In brief: VSP whites out, Queen of Virginia sues, Hoos win World Cup, and more…

A reporter suing Virginia State Police for a copy of its August 12 operations plan got 132 blank pages.
staff photo A reporter suing Virginia State Police for a copy of its August 12 operations plan got 132 blank pages. staff photo

State police redact—heavily

Natalie Jacobsen, a reporter who has written for C-VILLE, has been trying to get the Virginia State Police to release its August 12, 2017, operations plan for almost two years under the Freedom of Information Act. She seemed close May 22, when a Charlottesville judge ordered the state police to produce the plan. However, what Jacobsen received is a document with 132 blank pages, and she’s going back to court.

According to the motion her attorneys with Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed July 9, the entire report was redacted except for portions previously published in the Governor’s Task Force and the Heaphy reports.

State police “were required to release all portions” of the operations plan, including non-public parts that are not subject to the tactical plans exclusion in FOIA, says the court filing. Jacobsen also objects to the state agency citing other FOIA exemptions for first time, and says with the
blank pages, she’d have to guess at which exemptions police are applying to particular information.

She wants the court to order state police to immediately release portions of the 177-page plan that were improperly redacted. A hearing date has not been set.

Quote of the week

“We want Charlottesville to be known as a community that has learned important lessons from our long and complex racial history, from the Summer of Hate, that we are resilient, and that we have set a course for a better future for all of our residents.” —City Manager Tarron Richardson on ditching TJ’s birthday

In brief

Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania got sued by a game maker who took issue with Platania’s assessment of Queen of Virginia’s legality. staff photo

Prosecutor sued

The company that makes the Queen of Virginia game filed a lawsuit against Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania, who banned the machines in the city in June and said enforcement would begin August 5 for those who had not removed the games, according to the Daily Progress. The manufacturer contends the machines are “skill games,” while Platania says they violate Virginia’s law against illegal gambling. 

World Cup Hoos

Three former UVA soccer players—Becky Sauerbrunn, Morgan Brian, and Emily Sonnett—were on the winning U.S. national women’s soccer team in Lyon July 7, and UVA women’s soccer head coach Steve Swanson served as an assistant coach.

Sanctuary fine

ICE is threatening to impose a $214,000 fine on Guatemalan refugee Maria Chavalan Sut, who has lived in Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church since October while she fights deportation, the DP reports. The Reverend Isaac Collins says “The purpose of it is to intimidate Maria and to put pressure on her.”

Can’t shut up

Crying Nazi Chris Cantwell allegedly threatened one of the lawyers suing him for damages stemming from August 2017. Attorney Roberta Kaplan asked a federal judge to order Cantwell to stop making “unlawful threats” on social media, such as this on Telegram: “When this stupid [anti-Semitic slur] whore loses this fraudulent lawsuit, we’re going to have a lot of fucking fun with her.”

State Senator Bryce Reeves points out that one of his Senate colleagues is “openly gay” at an NRA gathering. file photo

Sexual orientation noted

At an NRA conference in Fredericksburg in June, state Senator Bryce Reeves, who represents eastern Albemarle, said the agenda of the only “openly gay senator,” Adam Ebbin, is “infanticide” and gun bills, and that Dems want a “$20, $25” minimum wage, the Washington Post reports. Ebbin disputes Reeves’ characterization of his legislative goals, and says he’s “offended,” “hurt,” and “shocked” Reeves would invoke his sexual orientation.

Warmbiers want ship

The parents of UVA student Otto Warmbier have filed a claim for a North Korean cargo ship as payment on the $500 million judgment they received in the death of their son following his imprisonment in North Korea. 

Mall shooting

A shot was fired into the Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar around 11:30pm July 5. Police found a bullet hole in the window, but no one was injured. Tayveyon Laric Brown, 18, was arrected and charged with attempted malicious wounding, shooting into an occupied dwelling, discharging a firearm in the city, discharging a firearm in a street or place of public business and reckless handling of a firearm.  

Caretaker crime

Danielle Messineo, of Madison, was sentenced July 3 to 10-and-a-half years active incarceration for forging checks and stealing money from a quadraplegic relative. She was convicted of three counts of grand larceny and three counts of forgery. Her sentence exceeded the two-and-a-half years sentencing guidelines because of the victim’s vulnerability and her position of trust as a caretaker, said the judge.

Scoot on!

Electric scooters will remain another six months, but hint to riders: Stop riding them on the sidewalk and blocking pedestrian traffic.

Lime and Bird electric scooters have made over 115,000 rides and sent 32 people to the emergency room in the six months since they came to town in December. Those were a few of the details City Council learned at its June 17 meeting, where council members voted to extend the pilot scooter program—before Bird took a summer hiatus.

Charlottesville residents will now have until at least December 2019 to rent ’em and ride ’em. For a starting fare of $1 and 15 cents a minute, riders can zip around in bike lanes and streets anywhere in the city—except the Downtown Mall, a designated no-go zone. City Council also voted to expand the scooter fleet from 200 to 300.

City staff identified several concerns with the program: users riding on sidewalks, leaving scooters willy-nilly around town, and not wearing helmets. Both Lime and Bird require participants to sign a virtual agreement to wear one but, with no concrete way to enforce this rule, residents are opting to go helmet-less.

But at 700 rides a day and growing, safety concerns don’t seem to deter potential riders.

In the meantime, the committee will continue to collect data on the pilot program, and City Council will reconvene in December to decide the permanent fate of the scooter sensation.

Correction July 16: The original scooter story should have indicated the nearly 700,000 gallons Lime says it’s saved are since the company was founded, not here in Charlottesville.

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