Category: Washington Examiner

Photo gallery: Most Wanted captures

October 10th, 2012 – 4:46pm

The Washington Examiner features a “Most Wanted” fugitive each work; this gallery shows the fugitives who were captured thanks to Examiner readers or turned themselves after seeing their photograph. I obtained the photographs, researched the cases, wrote the captions and compiled links to previous stories. Click the photo to see the gallery on

Read more: crime, multimedia and social media, Washington Examiner

Social Media: Washington Examiner

October 3rd, 2012 – 11:03pm

I run the local news social media accounts for the Examiner. I promote our stories daily on social media daily and interact with readers. I also help reporters live-tweet events and breaking news to distribute news quickly in those situations.

In my first four months working on the Examiner’s social media efforts, I increased our local news Twitter followers by 16 percent and our local news Facebook fans by 83 percent.

I also frequently create Storifies to highlight contributions and accounts from social media users, for everything from storms to campaign stops.

In addition, I use my personal social media accounts extensively. My work using my Pinterest account to feature wanted criminals has garnered coverage from Poynter and Washington City Paper.

Read more: multimedia and social media, Washington Examiner

Photo gallery: New D.C. crime lab

October 1st, 2012 – 4:38pm

I selected photos and edited captions for a photo gallery of D.C.’s new crime lab. Click the photo to see the full gallery on

Read more: multimedia and social media, Washington Examiner

Photo gallery: Skyland demoliton

September 26th, 2012 – 6:02pm

I selected photos and edited captions, then produced this gallery of a demolition at blighted strip mall in Southeast D.C. Click the photo to see the gallery on

Read more: multimedia and social media, Washington Examiner

Photo gallery: National Zoo pandas

September 17th, 2012 – 4:43pm

After the National Zoo said its female giant panda was pregnant, I created a photo gallery of mother Mei Xiang and the last panda cub born at the zoo, Tai Shan. I researched and selected photos, lightly edited captions and produced the gallery. Click the photo to see the gallery on

Read more: multimedia and social media, Washington Examiner

Storify: RNC mystery speaker guesses

August 29th, 2012 – 3:07pm

During the 2012 Republican National Convention, a reporter and I created a Storify compiling guesses about the RNC’s mystery speaker. Our blog post on the speculation was one of the most-read items on during the convention.

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Read more: multimedia and social media, Washington Examiner

Storify: Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan campaign in Virginia

August 11th, 2012 – 8:59pm

The day Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate, I created a Storify of their campaign stops in Virginia, compiling videos, photographs and context about the events.

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Read more: breaking news, multimedia and social media, Washington Examiner

Storify: D.C. storm damage

June 30th, 2012 – 8:55pm

When I major storm hit the D.C. area, I compiled residents’ reactions and photographs in a Storify. I also ran the Washington Examiner’s local news Twitter account the day after storm, providing updates on deaths, power outages and resources.

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Read more: breaking news, multimedia and social media, Washington Examiner

‘Endless’ sentencing hearings in Maryland take toll on victims, families

April 28th, 2012 – 6:32pm

The Washington Examiner

By Emily Babay

In January, Carolyn Hoover sat in a packed Montgomery County courtroom to watch a judge sentence the young man who drunkenly crashed his car into a telephone pole and trees, killing her son and two others.

Less than four months later, her family was back in court for another sentencing hearing, and a three-judge panel cut 21-year-old Kevin Coffay’s prison term from 20 years to eight.

“I felt sick inside,” said Hoover, whose 20-year-old son, John, was killed. All involved in the crash attended Magruder High School or were recent graduates. “Every time we have to go to another hearing, it sets us back months.”

The case has raised questions about an unusual and little-known Maryland law that lets defendants ask for a new sentence from a three-judge panel, even if there was nothing illegal about their original punishment. The result can be an agonizing process for victims and their families, who are often taken by surprise and must endure numerous court dates yet never feel like a case has reached its end.

“There’s almost no finality in a criminal case,” said Russell Butler, executive director of the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center. “Victims want justice, and you want justice to be final.”

It’s difficult to tell how often panels review sentences and reduce them.

David Soule, executive director of the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy, said the commission does not keep data on sentencing review panels. A Maryland courts spokeswoman and local state’s attorney’s offices also could not provide that data.

In addition to the panels, defendants can also ask their sentencing judge to reconsider a sentence.

It’s routine for defendants to request a new sentence through at least one of those avenues, said Seth Zucker, spokesman for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Most requests for sentencing panels are denied without a hearing and the sentences remain unchanged, said Byron Warnken, a Maryland lawyer who specializes in post-conviction work. But when a hearing is granted, the sentence is reduced about three-quarters of the time, he estimated.

The three-judge panels are most likely to reduce lengthy sentences, Warnken said.

“They can throw you a bone without letting you walk away from prison,” he said.

Several other recent high-profile cases that appeared to have been closed are still ongoing, as the defendants have asked review panels to take up their cases.

Brittany Norwood, serving life in prison without parole for the brutal killing of a co-worker at a Bethesda yoga store, and Keith Little, sentenced to the same punishment for stabbing his boss to death at Suburban Hospital, have both asked panels to review their sentences. Both are waiting to learn whether hearings will be granted.

Deontra Gray, one of four teenagers who pleaded guilty in the slaying of D.C. school principal Brian Betts in Silver Spring, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He requested a sentence review panel, and a hearing is scheduled for September.

Combined with parole and other appeals, prosecutors and victims advocates say, there’s often no end in sight.

“Our concern here is the virtually endless review process for even legal sentences,” Zucker said.

Hoover said the process has made it nearly impossible to move forward after her son’s death.

“I would rather have had a lighter sentence to begin with and not go through what we had to go through,” she said.


Sidebar: Panels created to quell controversy

The sentencing review panels now under fire in Maryland due to a recent drunken-driving case in Montgomery County were created in hopes of quelling controversy over sentences.

A law creating the three-judge panels was enacted after a 1965 report on criminal sentences in the state found “alarmingly disparate” penalties, according to Maryland Court of Appeals opinions that address the act and its history.

It’s rare to have a separate review process — like the three-judge panels — solely for sentences, said Douglas Berman, a sentencing law expert at Ohio State University. Local officials said a handful of other states have some form of sentencing reviews, but no other state appears to have a system directly comparable to Maryland’s, according to the National Center for State Courts.

Sentencing review panels might be an effective way to correct for extreme sentences, Berman said.

“There’s some value in having a panel double-check whether that’s not just permissible, but a good judgment,” Berman said.

In recent years, 70 percent to 80 percent of sentences in Maryland are within guidelines, according to the State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy.

Read more: courts, Washington Examiner, writing

Five Fairfax gang members accused of prostituting girls

March 29th, 2012 – 8:27pm

The Washington Examiner

By Emily Babay

A 17-year-old girl who responded to a Facebook message saying she was pretty and could make money told police that she ended up being forced to give oral sex at knifepoint and coerced into having sex with 14 men in one night.

The person named “Rain Smith” who sent that Facebook message was actually 26-year-old Justin Strom, the leader of the Underground Gangster Crips — a Fairfax County-based division of the Crips gang — and had sent more than 800 similar solicitation messages to other girls, according to authorities and a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday.

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Read more: courts, crime, Washington Examiner, writing

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