An update to Maryland’s hate crimes law, named for slain Army 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III, is one of several anti-discrimination measures going into effect Oct. 1. Other notable bills address crime, the environment and healthcare, including an infectious disease mandate named for Olivia Paregol, a University of Maryland freshman who died during a 2018 campus outbreak.
Sponsored by Del. C. T. Wilson (D-Charles) and Sen. Joanne C. Benson)D-Prince George’s), the hate crimes update was named in honor of the Bowie State University ROTC candidate who was murdered by Sean Urbanski at a University of Maryland, College Park bus stop in 2017.
“He was a young rising star, a young military officer about to be commissioned,” Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery) said of Collins, who was Black.
While Urbanski, who is white, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2019, the judge failed to find enough evidence to convict under the state’s hate crime law at the time.
“The standard, the fact he didn’t actually utter a certain phrase, was not enough to convict him of a hate crime as well,” Smith explained. “So, we changed the standard to allow the prior activity to be enough to prove intent. We were able to give that small peace of mind to the family.”
Sen. Clarence Lam (D-Howard, Baltimore counties) also wanted to highlight Collins’ law as an important piece of legislation enacted last session.
“Particularly in this time when the national environment is certainly very fraught,” Lam said. “There have been concerns about populations and individuals who feel they may be targeted due to their race, color, gender or orientation. To make sure the hate crimes statute covers them is particularly important. They’re all people, after all.”
Below are a few other bills enacted last session and going into effect Thursday. They are grouped by category.
Fair housing — HB231/SB50. The HOME, or Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Act, whose sponsors include Smith and Delegate Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore city) expands Maryland’s fair housing policy by prohibiting landlords from discriminating against individuals based on their source of income, to include government subsidized housing vouchers, when renting or selling property.
“I think this law will unleash economic opportunity for thousands of families across Maryland,” said Smith. “A vast majority who have vouchers and are single mothers.”
Employment opportunity — HB1444/SB531. Known as the CROWN Act, this law bans employment discrimination due to racial perceptions regarding hair texture or style by expanding the state’s legal definition of race. Bill sponsors included Smith and Del. Stephanie M. Smith (D-Baltimore city).
“The problem globally is a number of men and women who wear traditional hairstyles associated with the Black race have suffered discrimination in the workplace about ‘professional’ hairstyles,” Sen. Smith explained. “If they refused to change, they wouldn’t be hired or promoted. It’s something a number of Black men and women think about every single day as they move through society.”
Minority businesses — HB404/SB499. Another new law with an intent to address economic racial disparity, sponsored by Delegate Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) and Sen. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George’s), requires the Department of Commerce to include information on the percentage of economic development assistance distributed to minority businesses.
Hate symbols — HB5/SB161. A new law that will prohibit using symbols of hate to threaten or intimidate others was sponsored by Del. Mark S. Change and Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth, both Democrats representing Anne Arundel County, where in February multiple news outlets reported a noose found in a middle school classroom.
LGBTQ — HB81. In another inclusive legislative move, Delegate David Moon (D-Montgomery) sponsored a repeal of Maryland’s sodomy law.
The ACLU reports several states dating back to Illinois in 1961 have already repealed these laws, which were historically used in a discriminatory manner against the LGBTQ community.
Speed cameras — HB46/SB177. As of Oct. 1, according to this bill sponsored by Del. Alfred C. Carr and Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, both Democrats from Montgomery, the Motor Vehicle Administration will no longer have the authority to suspend a vehicle’s registration if the owner or driver fails to pay a traffic light or speeding ticket. Other penalties may still be assessed.
Strangulation — HB233/SB212. Del. Jesse T. Pippy (R-Carroll, Frederick) and Sen. Susan C. Lee (D-Montgomery) are cosponsors of two significant pieces of anti-crime legislation. This first bill adds an additional prison sentence of up to 25 years for intentionally strangling someone during an assault.
Sexual solicitation — HB246/SB231. Pippy and Lee’s second major law enforcement bill bans individuals from seeking the consent of a parent or guardian of a minor when attempting to sexually solicit a minor.
