Friday, August 17, 2007

Troopers call statewide blitz a success

08-17-2007
Alabama State Trooper Sgt. Shannon Payne uses a laser gun to check for speeders Thursday on Alabama 21 near Jacksonville. The total ticket count for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was 13,778. Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star

Today is the last push in the Alabama State Troopers’ week-long highway blitz.

The statewide “Take Back our Highways” initiative has pushed every trooper who has been through the academy out to swarm the roadways and snag traffic violators.

Statewide, the troopers report they wrote 4,439 tickets Monday, 5,741 Tuesday, and 3,598 Wednesday. The tally for Thursday wasn’t available late Thursday afternoon. These numbers include citations for DUI, speeding, following too close, improper lane change and seatbelt/child restraint.

The total ticket count for the three-day period was 13,778, compared with 2,550 during the same period last year.

“The blitz has been pretty good so far,” said Lt. John Henderson, Jacksonville/Gadsden post commander. “We can tell it’s making a difference.”

Across the state Monday through Wednesday, there were two fatal wrecks. The same period last year had eight statewide, troopers said.

Getting drivers to slow down and obey traffic laws saves lives, Henderson said.

“We’re not here just to write the tickets,” he said. “We’re not the boogey man coming after people. In fact, in a perfect world, we’d work ourselves out of a job.”

Henderson said in his travels to various planning meetings in the region during the blitz, he’s been watching drivers, looking for infractions. During most of his drives this week, drivers have been well-behaved, he said.

“I didn’t really encounter anything worth crossing the median for,” he said. “We have certainly cited a number of people, but it really seems like the public is responding.”

This week, the Jacksonville/Gadsden post set up three LIDAR — laser speed measurement — details and a pair of driver’s license and equipment check points in the coverage area.

The official count of tickets issued during the campaign won’t be completed until the 20th or 21st of August. If the radio traffic Henderson has been hearing is any indication, however, the troopers have been keeping very busy, he said.

If the trend holds, the troopers may opt to start occasional mini-blitzes, he said. The bottom line is reducing crashes and deaths, he said.

“I can’t emphasize enough that it’s not about the tickets,” he said. “The tickets are means to the end of saving lives.”

Oxford man, friends robbed at gunpoint

08-17-2007

A 31-year-old Oxford man and two of his friends told Anniston police they were visiting the Constantine apartments on Elm Street in Anniston early Thursday morning when they were robbed at gunpoint.

The three men were approached by two other men, one carrying a black pistol, around 1:15 a.m., according to Anniston police reports.

The armed men demanded money, then fled.

Police had no suspects Thursday afternoon.

Anniston man shot on Rocky Hollow Road

08-17-2007

A 22-year-old Anniston man was shot late Wednesday evening as he sat in his vehicle on the 1800 block of Rocky Hollow Road.

According to Anniston police reports, Antonio Welch of Abbot Avenue was sitting in his car around 10 p.m., when a man fired multiple shots from a handgun out the window of a passing vehicle.

The car was described as a white Jeep Cherokee with an Alabama tag.

Welch was struck in the back of his upper leg. He was transported to Regional Medical Center for treatment.

Police had no suspects Thursday afternoon.

Police: 8 cars broken into in Saks area, 1 radio stolen

08-17-2007

Eight vehicles, most in the Saks area, were broken into Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. Most of the vehicles’ owners reported nothing stolen. Two sustained some damage, however.

Someone broke into a 1997 Jeep Cherokee, 1997 Chevy 1500 pickup and a 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse on Ivy Street, near U.S. 431 in Saks, sometime between 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., according to Anniston police reports. The stereo faceplate in the Jeep was damaged, a report said.

Four blocks away, a black 2002 Nissan Xterra and a 2002 GMC Yukon also were broken into. A little later, on Saks Road, a 2006 Hyundai Sonata was broken into.

In each case, the vehicles were entered via the doors. In each case, nothing was reported stolen.

However, the owner of a red 2002 Nissan Xterra parked near the 5300 block of Cash Street reported a Sirius Satellite Radio receiver stolen from his vehicle the same night. The vehicle was parked at a residence just across U.S. 431 from vehicles that were broken into.

Anniston Police said it appears all the incidents are related. Police had no suspects in custody Thursday afternoon.

McCartney Construction civil suit: Owner called to testify; judge denies defense’s mistrial request

08-17-2007

The civil suit brought by eight residents of Oxford and Hobson City residents against Michael McCartney, owner of McCartney Construction, continued Thursday with additional witnesses called by the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

The eight residents are suing for compensation related to damages that they contend were the result of blasting at the Coldwater Quarry operated by the company.

McCartney was called to testify Thursday morning, fielding a variety of questions about his company’s operations. The plaintiffs’ lawyers asked him to provide the 12-member jury with specific information about how many trucks pass down Quarry Road and past their clients’ property, how often blasting is done on the property, where exactly in the quarry the company is working and the company’s future plans for their Coldwater Mountain land holdings.

