MARYLAND

Suspect in Anthrax Scare Ordered Freed

A National Institutes of Health employee who allegedly threatened Florida tax officials with anthrax has been released from jail by a federal judge in Greenbelt.

Michelle Ledgister, 43, of Rockville is charged with spreading false information and making a hoax under the Terrorism Prevention Act.

During a hearing yesterday, Ledgister was required to post her Florida home as collateral and was ordered not to have contact with the Broward County tax assessor's office.

Prosecutors say Ledgister threatened a tax assessor after her claim for tax relief on property she owns in Parkland, Fla., was rejected.

She allegedly left a voice mail at the Broward County Property Appraiser's Office claiming that the office had anthrax.

Farmers Offer Ideas on Farm Policy

Maryland farmers want fewer land-use restrictions and assurances that their way of life will endure, speakers told the Maryland Agriculture Commission at the first in a series of "listening sessions" scheduled across the state.

Monday's meeting in Frederick and others scheduled this month in Calvert, Garrett, Harford, Queen Anne's, Washington and Wicomico counties are aimed at helping the Ehrlich administration learn what farmers need to stay in business. The advisory panel will present its findings Feb. 13 at the Governor's Agricultural Forum, which has been asked to develop policy recommendations.

The Frederick meeting drew more than 100 participants and produced plenty of comments about land use and farm profitability -- two of the four topics the commission had identified beforehand as key areas of concern. But the participants from Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll and Howard counties virtually ignored the panel's two other chosen topics -- alternative enterprises and biosecurity -- and instead focused on market access and the next generation of farmers.

THE DISTRICT

Sales Tax Takes Back-to-School Holiday

The District has declared a sales tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers starting Saturday and extending through the following weekend, ending Aug. 14, Mayor Anthony A. Williams announced yesterday.

During that period, shoppers in D.C. stores will be able to buy clothes, shoes and school supplies worth $100 or less without paying the District's 5.75 percent sales tax.

This marks the second year the District has scheduled two tax holidays in an effort to boost sales. The second will target Christmas shoppers and is scheduled for Nov. 25 to Dec. 4.

Some Work Detoured From DMV

The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles will offer only limited services at its 65 K St. NE facility this week because its second-floor cooling system is not working. Some of those services will move to a new location next week, and spokeswoman Janis Hazel said the department is scheduled to leave the K Street building in October.

The department will not operate its call center today or tomorrow, and emergency DMV calls should go to the mayor's call center, at 202-727-1000. The department's insurance operations office, where drivers can show proof of insurance, also will be closed the rest of the week. Driver record and permit control services will be limited to reinstatements.

Other adjudication business, such as scheduled and walk-in hearings, moving and parking ticket payments, and boot and tow operations, will continue as usual on the main level of 65 K St. NE.

Next week, the insurance and driver record services will be offered at a new location, 301 C St. NW, Room 1157, where they will be available from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

VIRGINIA

Closed Hearing Considers Boy's Custody

Fairfax County authorities had a closed 31/2-hour hearing yesterday to make a preliminary determination on who should take custody of a 4-year-old boy allegedly abandoned by his mother on the Capital Beltway last week, but neither the participants nor family members would say what decisions were reached.

Fairfax County Child Protective Services filed a civil case in Fairfax juvenile court claiming that Channoah A. Green, 22, of Newport News was abusive and neglectful after she allegedly pushed her son out of the car in the Falls Church area the night of July 26, then bumped him as she drove away. The custody case is separate from felony criminal charges of child neglect and hit-and-run, which are pending. The boy is with Child Protective Services.

Substitute Juvenile Court Judge Beth A. Bittel barred reporters, three of Green's family members and one of Green's criminal attorneys, Deputy Fairfax Public Defender Todd G. Petit, from the courtroom. Participants in the hearing said afterward that Bittel had placed a gag order on them to prevent them from discussing the boy's situation.

Attorney Patrick H. Stiehm, who represented Green, said the hearing was only a preliminary step in determining whether Green should retain custody of her son. Green's family declined to comment.

Scouts Strike Camp at Fort A.P. Hill

The National Boy Scout Jamboree ended yesterday, leaving Fort A.P. Hill tentless for the first time in nearly 10 days.

The quadrennial event made headlines when four Scout leaders from Alaska were electrocuted as they tried to erect a dining tent. Two days later, about 300 people suffered heat exhaustion as they waited for President Bush to arrive for a speech. The president's visit was twice canceled before he spoke to the Scouts on Sunday.

The next Jamboree will take place in 2010, the centennial of the Scouting organization.

The Boy Scouts of America has used the military base 70 miles south of the nation's capital for its summer event since 1981.

Questions have been raised about whether the location and time of year of the event are the right combination for the Scouts' convention.

But Scouts spokeswoman Renee Fairrer said there are no plans to change the location for the next event. Organizers will pay "special attention" to reduce the possibility of accidents and other incidents.

"I'm going to tell her her mother was one of the toughest women I've ever met, that she was absolutely determined in what she did."

-- Justin Torres, on what he one day will tell his niece Susan Ann Catherine Torres about her mother, who gave birth to her three months after being left brain-dead by cancer. -- A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Tom Jackman and Lori Montgomery and the Associated Press.