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Across Virginia

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A former housekeeper at a historic Virginia Beach hotel was sentenced this week to 30 days in jail for stealing a guest’s $35,000 diamond ring.

Chrystal Monique Gregory, 28, pleaded guilty to grand larceny in August. Prosecutors said she used an employee key to break into an Ohio couple’s suite at The Cavalier hotel. Once inside, she entered a master code to open a safe where the victims left the 2¼-carat diamond engagement ring. It featured a platinum and gold band and diamonds encrusted along the centerpiece, an appraiser found.

Police discovered photos on Gregory’s phone of the victim’s driver’s license, which had been in the safe, as well as pictures of other pieces of jewelry taken from the hotel, a police statement of facts obtained by new outlets said. The ring was never recovered, prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Macie Allen added.

State sentencing guidelines suggested probation for Gregory, the prosecutor’s office told The Virginian-Pilot. She had no prior criminal record.

The theft happened last summer, a few months after the 92-year-old luxury hotel reopened following an $85 million renovation. A marker outside the hotel describes The Cavalier as “emblematic of Virginia Beach’s transformation from small town to major resort during the Roaring Twenties.”

Governor Northam is proposing about $22 million in new state spending for efforts to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies — and reduce the racial disparity in the state’s maternal mortality rate. He unveiled his proposal yesterday, one that includes funding to expand Medicaid coverage for new moms and increase home visits from care providers. More from WLNI’s Evan Jones:

12-10 Maternal Health Wrap-WLNI-WEB

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is proposing about $22 million for efforts to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies and reduce the racial disparity in the state’s maternal mortality rate.

Northam announced Monday that his budget proposal for the upcoming legislative session includes funding to expand Medicaid coverage for new moms and increase home visits from care providers. Funding is also included to study the possibility of Medicaid reimbursement for doula services and to increase access to long-acting contraception.

Northam, a Democrat, established a new initiative in June intended to reduce the maternal mortality rate for black women, which his administration says is more than twice as high as it is for black women.

Passing a two-year state spending plan will be a top priority for the General Assembly during the 2020 session. During last month’s legislative elections, voters gave Democrats full control of the General Assembly for the first time in a generation.

The governor is expected to share full details of his budget plan next week.

MGN

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is proposing about $22 million for efforts to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies and reduce the racial disparity in the state’s maternal mortality rate.

Northam announced Monday that his budget proposal for the upcoming legislative session includes funding to expand Medicaid coverage for new moms and increase home visits from care providers. Funding is also included to study the possibility of Medicaid reimbursement for doula services and to increase access to long-acting contraception.

Northam, a Democrat, established a new initiative in June intended to reduce the maternal mortality rate for black women, which his administration says is more than twice as high as it is for black women.

Passing a two-year state spending plan will be a top priority for the General Assembly during the 2020 session. During last month’s legislative elections, voters gave Democrats full control of the General Assembly for the first time in a generation.

The governor is expected to share full details of his budget plan next week.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Relatives of a newlywed American couple are desperately seeking information after learning that the husband and wife were severely burned from a volcano eruption in New Zealand.

Barbara Barham told The Washington Post on Monday that daughter Lauren Urey, 32, and husband Matthew Urey, 36, were on their honeymoon. Barham said the couple from Richmond, Virginia, had plans to visit a live volcano and weren’t concerned about possible eruptions.

Barham said she got a call sometime later from Royal Caribbean asking if she’d heard from her daughter. Then Matthew Urey’s mother called and relayed a distressing voicemail from her son. Matthew Urey’s message said “there had been a volcano eruption and they were burned very bad,” Barham said.

“He said he would try to call as soon as he could, but talking and making phone calls was difficult,” Barham continued. “His hands were so badly burned it was hard for him to make a phone call.”

Tourists had been exploring the moon-like surface of White Island, which is the tip of an undersea volcano. It erupted Monday with a towering blast of ash and scalding steam. At least five people were killed. Eighteen others were rescued. Eight others were missing and feared dead.

According to Barham, Matthew Urey said in his message that he and Lauren were taken to a hospital. The families have heard nothing since then.

“Obviously, I’m panicking,” Barham told the newspaper. “I don’t know how to act. I feel like I should be crying, but I can’t even cry.”

Barham said she was “livid” over the fact that people were allowed to visit to the volcano.

