Week in Alexandria

Week in Alexandria

Constant Campaign

This election year will be like none other in the city’s long history, as the City Council election will take place in November for the first time. It will also feature a special election to fill a vacant seat in the House of Representatives in which a City Council member will be on the ballot.

And yet, even with all that campaigning, Vice Mayor Kerry Donley reminded his colleagues Tuesday night, there is a city to run.

“We need to be here, fully engaged, on time and participating rather than attending fundraisers,” said Donley, a former chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. “Our political activities have to be secondary.”

Councilwoman Alicia Hughes responded that the intersection of city business and politics might be more subtle than checking a fundraising schedule. After Donley’s speech, Hughes recounted her experience trying to organize a special program to recognize the 40-year anniversary of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Status of Women.

“I was told in no uncertain terms that no commendations would be signed until after the November election,” she said.

Gang Ringleader Pleads

The ringleader of a violent street gang known as the Underground Gangster Crips pleaded guilty this week to recruiting at least eight juvenile girls to engage in commercial sex as part of a prostitution ring that spanned Northern Virginia, including a hotel on North Washington Street in Old Town.

On the street, 26-year-old Justin Strom was known as “Jae” or “J-Dirt.” But in the courtroom at the Alexandria federal courthouse, he became known as the leader of an operation that recruited girls on Internet sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Datehookup. The gang also recruited girls on the Metro, at the mall or in school and operated the prostitution ring in some of the most affluent neighborhoods in Northern Virginia.

“Justin Strom robbed these girls of their childhood, their innocence, and their trust,” said Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in a written statement. “And he did that in the most base, vile, and despicable way possible.”

Court records show that the prostitution ring operated for about six years, with members posting advertisements on sites such as Backpage and Craigslist. Strom is the fifth and final member of the Underground Gangster Crips to strike a plea deal with federal prosecutors. He faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum penalty of life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 14.

“They preyed on some of the most vulnerable in our society and today, Justin Strom admitted to these crimes,” said special agent in charge Ronald Hosko.

Back to Arizona

This week’s Supreme Court decision on immigration sparked a mixed reaction in Northern Virginia this week.

“One of the crackpot theories of the anti-immigration forces is that local and state police officers have what they call ‘inherent authority’ to enforce federal immigration law,” said attorney Simon Sandoval Moshenberg. “The Supreme Court said that is absolutely false.”

One of the most controversial parts of the case remains undecided however, part of an Arizona law allowing officers to detain individuals if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the suspect is undocumented. Northern Virginia civil rights advocates said they were “deeply disappointed” that the court sent it back to Arizona rather than striking it down. Several said the Arizona law was patterned on a recent Prince William County measure that gained national significance.

“In many ways, Prince William is a trial balloon, where things were test run,” said John Liss, director of the Virginia New Majority. “Policies were created in think tanks in Washington, test run in Prince William and then exported to the rest of the country.”