Half an hour before lunch, the plaintiffs’ attorney was admonished briskly by Circuit Judge Brian Howell for asking McCartney about a letter that Howell had declared inadmissible in pre-trial discussions.

Howell denied a motion for a mistrial from McCartney’s attorneys and sent the jury out of the courtroom for about 15 minutes while the matter was resolved.

When the jury returned, the defense cross-examined McCartney, highlighting a litany of preventative measures the company took to minimize noise and dust reaching residential properties.

They also made efforts to emphasize McCartney’s belief that his company had taken every action necessary to fulfill state and national requirements for operating the quarry.

The day ended with the testimony of Perry Allen, four-year superintendent at the Coldwater Quarry. Allen explained in detail daily operations of the quarry and the amount of material it produces. He was to return to the stand at 9 a.m. today to finish answering questions from the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

The trial is expected to spill into next week if no settlement is reached in the meantime.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys still have witnesses to call, and then McCartney’s attorneys will begin calling their witnesses. Both sides have the chance for rebuttal before closing arguments begin.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Press release: BOAZ PHYSICIAN SURRENDERED LICENSE AND SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR HEALTH CARE FRAUD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Jill Ellis

August 16, 2007 ww.usdoj.gov/usao/aln

BIRMINGHAM, AL - THOMAS RICHARD MARTIN, 51, of Boaz, Alabama, surrendered his medical license and a federal judge sentenced him today to serve 4 months in prison for defrauding the Medicare program and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama (BCBS). Following his release from prison he will serve 4 months home confinement and 3 years supervised release. U.S. Attorney Alice H. Martin announced the punishment rendered which also included payment of $30,451.99 in restitution to Medicare and BCBS, a $10,000 fine, $600 special assessment, and $23,000 to the United States Attorney’s Office for investigative costs.

“To prevent Dr. Martin from defrauding taxpayers or private insurance companies in the future, the United States required Dr. Martin to surrender his license to practice medicine,” stated U.S. Attorney Alice H. Martin. “Those individuals who commit fraud on the health care system are gambling with their livelihood.”

Martin operated as a general practitioner at his medical office in the City of Boaz, located in Marshall County, Alabama. From December 2001 through June 2004, Martin fraudulently billed Medicare program and Blue Cross and Blue Shield for services which were not provided to Medicare beneficiaries. Specifically, Martin billed for the surgical removal of a malignant skin cancer, when evidence showed that the procedure was either not performed or, rather than removing cancerous tissue, Martin only removed non-cancerous moles, warts, or other minor cosmetic procedures. Martin pled guilty to the health care fraud charges in May 2007.

Martin agreed in a civil settlement with Medicare to pay additional restitution in the amount of $105,000.

The Medicare Program is administered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The investigation was conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Lloyd Peeples prosecuted this case on behalf of the U.S. Government.

# # #

Snazzy new looks

The police blog got a face lift today. What do you think? Everything should still be here, just in slightly different places. Leave a comment on this post and tell us what you think.
-aj

Registered sex offender arrested for illegally leaving transition center

08-16-2007

On Monday night Calhoun County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a registered sex offender enrolled at One Day at a Time — a drug rehabilitation center and sex offender transition center in Calhoun County — for illegally leaving the site in his own vehicle.

Mark Kutchmarek, 39, had been court-ordered to the center’s drug rehab program in July following a non-sex-related crime.

One Day at a Time director Vicki Benefield called the Sheriff’s Office after she passed Kutchmarek leaving the center, said Chief Deputy Matthew Wade. She tried to follow, but lost him, Wade said.

One Day at a Time is currently being investigated by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles and has recently come under the scrutiny of local law enforcement officials following an alleged July rape by one of the sex offenders enrolled in the program and multiple accusations that the center is not well-run or supervised.

Kutchmarek returned to the center while the Sheriff’s deputy was still there and was arrested on felony escape charges, said Wade.

As of Wednesday night he was being held at the Calhoun County jail with his bond set at $5,000.

Testimony in McCartney blasting suit continues

08-16-2007

Testimony continued yesterday in the class-action lawsuit filed against Michael McCartney and McCartney Construction for damage to homes and property that allegedly resulted from blasting at the company’s quarry in Oxford.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case — eight residents from the Oxford/Hobson City areas — picked up where they left off Tuesday with a consultant they called to testify that the ground around the quarry, where the properties are, settled due to the vibrations from the blasting of rock. The settling — or subsidence — he testified, could have been responsible for the cracked bricks, soil piping (similar to sink holes), and water-flow problems the residents were seeking to recover damages for.

McCartney’s lawyers sought to disprove any direct correlation between the blasting and the claims made by the plaintiffs. They added pressure to them plaintiffs’ testimony, questioning aspects like exact timing of the claimed damage, construction of houses and property and the physical location of the property in relation to the quarry.

It will be their turn to begin presenting their full case likely starting today after the plaintiffs’ lawyers finish calling their witnesses. The trial could extend through Friday.

