Thank you for your support of East MoCo, and don't forget to share the news and Facebook page with your friends and neighbors.

This is the site supporting your community on the critical issues and dedicated to reporting the facts, unlike others that (shhh!) are financially backed by developers and special interests. Whether it's sneaky tactics like the school bus depot search, government plotting to demolish homes for BRT on Georgia Avenue, or the County Council planning to urbanize Aspen Hill, count on East MoCo to keep you informed on what's really going on in Montgomery County.

Work begins on Solaire 8250 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

Well, they just broke ground on Washington Property Company's latest addition to its Solaire portfolio - Solaire 8250 Georgia Avenue - the other day, and - by golly - they really are getting started over there in the Ripley District. So far, they are grading the site, and getting ready to excavate (the 20 story building will have 3 levels of underground parking).

New small business group to host networking event for MoCo restaurant owners March 22

The Montgomery County Small Business Action Network, a new organization encouraging Montgomery County small business owners to be proactive on county government actions that impact their businesses, is concentrating on restaurant owners this month. SBAN will host a networking event for restaurant and bar owners on Wednesday, March 22, from 5:30-7:30 PM, at Hunter's Bar and Grill, located at 10123 River Road in Potomac.

The guest speaker at the event will be Bob Dorfman, the newly-appointed Director of Montgomery County's Department of Liquor Control. Dorfman will remain after his presentation to answer restaurant owners' questions one-on-one. The cost to attend is $25. For $35, you can attend and also become a member of SBAN. There will be a cash bar during the event.

RSVP by email, as space is limited for the event.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Silver Spring construction update: Core apartments (Photos)

Core is really shaping up at 8621 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. The mixed-use project will contain 292 apartments, and about 1500 SF of retail space. Given its location, it not surprisingly has a projected walk score of 95. The project is scheduled to deliver this summer (although the banner on the building facade says Spring). The developers are Foulger Pratt and Willco.