Red panda likely used trees to escape

Rusty, the red panda who decided Monday was a good day to get out and take in the sights, may have used overlapping, rain-heavy tree limbs and tall bamboo as a bridge to escape his Smithsonian National Zoo enclosure, officials said.

In a news release issued Friday, zoo officials said they have reviewed visitor photos and security footage of the red pandas’ enclosure and concluded that it was “highly likely” that Rusty left Sunday night or early Monday through the tree canopy.

The officials said the rain had lowered trees’ limbs enough for him to reach the edge of the enclosure.

Zookeepers discovered Rusty missing at 7:30 a.m. Monday. He was safely captured shortly after 2 p.m.

The zoo has started trimming the bamboo and other plantings to prevent future escapes and will construct an additional visitor barrier.

— Stefanie Dazio

Pr. George’s schools chief introduced

Anne Arundel County School Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell returned to the Hyattsville high school where he served as principal more than a decade ago to be formally introduced Friday afternoon by Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) as the new schools chief.

Maxwell, who was lauded for his work in Prince George’s, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties, will take the helm of Maryland’s second-largest school system after seven years of leading Anne Arundel schools.

“Today we are here to celebrate a new beginning,” said Baker, referring to his plan to turn around the county school system.

Maxwell, who submitted his resignation Thursday to the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, will become the county’s eighth schools chief in 14 years.

He will replace former superintendent William R. Hite Jr., who left the position last year to take the top job in Philadelphia.

— Ovetta Wiggins

Chef’s lawyers seek Cuccinelli subpoena

Attorneys for the chef accused of pilfering food from the governor’s mansion in Virginia are asking a judge to let them subpoena Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II to testify at a hearing next month.

They want to question Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, about his ties with Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the chief executive of Star Scientific Inc. Cuccinelli brought embezzlement charges against Todd Schneider, who served as the mansion’s chef until last year.

Schneider’s defense team contends that the charges should be dropped because Cuccinelli had a conflict of interest that colored his ability to make neutral prosecutorial decisions. They already successfully argued that Cuccinelli should be removed from the case — a judge replaced him with a Norfolk prosecutor.

The replacement occurred because Schneider brought allegations of an improper financial relationship between Williams and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) to staffers for Cuccinelli, without knowing that Cuccinelli owned stock and had received gifts from Williams.

Under state law, Schneider’s lawyers need permission from the judge to subpoena a sitting attorney general.

Cuccinelli did not disclose the stock until October. Cuccinelli also accepted nearly $19,000 in gifts from Williams, including some he failed to disclose until April. He has said the omissions were inadvertent.

McDonnell faces federal and state investigations into his relationship with Williams. Schneider was the one who first told authorities that Williams paid $15,000 for the catering at the 2011 wedding of McDonnell’s daughter.

Investigators are exploring tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of other gifts to McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, including money, high-end clothes and a $6,500 watch intended for the governor.

On Friday, Cuccinelli formally moved to oppose the motion, arguing that Schneider’s request is too broad to compel his testimony and that of a top deputy.

— Rosalind S. Helderman