Three Calhoun County residents thwart burglaries at their homes

08-16-2007

Two Anniston residents and one Ohatchee resident thwarted burglaries at their houses early this week. One was nearly shot and one was hurt in the process.

An Ohatchee man on Rock Springs Road woke up around 9:50 Monday morning while a man and a woman were looting his house. Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office reports said that the burglars had grabbed some tools, a satellite dish and the male suspect had just picked up one of the owner’s shotguns when the 33-year-old homeowner woke up.

The owner rounded the corner coming out of his bedroom and came face to face with the burglar and the barrel of his own shotgun.

The suspect reportedly pointed it at the owner’s stomach and pulled the trigger. The shotgun had an empty chamber and clicked without discharging a shell.

Unbeknownst to the suspect, the owner purposely kept the chamber empty but left shells in the shotgun’s tube. The owner rushed the man but both suspects turned and ran.

They fled in a blue and white sport utility vehicle. In their hurry, the female suspect failed to completely get inside of the vehicle and was dragged down the road for a few blocks, reported the Sheriff’s Office. It is suspected that the burglars thought the man was going to be at work.

The male suspect is wanted for attempted murder.

In another incident, a 31-year-old Anniston woman had just returned to her Christine Avenue home Tuesday between 10:30 and 11:50 p.m. when she walked in on a man stealing various electronics, jewelry and other items.

The man, who had apparently entered through the window, rushed past, knocking her down, and ran out the door, reported Anniston Police.

The woman was treated at a local hospital for minor injuries. She was reportedly a bit shaken by the run-in. Anniston Police had no suspects in custody Wednesday afternoon.

Just a few hours before at around 10:15 p.m., a 73-year-old Anniston woman was robbed while walking up her driveway.

The woman had pulled up at her Highland Avenue home and was getting out of her car when an unknown man ran past and knocked her down, reported Anniston Police.

The man, described as wearing a white shirt and black pants, made off with the woman’s purse and all of its contents. The woman suffered a bruise and minor cuts. She was treated at the scene. Police had no suspects in custody as of Wednesday afternoon. They said the incidents appeared unrelated.

Rings stolen from Stedham’s Jewelers

08-16-2007

Two men stole three diamond rings from Stedham’s Jewelers around lunchtime Tuesday, according to Anniston Police.

The men walked into the shop between 12:30 and 1:30, picked out one woman’s diamond ring and two men’s diamond rings, all yellow gold. They were standing at the counter when the salesperson turned around momentarily to confirm a check one had written. When the salesperson turned back around, the two were gone, Anniston Police reported.

The men fled in a silver or gray, two-door, Mazda RX-7 that looked to be from the 1980s. Anniston Police had no suspects in custody as of Wednesday.

Center causes tension: Program for sex offenders has Morrisville Road on edge

08-15-2007
Residents have put up signs along Morrisville Road to protest sex offenders moving into the area. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star

What one man calls a disgrace, another calls freedom.

Officially, it's known as One Day at a Time — a residential faith-based drug rehabilitation program and transition center in Calhoun County that outraged neighbors six months ago when it decided to open its door to sex offenders.

One Day at a Time is now being investigated by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The center houses about 18 men in two mobile homes in a community just beyond the Anniston city limits, off Morrisville Road, near the Calhoun County landfill and the Anniston Army Depot's chemical weapons incinerator. The Calhoun County Sheriff's Office believes at least 15 registered sex offenders live at the center now.

Although One Day at a Time is not certified by the state, it is the only program of its kind in the area, and has given judges and the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles a much-needed place to send drug addicts and sex offenders who have been released from prison.

At the same time, its proximity to families with young children has led to growing fear and anger in the surrounding community, which peaked in late July when one of the program's sex offenders allegedly raped a 64-year-old woman who lives in a mobile home nearby.

A week later, the woman, whose name is being withheld in accordance with The Star's policy regarding victims and suspects of sex crimes, still bore the cuts and bruises from the alleged attack. On her fingers and hands, raw spots had begun to scab where she said the attacker had tried to "suck at my skin."

"It was horrible," she said. "My husband died and I have no money. If I could, I would leave."

Four families in a neighboring mobile home park have broken their leases and moved away since the sex offenders moved in, said the property owner, Donnie Coker.

"You know I worked my whole life to try to have something," Coker said. "And I try to keep my stuff up — and then they go and do this, and they run all my people off."

Neighbors who never before locked their doors say they now keep the deadbolt flipped. Blinds that were left open have decidedly been turned down.

"This is hell road," said James White, who lives down the street from the center with his wife and four teenage children. "We put up with the landfill, the incinerator, and now we have (sex offenders). This is a one-way street."

But local law enforcement officials say the program is operating legally under Alabama's 2005 Community Notification Act, which states that registered sex offenders cannot live or work within 2,000 feet of any school or childcare facility.

In Calhoun County, it is one of the few places where sex offenders can reside under the state-mandated living restrictions, and it's the only sex offender/drug rehab center of its kind, said Henry Guiette, an officer with the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles office in Anniston.

