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NOW available!  The story of ST. MARY’S TODAY….22 YEARS of NEWS …not SNOOZE!

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The original DWI Hit Parade first appeared in the ST. MARY’S TODAY newspaper published on July 31, 1990. The listing was begun with the arrest of George Herman Bowles, of Leonardtown, Md.  Bowles was charged with DWI after rear-ending a vehicle which had stopped for a police car attempting to enter Maryland Rt. 2 from a side street.  The police car was displaying its emergency lights.  Bowles was driving an antique truck and doing a typical Saturday night cruise around Solomon’s Island in Calvert County, Md. His truck was the subject of a police lookout for a drunk driver.
Over the years, ST. MARY’S TODAY published approximately 65,000 names of those arrested for DWI.  In 1991, the newspaper’s DWI coverage was the subject of a front page story by Eugene L.  Meyer in the Washington Post and a World News Tonight special anchored by Walter Rodgers which aired on ABC television on Memorial Day weekend as the network’s holiday coverage of drinking and driving.
A 2007 offer of a free coffin for the first drunk driver to kill himself during the Christmas season resulted in zero fatalities in the three counties of Southern Maryland due to alcohol as of Christmas Eve.  After victory was declared for the effort, and the offer ended, three days later a young man killed himself in Hollywood, MD. while driving drunk. News coverage of the Free Coffin Giveaway spread across the nation with ABC 7  (WJLA) reporter Jay Korff in Washington and Fox News airing interviews.
A midnight raid of newsstands on election eve in 1998 by the Sheriff, 6 deputies and the States Attorney candidate cleared out all available copies of the newspaper before voters went to the polls in order to prevent the public from reading critical articles about the Sheriff and States Attorney candidate.
A federal civil rights lawsuit pursued on behalf of the publisher by the firm of Levine, Sullivan, Koch & Schulz, with attorneys Alice Neff Lucan as counsel and Ashley Kissinger as the chief litigator, along with assistance from senior partner Lee Levine, Seth Berlin and Audrey Billingsley,  resulted in a landmark First Amendment decision when the Fourth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals ruled that the seizure of the newspaper violated the 1st Amendment rights of the publisher. The ruling Rossignol v. Voorhaar was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the defendants, which was denied and a Federal Judge then ruled in favor of the newspaper resulting in a significant payment from the defendants to settle the case.  The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed an Amicus Brief in the case.
See this ABC 20/20 news story anchored by Diane Sawyer and Chris Wallace on this case Part One and Part Two
WUSA 9 News reporter Bruce Leshan won an Emmy for his coverage of this story.

While St. Mary’s Sheriff Tim Cameron along with State Police officials and Judges point to the listing of names and posting of photos as being a major deterent over the years, there are still far too many injuries and deaths due to driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
The listings provided here are public records and accumulated from official police agencies.  Those who can provide documentation of false arrest can have their names removed.  Expungements arranged by plea bargains don’t count.  Visit your state’s judicial website for findings of the court or plea deals made by prosecutors.  Remember, until a DWI driver has been convicted, he or she is innocent.  If they kill themselves driving drunk but are not yet convicted, they may be dead but they are still not yet guilty. But it is the drunk drivers who kill others that are the real problem.  Self elimination is a favor to society at large, but still is a tragedy to the loved ones left behind.
The best way to keep your options open for a security clearance is to call a cab to get home.  In the meantime, stay off our highways if you have a snoot full and you’ll stay off our list.
Go ahead, grow up, make the right decision for life and don’t drive after drinking.
This is a new national registry of DWI issues and arrests.  As information is compiled daily, check back for more listings for your area.  No one should rely upon these listings as a final disposition of the charges without checking with the judicial authority in which the charges are filed.  The publisher is not responsible for any errors, omissions or incorrect data and the user shall verify all information prior to use.
Those police agencies which desire to assist by providing the arrest information are invited to send the data to staff@dwiHitParade.com.

Thanks,
Ken Rossignol
Publisher
DWIHitParade.com
Huggins Point Publishing LLC.
Copyright 2011-2012 Information from this website to be used for non-profit or news organizations is invited with attribution: DWIHitParade.com
Contact staff@DWIHitParade.com for information. 

