Baugh Defends Embassy-Bombing Suspect... 

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Baugh Defends Embassy-Bombing SuspectRennie, Unfazed, Faces LawsuitJuan Conde Plays Union Poster BoyShopping Centers Get New OwnerMore Renovations For War Memorial Baugh Defends Embassy-Bombing Suspect R ichmond defense attorney David Baugh is about to try his biggest case yet. Baugh has a prominent role in the high-profile trial of three suspects in the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of two U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The trial begins Jan. 3 in New York federal court. In the bombings, 217 people were killed in Nairobi; 11 died in Dar es Salaam. More than 5,000 were injured. Baugh, 53, is lead counsel for Mohammed Al' Owhali, 23, a native of Saudi Arabia. Al' Owhali, one of three defendants in the case, is being called a member of a political faction connected to terrorist Usama bin Laden. Al'Owhali was arrested and brought to New York because, says Baugh, the federal government "has an anti-terrorist statute that [mandates that] the first place they land has venue to try the case." Baugh, a nonstop advocate of defendant's right to have legal representation, has gained international praise — and some condemnation — for defending a Ku Klux Klan member charged with burning a cross. To prepare for the trial, Baugh has relinquished his position on the Richmond School Board and is renting an apartment in Manhattan. But most importantly, he says, he's received his wife's blessing to hunker down in New York for the length of the trial. He expects it to take a year. "I've never had a case like this, nothing of this duration and consequence," says Baugh. Baugh says New York attorney Fred Cohn invited him to try the case because of Baugh's previous work on five federal death-penalty cases. Four of those clients evaded death row. "He gave me a call because he thought I could do something," Baugh says. CNN and the New York press have been on the scene daily, Baugh says, and news coverage of the case is expected to increase once the trial begins next week. Already, Baugh says, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report have asked him for interviews. He's been putting in 14- to 16-hour days in preparation. "There is a lot of secret and sensitive material," Baugh says. Baugh describes Al'Owhali as someone with "other viewpoints and cultural differences." The suspect is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Facility where Baugh communicates with him through interpreters. If Al'Owhali is convicted, Baugh says he will appeal the case. "To represent someone who's so despised by people and be able to give him a fair trial — that's the World Series," Baugh says. "That's the Super Bowl." Brandon Walters Rennie, Unfazed, Faces Lawsuit It's a go for beer and wine at the controversial Rennie's gas station and convenience store now being completed in the Fan. Last week, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board approved the store's request for an ABC license with no restrictions, which removes one of the final pieces of red tape for Rennie's, although the decision could be appealed. So plans are full steam ahead, says Donald J. Rennie, the president and owner of Rennie Petroleum Corp. Despite angry neighbors, the mayor's reservations, and protests from nearby businesses, the store is set to open at 2206 W. Main St. by February. That is, unless a last-ditch effort derails Rennie's plans. Two Richmond businessmen, furious about the Rennie's site, have filed suit against the city in Richmond Circuit Court to stop the building. Rennie has joined the city in defending the suit. The complaint charges that the Richmond Board of Zoning Appeals was wrong to stand behind Rennie's city-issued permits. "Our position is that what Rennie's has proposed, and is now building, is not consistent with the zoning ordinance of the city of Richmond," says attorney Elliott P. Park, who represents Visions Salon owner Douglas C. Curtler, one of the complainants. The problems with Rennie's store, which includes a car wash, are obvious, according to lawyer Frank T. Eck, who represents Main Street developer Eck Enterprises Inc. "Have you been down there to see it?" Eck asks. "A picture's worth a thousand words." Since the summer, nearby residents and businesses have expressed worry that the convenience store will be a noisy, out-of-place, trash-attracting eyesore. Nonsense, Rennie snorts. "You just can't be reasonable with people who want to be unreasonable," Rennie says. "That's the end of the story. I don't know what they could possibly be upset about when we've got [approval] from the city." But the two attorneys whose clients are seeking to stop the project in court warn that if they're successful, Rennie could be left with a building and no business. "Rennie's has a certain risk if all of a sudden the court rules against him," Eck says. It will be down to the wire. The attorneys will head to court on Jan. 29 to find out if the case can go forward — the same week Rennie's plans to open. "I'm not really that worried about it," Rennie says. "Somebody's always out there to take somebody's money to sue somebody." — Jason Roop Juan Conde Plays Union Poster Boy Is WRIC-TV 8 anchorman Juan Conde down and out? This month, his face graced an advertisement in The Washington Post for the AFL-CIO. The ad asks Congress to "Raise the minimum wage NOW." Commercial endorsements, of course, are big no-nos for journalists. But this seems to be an innocent leftover from Conde's past. Conde, a former radio DJ, actor, model and pitchman for hire, was hired to be a Channel 8 news reader in April 1999. An outside agency designed the ads for the Washington, D.C.