THE DISTRICT

Man Sentenced for Downtown Assaults

A 37-year-old Glen Burnie man was sentenced to six months in jail after he said that he grabbed the buttocks of two young women in downtown Washington, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Prosecutors said Russell Jones was sentenced on Thursday. He pleaded guilty Nov. 10 to one count of third-degree sexual abuse.

According to a statement issued by the U.S. attorney's office, Jones said that on May 23, he rushed up behind two women near Eighth and D Streets NW, lifted their skirts and forcibly grabbed and squeezed their buttocks.

As part of his sentence, according to the prosecutors, Jones will be placed on probation for three years in addition to the jail term and was ordered to continue treatment for alcohol addiction and seek psychological counseling.

School Unions to Take Strike Vote

The union representing the D.C. school system's building engineers, custodians, cafeteria and transportation workers says they may strike this week if they don't receive pay raises comparable to those given to other city employees recently. Members of locals 730 and 639 are to take a strike vote today.

School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman says that if significant numbers of union workers fail to report to work, the system has contingency plans ready to keep schools open.

Protesters Call for Park Improvements

About 100 neighborhood activists staged a public demonstration at Meridian Hill Park yesterday to protest what they said is the National Park Service's failure to revive the property.

"We want the National Park Service to stop shutting out the community, stop breaking promises, stop treating our neighborhood and park as second-class," said Shelore Williams, co-chairman of Friends of Meridian Hill and principal of St. Augustine Catholic School.

Local activists and D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) called for a community center, playground and other improvements. Residents say the park, also known as Malcolm X Park, is among the city's most scenic but also violent. Its recovery is a key part of development plans for the area.

Out-of-Boundary Applications Available

Applications for parents who may want to send their children to D.C. schools outside their regular neighborhood boundaries will be available at all public schools starting this week and will be accepted only at specific locations--one school in each quadrant of the city--from Jan. 28 through Feb. 29, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The school system will host an enrollment fair from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Washington Convention Center. Staff members from all 146 city public schools will give information about courses, activities and special programs.

For more more information about applications, call 202-442-5200; about the fair, call 202-442-5155.

MARYLAND

House GOP to Oppose Dredging Measure

Republicans in the House of Delegates have joined the fight against state plans to dump millions of tons of mud dredged from shipping channels into open water just north of the Chesapeake Bay bridge.

The GOP House caucus will support two bills offered by Republicans to bar the state from using site 104 off Kent Island for disposal. The legislation also would ban using open water in the bay for spoil dumping except for where dredged material is being used to rebuild islands on the lower Eastern Shore.

House Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman (R-Howard) said that more than two-thirds of caucus members oppose site 104.

Arundel Mall Road Plans Approved

A plan for a series of road projects to ease traffic around the Arundel Mills Mall has been approved by Anne Arundel County planners, a county spokesman said.

The mall, scheduled to open in November, will require the addition of an on-ramp and exit at the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and a link to Route 100.

The streets are needed to accommodate traffic for the hotels, movie theater and offices to be built next to the mega-mall. A county traffic planner said the new roads can handle daily traffic, though they will likely become congested at peak shopping periods.

The plans must still gain state approval, a decision slated for later this month.

VIRGINIA

Fairfax Man Killed Crossing Duke St.

A 56-year-old Fairfax County man was struck by a minivan and fatally injured last night as he was crossing Duke Street near the Interstate 395 interchange, Alexandria police said.

They said Kamal Zoury was trying to cross from the south to the north about 8:40 p.m. when he was hit by the minivan, which was headed east.

DMV Pays Tribute to Hokies With Plate

The state Department of Motor Vehicles is paying tribute to Virginia Tech's run to the football national championship game with a new Virginia Tech license plate.

But there's a catch: The Hokies plates are souvenirs only--not for use on vehicles.

The DMV has a regular Virginia Tech license plate, which is the most popular college vanity plate DMV offers. DMV sells the souvenir versions for $10.

Portsmouth Trip a Prize on 'Wheel'

Millions of "Wheel of Fortune" viewers will see an expenses-paid visit to Portsmouth, Va., offered as a prize on the big wheel.

City officials hatched the idea of promoting the Hampton Roads city by offering a four-night stay at a new waterfront hotel during June's OpSail 2000, when more than 30 tall ships and scores of pleasure craft will visit Portsmouth.

"Everybody relates to the 'Wheel of Fortune,' " said Portsmouth's economic development director, Douglas L. Smith, who attended the show's taping in Los Angeles last week. The show will air locally March 3.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"The judges don't have crystal balls. It's just like a computer: garbage in, garbage out."

-- James Marsh, president of the Children's Law Center, explaining that decisions in child abuse cases often suffer because the social workers who advise judges are overworked or are insufficiently trained.