If your name appears on this website and you believe you may qualify to have the listing of your arrest removed, provide documentation to Clean-Search.com to learn if your case is eligible.

(In 2010, ST. MARY’S TODAY was sold to Southern News Corp. which changed the name of the newspaper and in 2011 Southern News Corp. ceased publication.)

 

  St. Mary’s tabloid draws readers by shouting the news

September 10, 1990|By Joel McCord
Sun Staff Correspondent
LEXINGTON PARK — DRUNK DRIVERS RAMPAGE ON COUNTY ROADS!
STATE TO BLOW TAX MONEY DOWN THE DRAIN!
DWI HIT PARADE EACH WEEK!
Screaming headlines that often take up more space than the overblown prose that follows. An eye-boggling layout that is almost impossible to decipher. Page after page of photos of auto accidents and police officers arresting suspects in various crimes, especially drunken driving.
It’s St. Mary’s Today, a tabloid that erupted this summer from the ashes of a failed printing business to anger government officials, embarrass nearly anyone arrested for drunken driving and unabashedly huckster for the political favorites of its publisher, Kenneth C. Rossignol. …..MORE

 

St. Mary’s Weekly: Black and White and Dread All Over
 
[FINAL Edition] The Washington Post  – Washington, D.C.

Author: Eugene L. Meyer

Apr 8, 1991   Page A-1

The owner of an auto cleaning and detailing shop used to be an avid reader of and advertiser in the weekly tabloid that some people here in St. Mary’s County affectionately call “the rag.”

But then Ron MacRea’s name and picture appeared in a report that the newspaper, St. Mary’s Today, published about his arrest on a charge of drunken driving. He cut off his advertising and stopped reading the paper.

“I wish him nothing but the worst of luck,” said MacRea, referring to editor and publisher Ken Rossignol, whose sensationalist publication is the paper that folks in these parts love to hate.

Rossignol, 43, regularly prints the names of those arrested on drunken driving charges in a “DWI Hit Parade” column. Since July 31, when he started the paper, Rossignol has run the photographs of 149 people arrested on charges of drunken driving, some of them on the front page. His paper, with a claimed weekly circulation of 7,000, regularly splashes photographs of mangled wreckage, the bitter fruits of driving under the influence, across its pages.

“We’re accused of being a single-dimension paper,” said Rossignol, whose younger brother was killed while hitching a ride in 1972 when a drunk driver picked him up and later drove off the road.

But he also runs stories about drug arrests under the heading, “St. Mary’s Today Hit Parade on Drugs.” Another column, “Breaking and Enterings This Week,” catalogues other affronts to the public peace and tranquillity in a county of 76,000 located an hour’s drive southeast of Washington.

Rossignol reserves some of his most pungent descriptions for common criminals who prey upon the innocent.

In his pages, they are “dirtbags,” “low-life creeps,” “local scumbags,” “evildoers” and “heathens.”

“Showing the true colors of a coward,” he wrote in the March 26 edition, “local county dirtbags again picked on an elderly citizen and broke into their home, damaged appliances, furniture and floor coverings, leaving over $4,000 in losses for the 74-year-old resident . . . . Anyone who would like to rat on these low-life creeps can call 475-8008,” the county sheriff’s office.

Rossignol is a Rockville native and Montgomery College dropout who migrated to St. Mary’s in 1974 to run a pizza shop and be close to the Chesapeake Bay. He later sold real estate and owned a printing business. He had no newspaper experience when he began publishing light fare in free advertisers.

With his brother’s death in mind, his tone and mission changed last year after a drunk driver killed a pedestrian in Solomons, across the Patuxent River from St. Mary’s, and his own car was rear-ended there by another drunk driver. St. Mary’s Today hit the newsstands as a free, full-sized tabloid. In December, Rossignol started charging 35 cents a copy; recently, he raised it to 50 cents.

In the months since, the paper has stirred hornet’s nests of controversy with its flamboyant style. It has attacked entrenched politicians and embarrassed lesser lights caught in various police enforcement efforts.