House of Ruth — HB620. A law whose sponsors include Del. Sara N. Love (D-Montgomery) requires money deposited in donation boxes at Baltimore-Washington International Airport security screening checkpoints go to support House of Ruth Maryland. House of Ruth is a leading center aiding victims of intimate partner violence.
The General Assembly passed several bills last session that also seek to protect Maryland’s environment from harm.
Vehicle Emissions — HB133. Active duty service members who are deployed when their vehicles are due for emissions testing may seek an exemption under this new law.
One of the law’s requirements is that the vehicle owner must certify receiving orders to deploy outside of the U.S. or to a duty station not subject to an emissions program. More information on this legislation sponsored by the Environment and Transportation Committee should be made available to service members through applicable agencies once the law goes into effect.
Black bears — HB897/SB353. Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources reports on its website that the state’s black bear population is rapidly growing, partly due to an improving natural habitat. Unfortunately, this environmental success story is tempered by the need to manage increasing human-bear interactions.
The Black Bear Damage Reimbursement fund is one such effort and this year. Del. Wendell R. Beitzel and Sen. George G. Edwards, both Republicans representing Garrett and Allegany counties, sponsored legislation adding pets to the list of damages that can be claimed for reimbursement under the fund.
Firefighting foam ban — HB619/SB420. Though this law goes into effect Oct. 1, Del. Patrick Young’s (D-Baltimore city) and Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth’s (D-Anne Arundel) legislation actually bans the training use of fire-fighting foams that contain polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, as of Oct. 1, 2021. As of that date firefighters must use non-fluorinated foam during training.
According to the EPA, PFAS chemicals don’t break down in either the environment or the human body, and can build up over time leading to adverse health effects.
Styrofoam ban — HB109/SB285. This law bans the use of Styrofoam food and beverage packaging across the state and was sponsored by Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) and Lierman.
“This first-in-the-nation-ban is an important step toward eliminating harmful environmental waste,” Kagan said Wednesday in a press release.
Originally passed in 2019, this bill was to take effect July 1, 2020, but was delayed due in part to the pandemic.
Maternal mortality — HB286. A health-related bill designed to address racial disparities in maternal health care goes into effect this week as well.
This bill, sponsored by Delegate Jheanelle K. Wilkins (D-Montgomery) requires meetings convened under the Maternal Mortality Review Program to include stakeholders reflecting the racial and ethnic diversity of women most impacted by maternal deaths in the state.
According to the group’s 2019 annual report, at least 40% of the 15 pregnancy-related deaths in 2017 were among non-Hispanic Black women. It is now required for this data to be taken into account and reflected in the diversity of the program.
Suicide prevention — SB810.This new law permits the State Highway Administration to post suicide prevention information, which includes a hotline number, on highway electronic signs within five miles of a zone designated as a high risk for suicides. Waldstreicher sponsored the bill.
Cannabis providers — HB378/SB304. Delegate Nicholas Kipke’s (R-Anne Arundel) and Sen. Christopher R. West’s (R-Baltimore County) bill stating physician assistants can be considered as a “certifying provider” and member in the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission, pending a review of eligibility requirements, goes into effect.
The commission develops the policies and procedures needed to safely implement Maryland’s medical cannabis program.
Nursing homes — HB 364. This week each hospital or nursing facility in the state must begin ensuring personnel wear an identification tag when providing patient care. This mandate, sponsored by delegates Sid A. Saab (R-Anne Arundel) and Bonnie L. Cullison (D-Montgomery) comes at a time when elderly care and vulnerability have been critical issues during the pandemic.
Olivia’s Law — HB187/SB329. This legislation enacted last term is named for Olivia Paregol, a University of Maryland, College Park freshman who died during an adenovirus outbreak on campus in 2018.
Sponsored by legislators including Del. Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s, Anne Arundel) and senators Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery) and James C. Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s, Anne Arundel), it requires colleges and universities to submit an infectious disease outbreak response plan to the Maryland Department of Health annually beginning in 2021.
In response to the current pandemic outbreak, the University of Maryland launched a COVID-19 Dashboard on Aug. 19 to provide public updates on testing, cases, and the availability of campus quarantine and isolation housing.
