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Talbot Boys' days in Easton on courthouse lawn could be numbered

EASTON — Following a summer of contentious debate over the Talbot Boys statue, members of the Talbot County Council are planning to introduce competing resolutions in a meeting Tuesday evening to decide on the controversial monument’s future.

A resolution to relocate the Confederate statue from its current location on the Talbot County Courthouse lawn to a Civil War battlefield in Virginia could have enough votes to pass and move the monument.

Council member Frank Divilio will introduce a resolution to relocate the Talbot Boys statue from the courthouse in Easton to the Cross Keys Battlefield, a private park in Harrisonburg, Virginia. If approved, the statue will be placed under the care of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation — a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the region’s Civil War battlefields and other historic sites.

Divilio — who voted against removing the Confederate statute last year — could garner support for his measure from council members Corey Pack and Pete Lesher. The pair favor moving the Talbot Boys and voted for its removal last year. The trio would be enough to pass the new relocation resolution.

The Confederate statue was erected on the courthouse lawn in Easton in 1916.

Pending adoption by the county council, the statue would be moved as soon as practicable, according to the resolution. Any costs associated with moving the statue will be paid from private funds, not from any Talbot County funds or taxpayer money.

Activists favoring the removal of the statue have said they are primed to raise the money for the relocation.

A second administrative resolution proposing the creation of a Civil War unity monument will be introduced by council member Laura Price. The idea is based on Easton resident Rich Merrill’s concept for a joint monument featuring the existing Talbot Boy and a newly constructed Union Boy. Merrill had contacted the county council four years earlier about his plan, but no council members pursued it at the time.

Price first spoke about her draft of the unity monument resolution at a county council meeting on Jan. 26. The full text of the resolution released Monday, Sept. 13, along with details of Divilio’s legislation.

According to Price’s draft resolution, the existing Talbot Boys monument will remain in its current location, but will be modified by adding a Union soldier of a similar size, style and design as the Confederate soldier. The names of the Union soldiers from Talbot County will also be listed on the monument, just like the current list of Confederate soldiers.

Funding for the Civil War Monument will be solicited from Maryland citizens and from the state through grant applications. If adopted, the county council will issue a request for proposal for the design of the modified monument and obtain construction estimates. The project would be authorized to begin once the council gathered sufficient funds.

But the voting math on the council could be in favor of relocating the Confederate statue to Virginia.

Ridgely Ochs, a member of the Move the Monument Coalition, said that the group opposes any proposal that keeps a Confederate monument on the Talbot County Courthouse lawn.

The Move the Monument group, which supports removal of the statue, argues that the statue is racist and offensive to those who pass it when walking in and out of the courthouse. The Preserve Talbot History group supports keeping the statue where it is, saying that removing the statue would be akin to erasing the county’s Civil War history.

A federal lawsuit petitioning to remove the Talbot Boys statue was filed in the U.S. District Court of Maryland in May. The lawsuit, filed by the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union. argues that the statue is a symbol of white supremacy and slavery, and also violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it sits on public property.

The debate has also extended out of Talbot County and onto social media platforms with a much broader audience. Singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers, an Easton native, posted a video on her Instagram and TikTok accounts urging Marylanders, especially those near Easton, to come to the county council meeting to show their support for the monument’s removal.

Rogers, who performed at the 2020 Democratic National Convention and supported Joe Biden’s presidential bid, has a healthy social media following.

Members from the Move the Monument Coalition and Preserve Talbot History group are expected to come out in full force to the meeting, wearing yellow and navy blue respectively. The county council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m.

Natalie Jones is a reporter at The Star Democrat in Easton covering crime, health, education and Talbot County Council. You can reach her with questions, comments or tips at njones@chespub.com.

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Guardian, court actively seeking inpatient treatment for Cambridge panhandler

CAMBRIDGE — In response to numerous instances of harassment, trespassing and other public offenses, the Dorchester County District Court is taking a different approach to disciplining a well-known panhandler in Cambridge.

Roger Dennis, 61, of Cambridge, is facing misdemeanor charges of harassment and failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order from a panhandling incident on July 24. Dennis is well known to locals and business owners to frequent the downtown area asking pedestrians and people in vehicles for money.

A trial was scheduled for Dennis on Sept. 8, but his public defender requested to postpone the trial in court to consolidate these charges with another case in a rescheduled trial. His guardian also stated that they’re waiting for a place in an inpatient rehabilitation program to open up for Dennis to obtain help instead of being incarcerated.

Dennis is facing several additional misdemeanor charges from various harassment, trespassing and related incidents from June to late August, according to online court records.

Dorchester District Judge John Norton agreed to postpone the trial, acknowledging that the county’s Department of Social Services is actively seeking inpatient care for Dennis. Dennis was recently assigned a legal guardian from the department to take care of his personal and physical needs, along with advocating for him and protecting his best interests.

In the past, various community leaders have shared their difficulties in helping Dennis and expressed safety concerns they have for him and Cambridge residents.

During the hearing, Norton said that 95 percent of the reason Dennis was in court was to benefit him and Cambridge residents in a positive way, not to punish him for his actions.

Norton also chose to keep Dennis out of the detention center, saying that he’ll “choose optimism” with allowing him freedom to be on his own recognizance instead of being placed into custody.

“Hopefully there will be peace in the valley,” Norton said.

Norton is expected to appear in court for these charges on Oct. 18. He has additional court dates coming up over the next few months.

Natalie Jones is a reporter at The Star Democrat in Easton covering crime, health, education and Talbot County Council. You can reach her with questions, comments or tips at njones@chespub.com.

Eric Church and Jazmine Sullivan perform the national anthem before the NFL Super Bowl in February in Tampa. On this date, on Sept. 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the poem “Defence of Fort McHenry” (later “The Star-Spangled Banner”) after witnessing the American flag flying over the Maryland fort following a night of British naval bombardment during the War of 1812.

On this day in history

Today’s famous birthdays: Singer-actor Joey Heatherton is 77. Singer Jon “Bowzer” Bauman (Sha Na Na) is 74. Actor Melissa Leo is 61. Actor-writer-director-producer Tyler Perry (pictured) is 52. Actor Andrew Lincoln is 48. Rapper Nas is 48. Actor Emma Kenney is 22.

Famous birthdays

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Man going to federal prison after cops find cellphone image of him cooking crack

BALTIMORE — A Cambridge man — who police say had more than $30,000 under a couch cushion and a photo of himself cooking crack cocaine on a confiscated cellphone — has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to drug charges related illegal narcotics sales in Talbot and Dorchester counties.

Tavon Dwayne Banks, 37, was sentenced to to 10 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release “for conspiracy to distribute narcotics and possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base.”

Federal authorities (including the U.S Department of Homeland Security) and the Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble announced the sentencing Sept. 9.

In July 2020, police say they observed Banks visiting a “stash house in Easton” and conducted suspected drug deals. A subsequent search of his residence found “$30,100 located under a couch cushion, 196 grams of cocaine, 18.2 grams of crack cocaine, a digital scale, bags with trace amounts of a white powdery substance, and a cellphone,” according to police.

“A forensic examination of the cell phone revealed messages and photos relating to Banks’ distribution of cocaine, including a photo of Banks cooking crack cocaine,” police and prosecutors said.

The 10-year sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Stephanie Gallagher in federal court in Baltimore.

For more resources and information on the Talbot Goes Purple campaign this month please go to www.facebook.com/talbotgoespurple.

Talbot Goes Purple