Lt. Leonard A. Potts, commander of the Leonardtown state police barracks, said he believes Rossignol’s listings of accused drunk drivers serve as a deterrent to others. But Sheriff Wayne Petit, whose re-election Rossignol opposed last year, sees little value in the listings or the paper.

“His causes are completely just,” said Larry Millison, a former county commissioner who has quarrelled with the chain-owned biweekly, St. Mary’s Enterprise. Millison also has been a target of Rossignol’s editorial wrath, but defends him nonetheless. “He talks about DWI and drugs and waste in government. Regardless of who’s involved, he tells it like it is.”

Back in January, Rossignol stripped across the top of his front page the news that the county’s chief prosecutor had dropped drunken driving charges against the daughter of a former county commissioner. “My boss swears he didn’t know it was George Aud’s daughter,” said Florence Ballengee, a legal assistant to the prosecutor, State’s Attorney Walter Dorsey. “She has a different name.”

Ballengee added: “It’s the paper you love to hate. We call it `the rag,’ and we half kill each other to get to it. It’s all editorial, from cover to cover.”

Rossignol seems to relish all of the controversy, but adds nervously: “I never know when it’s going to be the last issue of the paper.” Rossignol said he’s never been sued, and said he follows the cases of the people whose arrests he spotlights and reports the disposition of the charges.

Rossignol runs the paper with the help of his 73-year-old mother, who answers the phones and sells ads. Two former base commanders at the nearby Patuxent River Naval Air Station write regular columns, for free. The paper also runs articles about local and state government written by two stringers. Two others help with distribution and take pictures at accident scenes.

To spend an evening with Rossignol is to turn the clock back to the down-and-dirty days of police beat reporting when “legmen” chased ambulances to accidents and fires and police cruisers to the scenes of crimes.

In a Ford LTD with 151,000 miles on the odometer, Rossignol cruises the county nightly until around 4 a.m. each morning, listening to a police scanner and decoding 1029s (background check requested) and 1074s (not wanted) crackling over the radio.

One night last week, Rossignol arrived at the scene of a house break-in. The elderly occupants’ home had been ransacked while they were in church. Rossignol and Hung Dang, 31, his sometime photographer and sidekick, snapped pictures of the sheriff’s deputy emerging from the house.

“Hey, how come my juvenile {arrest} wasn’t in the paper this week, man?” the officer asked. “I was damn proud of that.”

Replied Rossignol: “My reason is, I didn’t know about it until now.”

The paper is printed in Waldorf on Monday, dropped off to 130 vendors Monday night and sold on Tuesday. Last week, it was late.

“You lost a lot of sales,” said Tina Reeder, cashier at the Hollywood Burchmart convenience store, when Rossignol finally delivered his bundle of newspapers there Tuesday afternoon. “It’s been aggravating us all day long. Some people said they’d been to three or four places” looking for it.

At the Liberty Full Service Car Wash, five employees each grabbed a copy and stood there transfixed by its contents. “This paper’s just become a habit,” said Patrick Dorsey. “It keeps me informed, because I don’t go out on the street.” Said Gloria Michaux: “It’s a Tuesday morning ritual around here.”

“This is the `St. Mary’s Enquirer,’ ” said Ben Greenwell, whose Sign of the Whale liquor store made the paper when a clerk allegedly sold alcohol to a minor. Printing such news is “the job of the newspaper, I guess,” said Greenwell, who was still advertising in it “for a couple more hours, anyway.”

(Editor’s Note: Ironically, Ben Greenwell, the father of seven, was killed on Dec. 9, 2000 when his vehicle was rear-ended by a drunk driver on Maryland Rt. 5 at Mohawk Drive as he waited at red light.  He and his family were on the way home from Washington, D.C. after attending a Christmas event.)

