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MOMSTELL January 13, 2006 Edition

I received this note and wanted to make sure it went out to all of you incase anyone else knew her.  Melanie also did counseling for families who lost loved ones due to drug or alcohol caused accidents. She was the victim of a drugged driver.
I have sent the headlines out early because I am leaving in the morning for a much needed vacation. I will have no e-mail access for the week, so you will not reach me until after the 22nd. Have a good week!


Sharon L. Smith
Box 450
Mechanicsburg, Pa. 17055
We have sad news for many of you today.  A former NOVA staff member and CRT trainer died tragically on Thursday, January 5, 2006.  Many of you may have known, been trained by or worked alongside Melanie Merola ODonnell.  The article about her death due to an impaired driver follows. 

Cheryl Guidry Tyiska
Deputy Director
National Organization for Victim Assistance
Courthouse Square
510 King Street, Suite 424

Alexandria, Virginia  22314
703-535-6682 x 105
703-535-5500 fax
NY SARATOGIAN                                                                                                                                   
ROUTE NINE CRASH CLAIMS LIFE( Due to a drugged driver)
A 33-year-old Saratoga Springs woman died Thursday night following a four-car crash caused by a man police said was high on drugs.

Melanie O'Donnell, 33, the mother of a 2-year-old son, was the passenger in a car driven by her husband, 37-year-old George O'Donnell. Though he was not injured in the crash, police described O'Donnell as badly shaken. Melanie O'Donnell was taken to Albany Medical Center after the crash.

Another driver, Christina Myers, 26, of Watervliet, needed treatment at Saratoga Hospital. Christopher McNally, 34, of 143 Church St., Saratoga Springs, is charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs, a misdemeanor, according to police. More serious charges may be filed later, police said.

McNally had been using marijuana and Percocet -- a powerful prescription narcotic painkiller -- before the 7:11 a.m. wreck on Route 9 near the tree nursery, according to a law enforcement source. McNally went to Albany Med with shoulder injuries. City police put him under arrest Thursday afternoon and were guarding him until he could be released from the hospital and arraigned in City Court.

Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III is awaiting definitive blood test results from the state police crime laboratory. Police got a warrant to search McNally's Subaru, but Murphy said he couldn't comment on the results of that search. Melanie O'Donnell was the daughter of Vicky Merola, a crime victim advocate in Murphy's office. Merola's job often involves counseling the families of people killed or injured in alcohol- and drug-related accidents.

'We've spent the afternoon here at Albany Med with the family,' Murphy said earlier in the day. O'Donnell suffered injuries to her head, Murphy said. Murphy said he'll likely ask for a special prosecutor in the case to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Police said McNally was headed north in the Subaru when he veered into the southbound lane. He hit an oncoming 2006 Mitsubishi sedan driven by Myers.

'He essentially flew off it,' said Saratoga Springs Police Sgt. Will Crandall, the department's accident investigator.
NOVA McNally's car flipped on its side as it flew into the air and hit the roof of O'Donnell's Acura SUV. Murphy said the O'Donnells were on their way to work in Albany. Melanie O'Donnell worked at the Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany.

The fourth car was also southbound and hit the other cars from behind. That driver, who was not identified, was not injured. Crandall said it had not yet begun to snow at the time of the crash, but it was raining. 'Traffic was going 55 miles an hour,' he said. 'It was normal commuter traffic.'
It started snowing very soon thereafter, grounding the MedFlight helicopter from Albany Med. Melanie O'Donnell and McNally were transported by ambulance.

Police closed portions of the road for several hours as they searched for a cause for the wreck and cleared the road of debris. They didn't open all four lanes to traffic until 1 p.m. Police had to work fast at the quarter-mile-long crash scene because snow quickly covered skid marks left on the pavement. State police used a Total Station, a laser device similar to what a land surveyor would use, to measure the scene.

Murphy said that it appears that McNally has a history of traffic-related criminal behavior in other states, but Murphy is waiting a more complete set of criminal records. McNally was charged Nov. 2 with petit larceny and accused of taking $750 worth of tools from another man's truck.

McNally listed his occupation as laborer. Murphy said he was on his way to work constructing the new dormitories at Skidmore College. Police said that nails and tools flew from his car and were strewn all over the road.  Crandall said that this investigation hit police hard emotionally because of their association with Merola, not to mention the growing death toll on area roads. 'We had six fatalities last year, and that was a record,' Crandall said. 'Today (Thursday) is Jan. 5. Slow down.'                                                           

LA TIMES                                                                                                                                                 NOWHERE TO RUN
The door to the giant warehouse near the Tucson airport swings open, and a musty-mint blast slaps me in the face like a big, soft mitten. The odor is instantly recognizable: It's pot. Lots and lots of pot.