Alabama law requires that sex offenders provide living and working plans that meet the Community Notification Act requirements before they are released from prison on parole. Sex offenders who reach the end of their sentences will be sent to a county jail until they provide such living plans.

Lavon Horton, a 61-year-old registered sex offender who lives at the center, said that after being granted parole he remained in jail about two years before he found a place to live.

"My freedom; that's what (the center) means to me," Horton said recently as he cleaned a chair outside one of the mobile homes.

Benjamin Collins, a 47-year-old registered sex offender who lives at the center, also remained incarcerated for about two years before he heard about One Day at a Time.

"For me, it was really because I had no place else to go," he said.

Both Horton and Collins were serving sentences for other non-sex-related crimes when they were released on parole.

Their experiences are not uncommon for sex offenders trying to re-enter society.

Guiette said sex offenders have come to him with multiple living arrangements crossed off their lists as unsuitable, with One Day at a Time the only remaining possibility. Sex offenders have come to One Day at a Time from all over Alabama, including from Jefferson, Montgomery and Mobile counties.

"Word of the program spread like wildfire in the prison system," said Tanya Thomas, another officer with the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles office in Anniston.

The Pardons and Paroles Board operates one transition center for men in Thomasville. That center provides counseling and vocational training for men who recently have been released from prison. But sex offenders can't attend because the 300-bed facility is too close to a school.

Many sex offenders just getting out of prison have no money and no support, Guiette said. Limited resources, combined with the strict laws about where they can live and work, often hinder their ability to reintegrate into society.

"They have to go back (into society)," said Guiette, who has a number of parolees living at One Day at a Time. "They can't stay in prison."

In the wake of the alleged rape, however, State Rep. Randy Wood said he planned to discuss One Day at a Time with other representatives from Calhoun County. Wood said they might consider passing legislation similar to the bill the Legislature passed in June, which made it illegal for multiple sex offenders to live under one roof in Birmingham.

But for now, local law enforcement officials say they cannot legally shut down One Day at a Time.

"This is all we have," Guiette said. "It serves a purpose, as unsavory as that may be,"

Challenges & barriers

The Calhoun County Sheriff's Office first became aware of Vicki Benefield's drug rehabilitation program about two to three years ago, said Chief Deputy Matthew Wade.

In an Aug. 1 interview, Benefield said she expanded the program to include sex offenders because, as the former wife of a sex offender, she understood the challenges and barriers they face.

"I wanted to help those who were less fortunate than he was," Benefield said. "Some of these people have no family and no support."

The program is licensed as a business through the county and city, and claims to adhere to a "12 steps with Jesus" approach, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous.

The program's office is in a mobile home up the road from a double-wide mobile home that both serves as the center's meeting room and houses the program's sex offenders.

Those who are not registered sex offenders live in a single-wide mobile home next door to where the sex offenders stay.

The men share bedrooms, with two to six beds per room. They also share a kitchen. There is one bathroom in each mobile home.

"On face value, it looks like a suitable place to live," said Guiette.

The program lasts a year unless a court specifies another length of time, Benefield said. The offenders pay One Day at a Time $350 a month for room and board.

Benefield's former husband, Faron Benefield, employs some of the men through his moving service. Others have been hired out to businesses in the community, Guiette said.

"A lot of time, they are not able to find jobs on their own," he said. "Any job, even if it is minimum wage, is better than no job."

Registered sex offender Don Fletcher, 52, who attends One Day at a Time, said he was relieved to find the program but knows that the rape accusation against one of his fellow residents will make the situation harder.

"All I want is a chance to prove to society that I am a good man," Fletcher said.

Police found and arrested the suspect in connection with the alleged rape in late July.

The suspect had been convicted of raping an adult female in Jefferson County in 1992. He is now in the Calhoun County Jail with his bond set at $150,000. His court date has been scheduled for Sept. 7.

Prior to the alleged rape, the suspect had been one of the more difficult people in the program, Benefield said.

Officer Guiette said he has increased his surveillance of the center since the alleged attack. He already visits the mobile homes at least once a week, compared with the monthly visits he pays his other parolees.

"We are trying to supervise the sex offenders as best we can," he said. "But I don't have an answer for people in the community."


Sex offender regulations vary nationwide

• About 1.5 million people are in state and federal prisons throughout the country. Convicted sex offenders make up 10 to 30 percent of that total.