The General Assembly’s previous session ended early, on March 18, due to the pandemic. The next session is set to start Jan. 13.
A Prince George’s County man who led Calvert Police on a high speed chase in Prince Frederick back on Sept. 2 is facing 12 criminal charges and 23 traffic violations, according to police and court records. The state’s case against the defendant, Randall Wallace Martin-Thorpe, 25, of Temple Hills, was moved last week to circuit court.
According to a statement of probable cause filed in the court system by Calvert sheriff’s office Dfc. Bruce Sampson, sometime after 8 a.m. on Sept. 2, a traffic stop was made on a Honda in the area of southbound Route 2/4 and Route 231 due to a brake light that wasn’t operating.
“The vehicle continued southbound at a slow rate as if the operator did not realize he was being pulled over,” Sampson stated in court documents. Sampson reported the Honda at first turned into Sherry Lane but abruptly veered back onto Route 2/4. The Honda turned at a nearby median crossing and began traveling northbound on Route 2/4. The driver of the Honda ran a red light at Oldfield Lane and the vehicle’s speed accelerated to approximately 70 mph.
“It should be noted that there were numerous vehicles in the area at the time of the incident that were in put danger of the driver’s actions,” Sampson stated in court documents. The chase continued on Church Street, with the Honda driver subsequently traveling west in the eastbound lane.
“The vehicle and my cruiser struck each other in an offset head-on collision that resulted in the vehicle running off the road to the left, striking a control box for the intersection lighting,” Sampson stated. “The driver then continued into the parking lot of what used to be Mattress Warehouse, where the driver also struck Sgt. McCourt’s unmarked vehicle. The vehicle then rammed a concrete jersey barrier at the end of the parking lot.”
The driver exited the vehicle and allegedly began running toward Route 2/4. According to Sampson, Deputy Wyatt McDowell attempted taser deployments, which failed to subdue the fleeing suspect. During the ensuing struggle, McDowell was allegedly kicked by the suspect, who was subsequently subdued and arrested, Sampson reported in court documents. A search of the Honda allegedly yielded several small bags of marijuana, which totaled less than 10 grams. Martin-Thorpe was transported to a hospital for evaluation and then taken to the Calvert County Detention Center.
Martin-Thorpe was freed Sept. 3 after posting $10,000 bond.
According to court records, Martin-Thorp is now charged with second-degree assault of a law enforcement officer — a felony — plus three counts of second-degree assault and malicious destruction of property, two counts of disorderly conduct and a single count of obstructing and hindering. Traffic charges include driving under the influence of alcohol, driving while impaired by alcohol, driving while impaired by drugs, attempting to elude police, leaving the scene of an accident involving property destruction, negligent driving and reckless driving.
Martin-Thorpe is due to make an initial appearance before a circuit court judge on Oct. 16. Court records indicate he is being represented by attorney Keith Hiller. Prosecution of the case is being handled by Christopher J. Monte.
An Oxon Hill man described by federal prosecutors as a leader within the international MS-13 gang was arrested last Friday and faces federal charges alleging he trafficked firearms to D.C.
Wilber Vigil-Benitez, 25, who the U.S. Justice Department said also went by “Solitario,” was arrested on Oct. 9 on an outstanding warrant for an indictment which alleges he travelled from Maryland to D.C. “on at least eight occasions” to sell “at least ten firearms,” including an assault rifle.
Vigil-Benitez “obtained firearms from an MS-13 associate and then illegally sold them on the streets of Washington, D.C., for profit,” according to a release from the DOJ. He was prohibited from possessing firearms due to a Maryland firearms offense conviction.
He was indicted in D.C.’s federal court in August on counts of conspiring to engage in the illegal trafficking of firearms, dealing firearms without a license and seven counts of possessing a firearm while being prohibited due to a previous conviction.
Prosecutors allege Vigil-Benitez, of El Salvador, is “is a leader of the Delicias Locos Salvatruchas Clique de La Mara Salvatrucha, commonly referred to as MS-13, a transnational criminal organization,” the press release states.
