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Defendant in Norfolk murder trial pleads down

The Virginian-Pilot
NORFOLK — A jury trial in a double murder ended Wednesday when the defendant pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Jimmott Thomas had been charged with murder, robbery and weapons charges when the trial began Tuesday. His attorney , B. Thomas Reed, said Wednesday afternoon that Thomas pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of accessory after the fact to murder and a charge of conspiracy to possess marijuana. Reed said the plea agreement was sealed.Thomas is scheduled to be sentenced in April. . . .

Document: Pat Robertson's apology letter to Sharon's son

The Virginian-Pilot
Broadcaster Pat Robertson has apologized for publicly implying that Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, suffered a stroke as divine retribution for returning land to Palestinians.Robertson sent the apology to Sharon’s son Umri, in a letter dated Wednesday that was to be delivered to the Jerusalem hospital where Sharon is being treated.Below is a copy of the two-page letter. A larger version, and video of Robertson reading the letter, can be viewed on Robertson's official Web site, patrobertson.com. . . .

Norfolk city officials oppose courthouse plan

By TIM McGLONEThe Virginian-Pilot
NORFOLK — City officials said Wednesday they oppose the federal government’s newest proposal to build an addition to the Walter E. Hoffman U.S. Courthouse. The U.S. General Services Administration floated the idea of taking a one-block stretch of Monticello Avenue at a public meeting Tuesday night. It is one of four options under consideration for a 200,000-square-foot addition to the historic courthouse on Granby Street.Mayor Paul Fraim said Wednesday the first he’d heard of the Monticello . . .

Portsmouth dips into its reserves to pay for fuel

By Meghan HoyerThe Virginian-Pilot
PORTSMOUTH — Even before Hurricane Katrina, Portsmouth’s gasoline budget was in trouble.Prices had risen steadily through the first half of 2005, far surpassing city cost estimates. Then the hurricane struck.By the end of September, gas had spiked at more than $3 a gallon. At that point, Portsmouth had spent nearly 80 percent of its annual budget for fuel in the first three months of the budget year.With nearly half the budget year remaining, Portsmouth and other cities now face a problem . . .

Developer has 8 months to close Nags Head deal

By Lauren King The Virginian-Pilot
ELIZABETH CITY — A Virginia Beach-based company has eight months to study whether to complete the purchase of land in Nags Head after Pasquotank County commissioners accepted its $9.45 million bid Monday night. Ocean Beach Club LLC will use the time to determine if its plans for the property are feasible. As part of its agreement, Ocean Beach Club will pay the county 5 percent of the $472,502.50 deposit on the bid price for that eight-month period, County Attorney Mike Cox said. If . . .

Parks department's revamping calls for 4-way split

By MATTHEW JONESThe Virginian-Pilot
NORFOLK — City Manager Regina V.K. Williams unveiled a plan Tuesday to reorganize the parks and recreation department and hire a new director. It came after City Council members complained about chronic job vacancies in the Department of Recreation, Parks and Open Space, including the director’s job, which has been vacant for two years.At a work session Tuesday, City Council members urged Williams to act quickly, especially in hiring a new director who could help guide future hiring.Later, Williams . . .

Leader completes efforts at battleship’s helm

By DEBBIE MESSINAThe Virginian-Pilot
NORFOLK — The longtime face of the battleship Wisconsin, retired Rear Adm. Jack Kavanaugh , has worked himself out of a job.Thanks to a merger with the Nauticus Advisory Board and The National Maritime Center Foundation, the USS Wisconsin Foundation has ceased to exist. And so has Kavanaugh’s job as executive director, which he held since the foundation’s inception in 1999 .“I’ve been after this ever since I got here,” said Kavanaugh, 66 . “We’ve needed to consolidate into one organization. … And . . .

Archaeologist pledges – again – to return ring

By catherine kozakThe Virginian-Pilot
After being thwarted repeatedly by ill health and hurricanes, retired East Carolina University archaeologist David Phelps said he will return a priceless 16th-century gold signet ring to the school by the end of January. Phelps had last assured the school that he would bring the ring and other artifacts from his digs at the site of the Croatan chiefdom in Buxton back to the university in December.T he veteran archaeologist said that bad weather at his Florida home hindered his travel plans. . . .

New courthouse expansion option would claim a block of Monticello

By TIM McGLONEThe Virginian-Pilot
NORFOLK — The federal government said Tuesday it is considering a new alternative for an expansion to the Walter E. Hoffman U.S. Courthouse, a site to the east that would require taking one block of Monticello Avenue. A final decision could come by May, but the U.S. General Services Administration, which has been under fire during its site selection process, said it may need even more time depending on environmental effects .In a second public meeting on a proposal to build a 200,000-square-foot . . .

Discussions near to deal with excess $22 million

By MIKE GRUSSThe Virginian-Pilot
CHESAPEAKE — With $22 million in hand and no immediate plans for the money, the Chesapeake City Council is like the winner of a handsome jackpot. From July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2005 , the city collected $22 million more than its traditionally conservative estimates, money that came from a booming real estate market and stronger-than-predicted revenue from the food and sales tax.“People said the economy was going to soften, and it didn’t,” said Betty Meyer, the city’s budget director.The influx . . .

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