Inside, neatly stacked bales of marijuana stand like faceless chessmenthe evidence from a game of extremes played out every day along the nearby Arizona-Mexico border. Anthony Coulson, the Drug Enforcement Agency official in charge there, says that as much as 20% of the marijuana brought into the state of Arizona during the last year has been discovered in one location: the Tohono O'odham reservation, where a confluence of abject poverty and the opportunity for a fast buck have come to torment the Indian nation.

In 2000, according to the DEA, some 50,800 pounds of marijuana were seized on Tohono land. By last year, the figure had soared to 192,225 pounds. Other authorities put the number even higher. More and more Tohono themselves, meanwhile, have been caught up in the drug trade. "Young Indians," says Coulson, "carry it over to drop houses" from which the pot eventually finds its way to the streets.

While Indian tribes in other places have hit the jackpot with a lucrative gambling trade, the Tohonos' casino in Tucson has generated little revenue for the reservation residents, and 50% still live in poverty, more than 40% are unemployed and misery abounds.


Stoked by their surprise victory in Denver, marijuana-legalization advocates are hoping to ride the momentum with statewide ballot initiatives this year in Colorado and Nevada. Colorado activists announced a drive two weeks ago aimed at bringing a clone of Denver's Initiative 100 before voters statewide in November. Initiative 100 allows adults in the city to possess small amounts of marijuana.

And activists in Nevada, who have secured a place for a legalization measure on the state ballot in November, are taking heart in the success of Initiative 100, which captured 54 percent of the vote in the Nov. 1 election.
If the measures pass, Colorado and Nevada would become the first states to win voter approval for marijuana legalization. Alaska allows adults to possess up to 4 ounces of marijuana in their homes, thanks to court decisions upholding privacy rights, but voters defeated a 2004 initiative that would have abolished all penalties for possession and regulated marijuana sales.

SOCIAL HOST LAW HARD TO ENFORCE, DAS SAY- Snags cited in teen drinking cases  
Three teenage girls, two from Weymouth and one from Scituate, were killed in two drunken-driving accidents in the span of two weeks after parties where minors were drinking. Prosecutors brought charges against the party hosts under the state's Social Host Responsibility Law, which makes it a crime to allow minors to drink at your home.
But, in a separate fatal crash after another party this fall, Nathaniel Berberian, 20, will apparently not face charges in the deaths of two sisters, Shauna and Meghan Murphy. Last week, Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte said there was insufficient evidence to bring a criminal charge against the host, despite a Northborough police investigation that alleged the teens had been drinking at Berberian's home before the fatal crash.
The handling of the cases on the South Shore and in Northborough highlights the broad discretion and legal difficulties in enforcing state laws aimed at people who furnish alcohol to minors. Though district attorneys in Massachusetts have brought charges against underage party hosts, prosecutors and police say they often find it difficult to bring a solid case because they often have to rely on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of fellow party-goers, who are reluctant to turn in their peers.
''It's almost impossible to prove," said Bristol District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr.

Police raiding massive marijuana farms 300 miles apart are discovering that the same brands of fertilizer, pesticides and shovels are often used to grow tens of thousands of high-grade pot plants.
Government analysts are using such seemingly innocuous information, plugged into a shared database by drug agents in four Western states, to search for patterns linking diverse operations across the West and into Mexico.
U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott lobbied for federal money to set up the intelligence-sharing units in 2004 to go after the brains and financing behind increasingly sophisticated marijuana-growing operations. He had become frustrated that prosecutions in his Northern California district often stopped with poor Mexican immigrants illegally imported to guard the giant pot farms.
A Sacramento-based "fusion center" tracks information based not on geography, but by tying together all the information on particular drug operations that routinely span state and national borders, said Tommy LaNier, who directs the San Diego-based National Marijuana Initiative.
Calling federal drug charges against dozens of South Asian convenience store owners racially biased, several hundred people rallied Sunday in Decatur for an end to prosecution in what federal agents have dubbed "Operation Meth Merchant."
In June, 49 people and 16 corporations, most of them in northwest Georgia, were charged with supplying everyday items --- from antifreeze to cold medicine --- to informants who claimed they were using the products to make methamphetamine.
In all, 44 of the 49 convenience store clerks and owners charged in the sting were Indian, and many shared the same last name, Patel. Charges in several of those cases have been dropped, others have resulted in guilty pleas and some still have not gone to trial.
Supporters of the accused, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say the sting was rife with problems. They say several defendants were not even in the country at the time they are accused of illegally selling the ingredients and that informants used obscure drug slang, which the clerks, some of whom speak limited English, did not understand.
"We are not coming from a criminal background," said Upendra Patel, president of Georgia's Asian-American Convenience Store Association. "We have thousands of years of culture and civilization, and we do not know what this drug is about. Putting some innocent people behind bars is not going to solve the drug problem."
The Arizona Supreme Court thinks it takes too long for DUI cases to get through the court system. On Thursday, Chief Justice Ruth McGregor unveiled a series of recommendations to speed up the process.