-based AFL-CIO, according to a union spokeswoman. Most likely, that agency pulled Conde's mug from a selection of stock photographs. Conde, well known in Richmond as a former DJ for Power 92 and for his work in commercials for Circuit City, did not return a phone call. But in a June 1, 1999, Style story, Conde said his previous career is just that — in the past. "Then I was able to do that," he said, "and now I'm working with 8 News." — J.R. Shopping Centers Get New Owner The Village Shopping Center, at the corner of Three Chopt Road and Patterson Avenue, could be in for a sprucing up. At least, the likelihood of improvements is better, according to the center's new, more well-financed owner. A Sacramento, Calif.-based investor has struck a deal to buy First Washington Realty Trust Inc., which owns 63 shopping centers nationwide, including four in the Richmond area. The $800 million sale is expected to close in January. "It's our goal to go in and improve, strengthen [and] reposition any shopping center that's in our portfolio," says Jim Gaube, managing partner of National Retail Partners, the real estate arm of the California Public Employees' Retirement System, which purchased First Washington. But it may take some time to see changes, Gaube says. After the sale closes, he says, real estate representatives will spend about a year evaluating each shopping center and interviewing tenants. Along with the Village, National Retail Partners has purchased Richmond-based shopping centers Glen Lea, Laburnum Park and Laburnum Square. Centers are considered more conservative, stable investments than malls, Gaube says. That's because they include the bread-and-butter stores most people shop in regardless of the economy's health. Because National Retail is well-financed, Gaube says, it will be easier to keep the centers looking good. "I think in the eyes of the tenants it should be a very welcome thing to be happening." David Luebke, who has owned Dave's Comics & Cards in the Village for 18 years, is withholding praise until he sees proof. "I think that it would be a very good thing," he says, "if they decide to follow through with some of the improvements that [the previous owners] claimed they were going to do." Luebke's still waiting to see a refurbished hallway and the installation of more stylish facades on the face of the shopping center, he says. But another tenant couldn't care less about the sale. "Eh, It really doesn't bother me one way or the other," says Harold Warren, owner of Lyndsay's Opticians in the Village. "I pay the rent, and I have no problems." — J.R. More Renovations For War Memorial Renovations have become a habit at the Virginia War Memorial. Since 1993, the memorial, dedicated to Virginians who have died in wars since World War II, has been going through numerous renovations. The renovations have gone in phases for repairs on everything from the huge statue of Memory to the leaky roof, says Jon Hatfield, executive director of the War Memorial Foundation. Current work on the 44-year-old memorial will correct all remaining problems with retaining walls, sidewalks and the stone cladding on the statue of Memory and Memorial Building, Hatfield says. The whole building is being caulked, something that hasn't been done in approximately 15 years, Hatfield says. New electrical, security and irrigation systems are being installed, and all outside wiring will be replaced. Hatfield says the work will be completed by April. When Hatfield started three years ago, the fountain and sidewalks were cracked, and the flame that sits below the statue of Memory had not burned in seven years. "We consider this to be hallowed ground," Hatfield said. "We want to make it look as good as we can." About $1.5 million of state-appropriated money has gone into renovations thus far, Hatfield says. A project to erect flagpoles was completed with donated money. Hatfield says he's currently raising money from donations and other fund-raisers. The construction is far from over, though. Next summer, workers will give the auditorium a facelift. There are future plans for an education center, as well. Hatfield hopes all the work will be done in approximately three years. Although beautiful, the location overlooking the James River brings the brunt of rough weather to the site, Hatfield says. The mementos of 200 battles fought around the world have collected condensation through the years and will be brought in and displayed on a wall when education center is completed. "This will be a memorial that all Virginian veterans can be proud of," Hatfield said. — Jacob Parcell

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