• Nearly half of released sex offenders were rearrested for at least one new crime, well over one-third were returned to prison within three years

• A vast majority of sex offender prison returns were not because of sex crimes

• Only 3.5 percent of sex offenders were reconvicted of another sex crime within 3 years of being released from prison

• Cognitive-behavioral sex offender treatment programs can reduce recidivism by 15 to 30 percent

Snapshot look at Vermont

• Operates a treatment program for sexual abusers

• In prison, treatment services are tailored to high, moderate, and low risk offenders

• In the community, 11 sites throughout the state provide varied levels of treatment for sex offenders released from prison

• The prison and community programs fall under a single, coordinated program to ensure consistency and quality

• If sex offender has no post-release support the correctional and treatment staff gather a team of trained volunteers together on the offender's behalf

• All treatment providers meet monthly to coordinate management cases

Snapshot look at Texas

• Specialized sex offender treatment program within the prison system

• Divided into high risk and low risk sex offenders in prison

• Final phase of program in prison focuses on community reintegration

• Parole supervision intensity is set after establishing the risk level of the sex offender

• Specialized caseloads have a reduced offender to officer ratio

• Parole officers are specially trained on how to supervise sex offenders

• Close collaboration between the parole officers, treatment providers, and polygraph examiners.

— Information gathered from a February 2007 report called Managing the Challenges of Sex Offender Reentry, by the Center for Sex Offender Management, a project of the U.S. Department of Justice


Faith-based rehab programs exempt from certification

08-15-2007

The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles is investigating One Day at a Time — a faith-based drug rehabilitation program and sex offender transition center in Calhoun County — following continued community complaints, press coverage, and the alleged July rape of a 64-year-old woman by a sex offender in the program.

State consumer advocates have also identified the center as one of about 50 uncertified drug rehabilitation programs in Alabama that need to be checked by the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, the state agency responsible for drug rehab certification.

"They have really good intentions," said Bryant Petty, a former enrollee in the center's drug rehab program. "But that's about all."

Petty left One Day at a Time in July, after two months in the program, because he said he was not receiving adequate recovery services.

"There was just no recovery (there), none whatsoever," he said.

In Alabama, faith-based drug rehab programs that offer purely spiritual counseling and faith-based instruction are exempt from state certification.

One Day at a Time houses a faith-based drug-rehab program and a transition center for sex offenders in two trailers in a mobile home park off of Morrisville Road. Some of the center's residents are enrolled in both programs.

"We have to accept that what they (One Day at a Time) are doing is appropriate," said Henry Guiette, an officer with the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles office in Anniston.

The Sheriff's Office ensures that the center is in a suitably remote location in accordance with the state's sex-offender law, and parole officers visit the facility to check on the living conditions and work status.

Though the state has funneled a number of sex offenders and violent offenders into One Day at a Time, the integrity and legitimacy of the program has never been thoroughly checked.

"There are no enforcement standards," Guiette said. "If you want to open one and start today, you can."

The Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation technically handles the certification of drug-rehabilitation programs, but the historically under-funded department has been unable to keep up with the growing number of uncertified rehab programs in the state, said Kent Hunt, associate commissioner for substance abuse services with the department.

Certification establishes minimum living and accommodation standards and usually ensures that a program's services are being administered by qualified, professional staff.

"We are mandated to certify, but we've never had the manpower to carry that out," Hunt said. "Just now, it's beginning to be a real problem."

Rusty Bagley, who is a pastor and counselor at Word Alive church in Oxford, said he believes One Day at a Time is not administering faith-based counseling as it claims.

In an interview on Aug. 1, One Day at a Time director Vicki Benefield said her program's enrollees attend the Word Alive church every Tuesday and Friday to receive counseling, to worship and to socialize.

But Bagley said the people enrolled in One Day at a Time have only been to the church twice in eight months.

"We know what is going on over there, and (the people in the program) are not being watched," he said.

In an Aug. 7 e-mail obtained by The Star, Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson notified the Department of Corrections that his office also has "great concerns" about One Day at a Time.

Amerson went on to write that the Sheriff's Office had received calls in the past about enrollees becoming drunk and disorderly.

"In my opinion," wrote Amerson, "that facility is not an acceptable location and I request that it not be an approved address."

Amerson confirmed this week he sent the email.

Tanya Thomas, an officer with the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles in Anniston, agreed there is not enough regulation at One Day at a Time.

Along with officer Guiette, Thomas is the only other officer in Anniston with parolees at One Day at a Time.

"They don't have any structure out there or counseling," said Thomas.

Around the end of June, Thomas said she approved the site because "everything seemed fine." Now, after recent visits, Thomas said she would not recommend One Day at a Time.

"You really don't know until you get people out there," Thomas said on Tuesday.

Program director Vicki Benefield refused to speak with The Star following the Aug. 1 interview.

Reality & responsibility

In response to concerns from advocates across Alabama, the state recently increased its efforts to bring uncertified programs into compliance, said John Ziegler, public information officer for the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation.

While state certification would mean more monitoring of One Day at a Time, it would not alleviate the tension in the community over having sex offenders as neighbors.

State Rep. Randy Wood, a Republican for Calhoun and St. Clair counties, said the area's legislative delegation hopes to address that issue within the next two weeks.

"I think we need to come up with legislation that would limit one per household," he said. "Let's just get them away first and then let's address the problem."

But Tuscaloosa County Public Defender Bobby Wooldridge said he sees that approach as reactionary and counterproductive.