With modest rains moving into the Mid-Atlantic region late last weekend courtesy of Hurricane Delta, Rosecroft Raceway offered a superb Sunday evening program that was an interesting contrast to the approaching conditions.
With intermittent showers arriving just before post time, the surface became “sloppy” relatively quickly and that made things interesting for horses and drivers. Those owners who were on hand for the card remained in their vehicles to watch the races trackside, which proved to be the best seat in the house for anyone on Sunday.
In the opening race on the parimutuel portion of the card, Fantastic Voyage (Allan Davis) forged a mild upset in the first $5,000 Maryland Sire Stakes elimination for three-year-old colt pacers. Trained by Shaun Callahan for owner Dawn Amiss, Fantastic Voyage upset odds-on choice Nvrfearlloydishere (Eddie Davis, Jr.) for his fourth win in 11 starts this year.
“He was really good tonight,” Davis said. “He really seems to be coming into his own. He handled the track great. I’m hoping he stays this good for the next elim [this Sunday] and then the final [on Oct. 28].”
One race later in the MDSS elim for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings, Yall Beneath Me (Russell Foster) easily lived up to his role as the prohibitive 1-9 favorite when he quarter moved to command then carved out all the fractions on an uncontested lead and romped home eight lengths clear in 1:57.3. It was the 12th victory in 13 career outings for the Richard Hans trainee.
“He just did it so easily,” Foster said. “I had a lot of horse left. Even over this track, he handled it pretty well. He should be good for the next elim this Sunday and then ready for the [$45,000] final.”
Two races later in a non-winners of $4,000 last four starts class for older pacers, Disturbia (Frank Milby) lived up to his role as the 9-5 choice when he gained command in a 27.1 opener then carved out the fractions en route to a three-length score in 1:54.2. A five-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven stallion trained by Trevor Stafford, Disturbia notched his second win from 18 starts this year and now owns an 11-14-9 slate and nearly $100,000 banked from 85 lifetime tries.
In one of the most contentious races on the card, Dirt On My Boots (John Wagner) overcame a first over journey to wear down even-money choice Stonebridge Surf (Jared Moyer) and edge 9-5 second choice Rockin Jukebox (Foster) for a nose score in 1:51.2 in a non-winners of six races or $15,000 lifetime class for younger pacers.
A four-year-old Tobago Cays gelding trained by Jody Dunning, Dirt Of My Boots notched his third win in 17 starts this year and now sports a solid 6-9-2 slate and $44,000 banked from 30 career tries. Rockin Jukebox rallied inside to gain the place spot, edging favored Stonebridge Surf in a three-way thriller over the sloppy going.
One race later in the featured $12,000 Open Handicap for older pacers, Precision Blue Chip (Jason Thompson) maintained his winning ways when he benefited from a perfect trip behind even-money favorite Romantic Interest (Frank Milby) through the first three calls then overhauled that one in the passing lane for a neck score in 1:52.
A five-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding owned and trained by Courtney Brooks of Church Hill, Precision Blue Chip has now won the Open three straight weeks to start the fall meet, owns a 9-2-2 slate from 19 starts this year and now sports a 12-11-7 slate and $55,000 banked from 61 career tries. Romantic Interest has been second in each of those two victories for the Brooks trainee.
“He was really good tonight,” Thompson said. “He still has plenty more in him. I think he’ll hit 1:50 here this meet.”
Sunday afternoon at The Red Mile in Lexington, Bettor’s Wish (Dexter Dunn) prevailed as the 8-5 favorite in 1:48 in the $150,000 Allerage Open, besting Ron Burke trainees This Is The Plan and Backstreet Shadow. All three pacers and several others in the Allerage could be headed to Rosecroft Raceway next month for the fifth edition of the $100,000 Potomac Pace Invitational.
In the quartet of early, non-betting races on Sunday, Hillbilly Kisses (Frank Milby) and Breeze Away B (Allan Davis) won the MDSS splits for three-year-old filly pacers in 1:54.2 and 1:55.3, respectively. Then in the two MDSS elims for three-year-old filly trotters, Gooreatness (Russell Foster) and Trout’s Legacy (Roger Plante, Jr.) scored in 1:57 and 1:57.1, respectively.