Photo: Justin Fairfax Facebook

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax says he’s done everything he can to clear his name after two women accused him of sexual assault: he’s requested police investigations, taken a lie-detector test and begged the media to report on evidence he says exonerates him.

On Friday, he tried another approach as he went to federal court in Alexandria to pursue a libel lawsuit against CBS Corp. for airing interviews of the two women who accused him in a way that he says insinuated his guilt.

CBS’ lawyers on Friday asked the judge to toss out the lawsuit — they say they reported the accusations fairly and allowed Fairfax to respond with written statements after he declined a live interview. They also argue that Fairfax can’t meet the high legal standard for proving libel against a public figure, and that his real goal in filing the lawsuit is to give him a forum to attack his accusers.

U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga heard arguments but made no ruling, promising to issue a decision on the motion to dismiss “shortly.” If he allows the suit to go forward, Fairfax’s lawyers can begin taking depositions of people connected to the case who they say will further prove his innocence.

After Friday’s hearing, Fairfax said in a lengthy interview that the evidence already exists to prove he was wrongfully accused. While he’s particularly angered by CBS News’ reporting, he said media outlets across the board have been afraid to acknowledge they engaged in a rush to judgment when two women came forward with accusations earlier this year at a time when Fairfax was poised to rise to the governor’s post as Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam faced intense calls to resign over a blackface photo that appeared in Northam’s medical school yearbook.

In particular, he says he has offered compelling evidence to prove that his second accuser, Meredith Watson, lied when she claimed Fairfax raped her in 2001 when both attended Duke University.

“It’s so obvious to people who are paying attention. … The inconvenient truth is Meredith Watson fabricated her story,” said Fairfax, who was not required to attend Friday’s hearing but did so voluntarily.

He points to a variety of evidence, but the most compelling piece, he says, came in July when he told law enforcement that there was an eyewitness to the sexual encounter he had with Watson who can verify it was consensual. Fairfax has declined to say publicly who that individual is, and he did not disclose the existence of an eyewitness until several months after CBS aired its interviews with Watson and the other accuser, Vanessa Tyson.

But Fairfax says CBS has known about the eyewitness since at least July and refused to update its reporting. Moreover, he says Watson and her attorney have refused to comment on whose dorm room the alleged assault occurred in and whether there was indeed an eyewitness.

“Because the media won’t ask these questions, we have to file this federal civil lawsuit” to get to the truth, Fairfax said.

A spokesman for Watson and her attorney, Nancy E. Smith, declined to comment on whether Watson can confirm the existence of an eyewitness, referring instead to an earlier statement from Smith in which she said, “We look forward to everyone testifying under oath, now that this matter is in court.”

Fairfax said there is also evidence that Tyson lied about her accusation that Fairfax assaulted her during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Fairfax says Tyson claims to have first met him on a day when Fairfax wasn’t even in Boston. He also questioned why Tyson didn’t feel empowered to tell people she was assaulted at the time, given that she volunteered for a rape crisis center.

Lee Levine, the lawyer for CBS, defended the network’s reporting.

“All CBS was doing was providing both sides of the story, and letting viewers make their own decision,” he said.

Fairfax’s lawyer, Sara Kropf, said the broadcasts went beyond neutral reporting, and included sympathetic comments from newscasters after the interviews aired, including one who commented, “It feels like she was forced.”

The allegations against Fairfax, a Democrat, came in February when Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam faced calls to resign after the blackface photo emerged on his yearbook page. But the allegations against Fairfax blunted the momentum for Northam’s resignation. Both Northam and Fairfax have remained in office, as has Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring, who admitted around the same time that he had worn blackface in college.

DILLWYN, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Friday that he’s suspended a policy that allowed prison officials to strip search an 8-year-old girl who was visiting her father.

“I am deeply disturbed by these reports — not just as governor but as a pediatrician and a dad,” Northam told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in a statement.

“I’ve directed the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security to suspend this policy while the department conducts an immediate investigation and review of their procedures,” Northam said.

The Virginian-Pilot previously reported that prison officials had breached protocol when they strip-searched the girl before allowing her to visit her father. The father’s girlfriend accompanied the child to Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn just before Thanksgiving,

Diamond Peerman says she and the girl were circled by a Virginia Department of Corrections dog trained to sniff out contraband. Peerman was singled out by the dog and told by prison officials that both she and the girl had to be searched. Peerman says both she and the girl removed all their clothes and were searched, and that they were then allowed a visit, but only through glass.