"Alabama is big on talking, but we don't deal with the problems very well," he said. "It sounds good for a politician to say it, and people will listen because they are scared."

All over the country, cities, counties, and states are grappling with how to reintegrate sex offenders into communities. The reaction has largely been to place more restrictions on where sex offenders can live and work.

Under Alabama law, sex offenders cannot live or work within 2,000 feet of a school or childcare facility.

But several national studies, suggest residency restrictions may not be the best solution.

According to a report by the Center for Sex Offender Management, which is a project of the U.S. Department of Justice, residency restrictions can actually jeopardize public safety by increasing sex offender "housing and employment instability, loss of community supports, and increased hostility and resentment."

"In reality," the report states, "shared residency options for sex offenders and the proximity of sex offenders' residences to school and parks do not appear to be linked to incidents of new sex crimes in the community."

The report further emphasized that intensive supervision, when coupled with treatment-oriented or rehabilitation-focused programs, seemed to lower recidivism rates among sex offenders, in contrast with just using supervision alone.

"We need places where sex offenders can come out (of jail) in a structured environment," Wooldridge said. "Where they can live legally and get jobs."


Inmates to get air-conditioning

08-15-2007

After hearing pleas from a concerned mother of an inmate in the Anniston City Jail about the lack of air-conditioning in the building, the Anniston City Council directed its city manager to do something about it at its regular meeting Tuesday.

City Manager George Monk said he would look for a contractor to assess the building for air-conditioning this morning as the council instructed him.

But, given the thermometer-busting temperatures of the last few days, most of the contractors are swamped, he said.

The building is also not easy to rewire for air-conditioning, Monk said.

Monk said the city reduced its jail population, which averages 45 to 50, down to 17 because of the heat.

Police Chief John Dryden said the jail is giving prisoners watered down towels and are placing fans in the hallway.

"We are business as usual," Dryden said when asked if the jail was making any more arrests.

Tonya Clark, whose son Ambrose is in the jail, said she didn't think the council was taking her seriously when she asked about the air-conditioning before Tuesday's meeting.

"I feel like a couple of them are indifferent or don't care," Clark said. "This should've been addressed within 48 hours."

In other council business:

• Awarded a $10,121 to Gadsden-based Handley Farm, Garden and Hardware for a turn mower for the Parks and Recreation Department.

• Awarded a contract to Birmingham-based Nextran Truck Center for three annual payments of $37,036 for a heavy duty dump truck for the city street department.

The City Council adjourned to a special called meeting at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 16 at City Hall to review the city's audit.

The next regular council meeting is at 7 p.m., Aug. 28 at City Hall.

Anniston man assaulted, robbed on Jefferson Ave.

08-15-2007

An Anniston man was assaulted and robbed of his truck after he stopped to pick up two pedestrians along the 900 block of Jefferson Avenue on Saturday evening.

The man was driving a red, long bed, 1984 Chevrolet pickup with a hydraulic tailgate when he pulled over to offer a man and a woman a ride, reported Anniston Police.

When the two got in, the man clubbed the driver with a pistol and tried to push him out, dragging him behind the vehicle for a moment.

The victim sustained minor injuries. Police said Monday they are investigating this and several other reports against both the victim and the perpetrators.

Pizza delivery man robbed late Sunday after making stop

08-15-2007

A pizza delivery man walking back to his vehicle was robbed late Sunday evening.

The Custom Pizza employee had just finished a delivery to a house on Walnut Avenue in Anniston, when a man approached him and threatened him with a gun.

The man took an unknown amount of money and fled. Police had no suspects Monday.

Council confronts Smith over new safety director job

By Todd South
Star Staff Writer
08-15-2007

OXFORD — Oxford City Council is not happy with Mayor Leon Smith's creation of the public safety director position and told him so in Tuesday night's council meeting.

Council President Mike Henderson read a prepared statement at the beginning of the meeting.

The statement said the council agreed that the position of public safety director "is not needed at this time and creating the position was not a prudent commitment of city funds."

Smith told the council at the July 24 council meeting that he had the Civil Service Board create the director position, and he had appointed police Chief Stanley Merrill to it and appointed Capt. Bill Partridge to replace him as chief.

Council members were shocked at the announcement and sought guidance from the Alabama League of Municipalities on the appointing powers of city offices.

League Director Perry Roquemore said a mayor has the appointment authority for the created position.

Henderson said Smith's failure to have a discussion about the position prior to the appointments promoted disharmony and distrust among the two branches of city government.

"It is our opinion that this matter should have been handled in a more proper manner and a more positive outcome could have been achieved," Henderson said.

The council stopped short of further recourse. Henderson said the city attorney John Phillips told him that Smith has the appointment authority, but the council can pass an ordinance to restore the authority back to the council.

In a separate interview, Henderson said the council would not pursue the matter immediately but would look into the matter for future clarification.

He said the council would not fight this appointment, "We don't want to create disharmony between the mayor and the council, we think the citizens want the mayor and the council to work together.