Those recommendations lean on prosecutors, law enforcement and judges to smooth out and standardize DUI procedures and to make sure they are done in a timely fashion. And they lean on defense attorneys by cutting short some legal tactics.
And so McGregor is establishing pilot programs to test new rules and timetables that may eventually become statewide rules.

BBC (UK)  
A Colombian gang which ran one of the biggest cocaine distribution networks in Britain has been jailed. The two masterminds, Jesus Anibal Ruiz Henao and Mario Tascon, were sentenced to 19 and 17 years.
The convictions, which can only be revealed now after reporting restrictions were finally lifted, are the culmination of a four-year investigation by the National Crime Squad and Scotland Yard, who were assisted by Colombian police.
Those who encountered Jesus Ruiz Henao and his brother-in-law Mario Tascon in their everyday London jobs - driving buses and cleaning - could never have guessed they were sitting on millions in drug money.
AMSTERDAM - Paul Wilhelm speaks about marijuana the way a vintner might discuss wine. He talks of aroma, taste and texture, of flowering periods, of the pros and cons of hydroponic cultivation.
Wilhelm's connoisseurship might earn him a long prison sentence in the United States, but here in the Netherlands, he's just another taxpaying businessman. He owns a long-established pot emporium - the Dutch call them "coffee shops" - where customers can sidle up to the bar, peruse a detailed menu, and choose from 22 variations of fragrant marijuana and 18 types of potent hash.
Business got even better after Wilhelm's shop, the Dampkring, was featured earlier last year in the film "Ocean's Twelve."
And yet life is not as simple for Wilhelm as it is for the pub owner down the street, thanks to the contradictory nature of Holland's famously liberal drug laws. Though the business is duly licensed and regulated, to run it properly he is forced to flout the law on a daily basis. While the Netherlands allows the sale of small amounts of marijuana in coffee shops, it is still illegal to grow marijuana, store it, and transport it in the kind of quantities that any popular shop requires.
Last month, the Dutch parliament began debating a proposal to change that by launching a pilot project to regulate marijuana growing. It was the brainchild of the mayor of Maastricht, a city near the German and Belgian borders that is plagued by gangs of smugglers. Proponents argue that legalizing growing will drive out most of the criminal element and boost responsible purveyors.

They were three healthy young men, presumably with decades of life ahead of them. None of them were "junkies," with a history of drug addiction. But all three died in Seabrook last year, after consuming a fatal mix of alcohol and prescription drugs.

For Ryan Bickford, 18, of Hampton, it was beer and Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller delivered through a skin patch. For Jimmy Manazir, 29, of Haverhill, it was alcohol and the drug commonly known as Valium, which is used to treat anxiety. And for Kevin Cassidy Jr., 21, of Amesbury, it was alcohol and Oxycodone, better known by the brand names OxyContin, Percocet or Percodan, another powerful painkiller.

Any drug-related death is a tragedy, no matter if it comes to a one-time user from an accidental overdose or to one who has been in a downward addiction spiral for years. But as local police have noted, the most alarming thing about these deaths is that they appear to have been caused in part by fatal ignorance. While most young people are made aware of the dangers of heroin and cocaine, the drugs that these young men used are all prescribed by physicians. That apparently gives young people the impression that they are safe                      http://www.ecnnews.com/cgi-bin/05/ntstory.pl?-sec-Editorial+fn-nedi111-20060111-

NEW YORK TIMES                                                                                                                                   PRISON TERM OF 55 YEARS FOR DRUGS IS UPHELD
A federal appeals court has upheld a 55-year prison term imposed on a Utah man with no criminal record who was convicted in 2003 of selling several hundred dollars worth of marijuana on three occasions.
The case of the man, Weldon H. Angelos, a record producer from Salt Lake City who was 22 at the time of his crime, has become a benchmark in the debate about sentencing rules and justice. The trial judge in the case complained in issuing the sentence, which was required by federal statutes, that he thought it excessive, and 29 former judges and prosecutors agreed, in a brief filed on Mr. Angelos's behalf.
But a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision issued here late Monday, rejected those arguments. The sentence properly reflected the will of Congress, the court said, and was not cruel or unusual punishment. Mr. Angelos was reported by a witness to have been armed with a pistol during two of the drug sales - and requiring stiffer sentences in cases where drugs and violence are linked, the court said, is legitimate social policy.