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Linds robbery suspect charged

VOL. 18, NO. 9

Squash season

By Jessie Stensland Staff Reporter

A 24-year-old Bremerton man accused of robbing a Coupeville pharmacy at gunpoint two years ago was finally charged with the crime, but remains in an Oregon prison, according to court documents. Prosecutors charged George Skurtu in Island County Superior Court Sept. 26 with first-degree robbery. Skurtu became a suspect in the Jan. 4, 2010 robbery after he and another man were arrested for armed robbery four days later in Dallas, Ore. The detective in Oregon noted that Skurtu matched the description of the Coupeville suspect and that the modus operandi of the robberies were the same, court documents state. The police in Oregon found a label in the suspects’ possessions that came off an Oxycontin bottle from Linds Pharmacy in Coupeville. They also found a receipt from the Coupeville-Port Townsend ferry route from the day of the robbery, according to court documents. Island County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme said he’s been waiting to receive the evidence from Oregon before charging Skurtu; prosecutors in Oregon have been holding all the evidence for their case. Skurtu was convicted of robbery and sent to prison, but now he’s appealing. Ohme said he still doesn’t have the evidence, but he had to charge Skurtu because the deadline for filing was approaching. According to the police report, the suspect allegedly entered the Lind’s Coupeville Pharmacy at about 10:30 in the morning, pulled down a ski mask and pulled out a gun. The robber followed the woman who works the counter as she ran into the back room. He threw her a backpack and told her to fill it with Oxycontin, and escaped with 14 bottles. Another employee was able to hide in the back room of the store and call 911, but the suspect was gone by the time deputies with the Coupeville Marshal’s Office arrived.

Kasia Pierzga photo

Marianne Brabanski of Coupeville and Antje Bahe of Brieselang, Germany peruse the autumn squash at the Prairie Bottom Farm booth on Saturday at the Coupeville Farmers Market. This Saturday, Oct. 13 is HarvestFest, the final day of the season for the market, which includes the Giant Pumpkin Contest and the wild-and-wacky Harvest Relay Races, a fundraiser for Gifts from the Heart food bank.

Cingular gets town utility tax credit By Elisabeth Murray Staff Reporter

The Town of Coupeville has settled a lawsuit with New Cingular Wireless PCS LLC. The town is one of more than 100 municipalities in Washington to have been sued by the mobile Internet service provider. The settlement provides Cingular Wireless, formerly AT&T Mobility, with a credit of about $5,300 against its future local utility taxes. This amount is 90 percent of the last three years of the claim. The initial claim of over $6,000 had been submitted in November 2010 – the total amount of tax money the company had paid to the town. “This is a very complicated litigation involving many cities (more than 100) and many potential defenses,” Coupeville’s attorney, Thom Graafstra, wrote in advising the town. “None of the defenses have been

legally tested and the outcome of the litigation is uncertain at this time.” In addition to the uncertainty, the attorney advised the town to settle because the town’s defense costs would more than likely have exceeded the settlement amount. The settlement also releases the town from any further liability with regard to the claim. According to Graafstra, the settlement amount is consistent with that paid by other small cities and towns. Settlement was also advised by Graafstra because the town does not have insurance for this claim and received a denial of coverage from its insurer. “(Settlement) is the most cost effective way to handle this,” Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard said. The lawsuits against Coupeville and the other towns followed a class action lawsuit that had been brought against AT&T Mobility by mobile Internet subscribers for

collecting taxes and fees on data usage. The lawsuit alleged that the practice of charging customers taxes and fees on mobile access violated the Internet Tax Freedom Act. Whether or not this practice in fact violates this federal law or other state laws was never determined. No opinion was rendered by the court as to the merits of the claims or the defenses provided by AT&T Mobility. By settling the class action, both sides agreed that AT&T Mobility was not admitting liability or that it had done anything wrong. Instead, a settlement allowed for the avoidance of expensive and time-consuming litigation. The settlement class included anyone who had paid taxes, fees or surcharges to AT&T Mobility for data plans using laptop connect cards, pay-per-use data services, and smartphone data plans including those for the Blackberry and iPhone between Nov. 1, 2005 through Sept. 7, 2010.

Whidbey Examiner, October 11, 2012