In the past the council has appointed the police chief and fire chief, both civil service positions, Henderson said.

"We all support the man (Merrill) but we don't support the position, we don't think it's needed," Henderson said in a separate interview.

Smith had no comment about the statement.

Cambridge Pub II fined for violating smoking ban

By Todd South
Star Staff Writer
08-15-2007

OXFORD — A second Oxford business has been fined for violating the city's smoking ordinance.

Oxford Municipal Court Judge Stan Allen fined Cambridge Pub II co-owner Steve Thomas $25 for his first violation, $50 for his second and a total of $226 in court costs for both violations.

Thomas said he would appeal the decision.

Customers who smoke going to Anniston or other locations has hurt pub business, Thomas said after the Tuesday afternoon hearing.

Josh Lane, Thomas' attorney, argued that his client operated a club for private functions and only allowed smoking during those functions.

Outside the courthouse following the hearing Thomas cited a portion of the ordinance which allows smoking in public and private assembly rooms, when used for private functions.

"A public or private room for gatherings — that's what we are," Thomas said.

Lane also argued that the ordinance was overly broad and unconstitutional, Municipal Court attorney Trudie Phillips disagreed and said similar ordinances have been upheld in other courts.

Thomas has a pub club that can rent out the facility for certain days. Anyone who wants to enter the pub during functions must be a member of the club.

Oxford's ordinance became law in January.

Thomas was the second business owner charged with violating the ordinance.

Pat Hammond, owner and operator of Pat's Breakfast and More on U.S. 78, was fined $75 for two violations and $226 in court costs on Aug. 7.

Hammond could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Jacksonville was the first city in the county to start a smoking ban in February, 2006.

Man walking on Gurnee offered crack, then beaten, robbed

By Nick Cenegy
Star Staff Writer
08-15-2007

A 51-year-old Anniston man was robbed while walking down the 2700 block of Gurnee Avenue Friday afternoon.

Anniston Police reported the man was approached by a Chevrolet Blazer with three other men inside around 3 p.m.

The men asked if he wanted to buy crack. When he said he didn't, the men beat him up and robbed him of his money. The victim knew two of the men by name. Police had no suspects in custody Monday.

Anniston man shot in shoulder Saturday in domestic disurbance

By Nick Cenegy
Star Staff Writer
08-15-2007

An Anniston man was shot in the shoulder with a .44 caliber hand gun early Saturday in a domestic disturbance involving several people around his residence.

Anniston Police reported Donald Blake Jr., 37, arrived shortly before 12:30 a.m. at his house and a group of people had gathered there. A video of the incident shows that immediately after arriving a disturbance began, said police.

A woman, 44, fired several warning shots before Blake was shot. The woman said that she tried to club him with the gun, the police said.

Blake was taken to Regional Medical Center for treatment; his injuries were not life-threatening.

He said that he accidentally shot himself.

Police are investigating the matter further. No suspects were in custody Monday.

Scrushy's son allowed to receive out-of-state drug treatment




COLUMBIANA, Ala. (AP) -- Drug charges against Brandon Marin Scrushy, son of imprisoned former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, have been put on hold so that he can enter an in-patient drug treatment program outside Alabama.

Scrushy, 22, had been scheduled to appear Thursday in Shelby County District Court on felony drug charges involving prescription pills, but that hearing was continued until he completes the rehabilitation program.

In a written order, Shelby County Circuit Judge H.L. "Sonny" Conwill agreed to delay proceedings in the drug case.

"The defendant may leave the state of Alabama so that he can enroll and successfully complete an out of state drug and/or alcohol treatment program," Conwill's order said.

Scrushy is free on an $11,000 bond. When he finishes what is expected to be up to a 12-month in-patient program, Scrushy is required to return to Alabama and report to the pretrial release office at Shelby County Community Corrections.

Scrushy also is free on bond for three drug cases pending in Jefferson County involving marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. The district attorneys in Shelby and Jefferson signed off on the drug treatment arrangement.

Scrushy and three other people were arrested June 28 at a house in Inverness in connection with the seizure of about 3,000 prescription pills. Scrushy was charged with unlawful drug possession and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.

Scrushy's father, Richard Scrushy, and former Gov. Don Siegelman were convicted last year of bribery and other charges in a federal government corruption case in Montgomery. Richard Scrushy is serving an almost seven-year sentence at the federal prison in Beaumont, Texas.

Information from: The Birmingham News

Russellville man in custody after locking himself in Fred's




RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. (AP) -- A Russellville man who locked himself in a discount store and apparently used painkillers from its pharmacy was carried to a local hospital at the end of an eight-hour standoff with police, authorities said.

Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett said Justin "Bo" Cummings, 26, was unresponsive when officers found him in Fred's Discount Store shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Cummings was taken to Russellville Hospital, where he remained in the intensive care unit Thursday.

Emergency workers told the TimesDaily in a story Thursday that the store's pharmacy had been burglarized and Cummings was found with morphine patches placed all over his body. Other evidence found inside the pharmacy indicated that other drugs had been accessed.