In S. Md., a Battle For News Loyalties

By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 28, 2006
There’s a newspaper war brewing — with enough finger-pointing and name-calling to make Rupert Murdoch proud. But whereas media catfights might be the norm in a metropolis like New York City or London, this spat is occurring in the unlikeliest of places: rural St. Mary’s County in Southern Maryland …..MORE

St. Mary’s County Settles ‘Newspaper Caper’ Lawsuit by Local Publisher

By KATHLEEN CULLINAN
Capital News Service
Wednesday, April 6, 2005

WASHINGTON – St. Mary’s County has settled a lawsuit brought by the publisher of a local newspaper who said county officials conspired to suppress distribution of his paper on the eve of the 1998 elections.
The county’s insurance trust fund paid St. Mary’s Today publisher Ken Rossignol $425,000 to end the suit over the November 1998 “newspaper caper,” and St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney Richard Fritz is paying another $10,000 himself, according to Rossignol’s attorney…..MORE

 

Errands of Suppression in the Dead of Night

By Alice Neff Lucan
(From May 2005 edition of the MDDC Press Association News)

The parties in the St. Mary’s Today lawsuit against various St. Mary’s County law enforcement officials have settled the case for $435,000, paid to plaintiff Ken Rossignol and his newspaper company.

Though the settlement amount is a healthy sum, the significance of the settlement goes much further than the money.

One of the goals was to “hold on to” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit decision in this case because that court said that the sheriff’s deputies, the sheriff himself and the current St. Mary’s State’s Attorney Richard Fritz were acting “under color of law” when they absconded with Election Day editions of St. Mary’s Today in November 1998.
That edition of the newspaper reported two stories that Richard Fritz and Sheriff Richard Voorhaar did not want published on Election Day. Fritz was elected to office; Voorhaar was re-elected. Whether the St. Mary’s Today stories would have made a difference in voters’ choices will never be known.

Apparently based on advice from Richard Fritz, the deputies went to some trouble to make it appear that they were acting on their own time.
When they went out on the “newspaper caper” (overnight, November 3rd), most were off-duty, all were in civilian clothes (except for two guns sticking out from clothing), and they videotaped themselves paying for newspapers.
The 4th Circuit looked through their guise and wrote, for example, that the store clerks selling St. Mary’s Today knew perfectly well who the deputies were:
“One clerk testified that he sold the full supply of the paper to defendants because they were police officers, had a ‘real intimidating attitude,’ and made it ‘real apparent [that] they could make my life here a living hell.’
So much for “private conduct.”
The deputies had another advantage because of their law enforcement jobs.
They could be confident, the court said, that they would not be prosecuted for violating Maryland’s Newspaper Theft Law because their boss, Sheriff Voorhaar, approved of their actions, and indeed, had contributed his own funds to the buyout.
Otherwise, the court said, “defendants’ efforts to prevent St. Mary’s County readers from reading Rossignol’s newspaper put them in direct peril of criminal prosecution under Maryland law.”
It is odd that the deputies thought that paying for the newspaper would help at all. The law makes it a crime to take away newspapers with “the intent to prevent another from reading the newspapers.”

Paying for the newspapers would have made no difference had the Maryland Attorney General, for example, made the decision to prosecute.

Most important, the court said the officers took these actions because of circumstances rising from their public employment.

“The actions here arose out of public, not personal, circumstances. Where the sole intention of a public official is to suppress speech critical of his conduct of official duties or fitness for public office, his actions are more fairly attributable to the state.”

This is the view argued by the Baltimore Sun against Governor Ehrlich’s decision to exclude two of their journalists from interviews.

The Sun’s case is on appeal to this same court.

The Rossignol decision ends with this:
“The incident in this case may have taken place in America, but it belongs to a society much different and more oppressive than our own. If we were to sanction this conduct, we would point the way for other state officials to stifle public criticism of their policies and their performance. And we would leave particularly vulnerable this kind of paper in this kind of community. Alternative weeklies such as St. Mary’s Today may stir deep ire in the objects of their irreverence, but we can hardly say on that account that they play no useful part in the political dialogue. No doubt the public has formed over time its opinion of the paper’s responsibility and reputation. If defendants believed its attacks to be scurrilous, their remedy was either to undertake their own response or to initiate a defamation action. It was not for law enforcement to summon the organized force of the sheriff’s office to the cause of censorship and dispatch deputies on the errands of suppression in the dead of night.”

This writer has been on the briefs in this case and represented the newspaper and its publisher when the incident first developed.