DOC policy states that a legal parent or guardian must consent to a minor being searched. Peerman, the father’s girlfriend, says she told guards that she wasn’t the 8-year-old’s legal guardian and that they told her she had to sign the consent form anyway.

The staff member who approved the search didn’t have that authority, according to DOC Director of Communications Lisa Kinney. She said immediate disciplinary action against the person responsible will be taken.

The girl’s mother told the newspaper that her daughter already suffered from bipolar disorder, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“She’s a minor, she’s a girl. She was traumatized,” the girl’s mother said. “She gets emotional, she will break down.”

The girl’s mother says the 8-year-old misses her dad but won’t be visiting him anymore because of the incident.

Photo: Justin Fairfax Facebook

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) – A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments on whether he should toss out a libel lawsuit filed by Virginia’s lieutenant governor. Justin Fairfax sued CBS in federal court in Alexandria after it aired interviews with two women who have accused him of sexual assault. The Democrat has said the sexual encounters were consensual. He argues that the CBS interviews were one-sided and reported the allegations in a way that implied his guilt. CBS says its reporting was fair and says the lawsuit is an attempt by Fairfax to silence his accusers.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia is moving toward dropping work requirements for Medicaid enrollees after Democrats won full control of the state legislature for the first time in a generation.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that his administration is hitting “pause” on its request for federal approval to requires some Medicaid recipients to have a job or participate in some form of approved community engagement and pay part of the premiums.

The provisions were key parts of a bi-partisan compromise nearly two years ago that saw Virginia expand Medicaid to low-income, able-bodied adults after years of steadfast GOP opposition. But Northam said Democratic victories in last month’s legislative elections, which gave his party total control of the General Assembly for the first time in a generation, made it unlikely that the work-requirements and other provisions would ever be implemented.

“Virginians made it clear they want more access to health care, not less,” Northam said in a statement.

Republicans, who had previously expressed frustration with the lengthy projected timetable for implementation of the work requirements, said Northam was acting in bad faith.

“He gave his personal assurance that the long-term policy of the commonwealth would be Medicaid expansion with a work requirement. Broken promises like this are the reason so many people hate politics,” said Republican Del. Todd Gilbert, the incoming House minority leader.

Medicaid is a publicly funded health care program whose costs are split by the federal and state governments. Expanding Medicaid to low-income, able-bodied adults was a key part of former President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul.

Virginia was one of several states that initially rejected expansion. But after Democrats made huge gains in 2017 after campaigning heavily on the issue, several Republicans agreed to back expansion if it had the work requirement provision.

So far, more than 300,000 Virginians have enrolled in Medicaid after lawmakers approved expansion.

Republicans in other states that have expanded Medicaid followed a similar course in requiring that new enrollees either be employed or actively searching for jobs.

But Northam also cited the numerous legal challenges in those states as reason not to move forward.

Indiana is the only state where Medicaid work requirements are in effect, though officials said recently they would temporarily suspend enforcement until a lawsuit is resolved.

A federal judge has blocked Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire. And a federal lawsuit challenging Michigan’s plan to implement work requirements was filed last month.

A new statewide poll shows President Trump’s supporters are unwavering amid all the talk of possible impeachment — although that support remains in the low 30’s. It comes as the House Judiciary Committee begins considering potential articles of impeachment. The same poll finds most Virginians expressing support for agenda items that Democrats most frequently voiced in gaining control of the General Assembly next year. More from WLNI’s Evan Jones:

12-04 Virginia Poll Wrap-WLNI-WEB

Click here for full poll results and methodology

A Virginia woman and her family have gifted coats to homeless people by leaving the winter weather gear hung about the city for years but may soon have to change tactics.Brenda Parker says she was told this year that the tradition is considered littering. The Virginian-Pilot reports Norfolk instead wants Parker to work with an outreach program. City spokeswoman Lori Crouch says that would ensure the coats are delivered in better condition than if left outside.Parker started the tradition on a snowy day when she was cozy inside her Norfolk home and realized others weren’t as lucky. She says she took her extra coats and hung them around the city. Each includes a note about the coat’s intended purpose. She says the coats are usually claimed within days.

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