But the trial team, Seth Berlin, Ashley Kissinger and Audrey Billingsly of the Levine, Sullivan firm took this litigation to its successful end.

This article appeared in the American Journalism Review
Censorship

at 75 Cents a Copy

Deputies who bought up papers to suppress critical stories may have violated the First Amendment.

By Jane Kirtley
Jane Kirtley (kirtl001@tc.umn.edu) is the Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Some sheriff’s deputies in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, were as steamed as the region’s famous blue crabs.

The November 1998 election was approaching. Their favored candidates, incumbent Sheriff Richard Voorhaar and lawyer Richard Fritz, running for state’s attorney, were on the ballot.

But the problem was that the local weekly newspaper, St. Mary’s Today, had a long history of criticizing county officials in general and law enforcement personnel in particular. The newspaper’s brand of journalism was robust, to say the least. It had called one of the deputies a “drunk,” another a “child abuser” and a third a “shoeshine boy.”

The deputies didn’t take kindly to this sort of abuse. According to court documents, they claimed that the paper was “unsavory” and published “outright lies.” What really worried them, though, was that St. Mary’s Today was due to publish on Election Day, and the deputies anticipated the paper would take potshots at Voorhaar and Fritz without giving them an opportunity to defend themselves.

So, as told in court records, the deputies cooked up a scheme to “protest [their] disagreement” with St. Mary’s Today Publisher Kenneth Rossignol’s “irresponsible journalism.” They agreed to buy as many copies of the newspaper as they could from stores and vending machines before citizens could purchase them. They even planned to stage a “bonfire party” afterward. That ought to “piss off” Rossignol, they figured.

The deputies checked with Voorhaar and Fritz, both of whom approved the plan and kicked in some money to support the enterprise. Fritz advised them that it might be a good idea to get receipts to prove that they had bought the papers, not stolen them.

On election eve, six deputies set out on their mission. They were off duty, driving personal cars, and out of uniform. But two of them carried service revolvers. One wore a Fraternal Order of Police sweatshirt. And they were well known to the clerks in the convenience stores who routinely gave them free coffee and soft drinks.

When the deputies asked to buy all of one store’s newspapers, a clerk later testified that they made it “real apparent [that] they could make my life here a living hell” if he declined to sell them.

In a few hours, the deputies visited 40 stores and 40 newsboxes, cadging at least 1,300 copies of St. Mary’s Today, which has a circulation of 5,300. One witness later claimed he could not find “any papers anywhere in the county.”

And sure enough, as the deputies had expected, the paper carried a front-page headline declaring “Fritz Guilty of Rape,” referring to the candidate’s guilty plea to a charge of carnal knowledge of a 15-year-old more than 30 years earlier, along with a story about a complaint filed against Voorhaar over his handling of a sexual harassment claim.

Rossignol filed a federal civil rights suit a year later, claiming that the officials had violated the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments, as well as state law. A federal district judge threw out the suit, finding that the deputies had not acted “under color of state law” when they bought the papers, but as private citizens. And because no “police action” occurred, Fritz and Voorhaar got off, too.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals saw it differently. In a unanimous opinion by Chief Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, a three-judge panel ruled in January that the deputies’ conduct amounted to a “systematic, carefully organized plan to suppress the distribution of St. Mary’s Today” because they disagreed with its viewpoint, and to “retaliate against those who questioned their fitness for public office.” That’s exactly the “kind of suppression of political criticism that the First Amendment was intended to prohibit,” Wilkinson observed.

Just because the deputies were acting outside their normal working hours didn’t mean they weren’t using the power of their office to carry out their plan, the court found. Like law enforcement officials who conspired with Ku Klux Klan members to intimidate former slaves, “the conduct here…cannot be absolved by the simple expedient of removing the badge,” Wilkinson wrote.

If the deputies disagree with what St. Mary’s Today had to say, they are free to denounce the paper, Wilkinson suggested. They can even sue for libel. But as he concluded, “to summon the organized force of the sheriff’s office to the cause of censorship” “belongs to a society much different and more oppressive than our own.” One where the government, not the citizen, decides what is the truth and what are “outright lies.”