Hargett said Cummings is charged with burglary, theft, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, criminal mischief and criminal possession of burglary tools.

He said the standoff began when officers responded to a burglary alarm at the store around 5 a.m.

"While they were investigating, a man ran out of the building, saw the officers and ran back inside," he said.

Cummings told officers who followed him inside that he had a gun and would use it if they continued to follow him.

Hargett said negotiators tried to make contact with the suspect, but he never responded.

Authorities entered the building after about eight hours of waiting.

Mobile appealing award to motorist who made obscene gesture




MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- The city of Mobile is appealing a judge's decision to award $3,000 to a motorist who was arrested for making an obscene hand gesture to a police officer.

City attorney Ashton Hill said Wednesday the city is seeking to have Addison BeBoi's civil suit heard in circuit court.

On July 31, District Court Judge Michael McMaken ruled in favor of DeBoi in his wrongful arrest suit and ordered the police department to pay $3,000.

DeBoi, 56, of Mobile was arrested by Officer Bristol Hines on Sept. 2, 2005, on a charge of disorderly conduct after he made a hand gesture while the two men were in their vehicles. He was acquitted last year and sued the city for $10,000 in damages, citing time lost from work, the threat of losing his engineering job - which requires a government security clearance - and the embarrassment of being put in jail.

In awarding him $3,000, the judge said police officers must have "thicker skin" than the general public.

The decision attracted national attention, with Fox News Channel talk show host Bill O'Reilly calling McMaken "a pinhead judge" during a show Aug. 7.

Hill, the city attorney, said that while he may disagree with the judge's decision, "Judge McMaken is not a pinhead."

DeBoi told the Press-Register last week that he is a pro-police conservative who received commendations while serving in the Navy. He said he wished the officer would have accepted his apology rather than pursuing prosecution.

DeBoi said money was not an issue in filing the suit. "I wanted to totally exonerate myself," he said.

Ex-Tyson worker wins race bias suit for second time




GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) -- A Gadsden man has won a $1.3 million verdict against Tyson Foods for a second time in a racial bias case that began in 1995 and went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A federal court jury awarded John Hithon $1 million in punitive damages, $300,000 for emotional distress and $35,000 in lost wages Tuesday evening. A Tyson spokesman said the Arkansas-based company intends to ask the court to disregard the verdict.

Hithon sued Tyson in 1995, contending he was passed over for a promotion at the plant by a manager who had referred to him occasionally as "boy." He contended a less qualified white man got the position.

A Birmingham-based jury awarded Hithon and another plaintiff, Anthony Ash, $1.5 million each in 2002, but the judge later threw out the verdict. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision, but the Supreme Court revived the case in 2006.

Hithon's latest trial began Aug. 6 before a Gadsden-based jury of five men and five women, which included one black woman, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Armstrong.

One of Hithon's lawyers, Alicia Haynes, said black workers at Tyson were promoted to the superintendent level, but never to the shift manager position. Haynes said Tyson violated its own policy and procedures in promotions.

She said Hithon, who was a superintendent, had 13 years with Tyson and 11 years of managerial experience when he applied for shift manager, and that Tyson promoted a white man who had two years of experience. Haynes said Hithon had to train the man.

Information in this AP article is from: The Birmingham News

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Anniston police believe cars being stolen for scrap

By Nick Cenegy
08-14-2007

Some of the houses along 14th Street in west Anniston are recently painted, well lived in. Others yield to nature and gravity one rotting board at a time.

Fourteenth Street in this part of town, near the old Cobb Junior High, isn't the same as the one within the gridded downtown streets. It's isolated in a way, accessible only by the ever-vital 15th Street.

A few houses down from where 14th picks up again, the splayed remnants of a brown house and the overgrowth surrounding it collude. The foliage — once weeds, now small trees — screens its depth.

In the yard are three aged automobiles, all older than 20 years, the same drab colors as the greenery around them. The freshly turned ground leading to the street is the only sign of recent activity and a stark indication that something very heavy was dragged out of here.

"My truck was 37 years old. Didn't have a rust spot or a dent on it," said David Gilley, 62, who grew up within these few city blocks, "It just needed paint."

This is the house Gilley and his wife bought just after they were married when he returned from Vietnam. Now they're divorced, and he lives with and cares for his mother — in her 80s — at a house two blocks away.

"The Cadillac STS had new tires and new chrome wheels," said Gilley, "the only thing that was wrong was the grill needed fixing."

The truck was a 1970 Chevrolet pickup, and the Cadillac was a 1988 Seville STS, he said. The two vehicles were stolen from the 14th Street house, along with two others: a 1976 Seville and a 1988 Ford Escort GT.

"There has been a rash of this," said Anniston Police Investigator Lt. Rocky Stemen. "People have been stealing what they consider junk cars and supposedly taking them to a crushing facility."

Though they may have been "junk" to the people who stole them, Gilley said the four cars were his, regardless of condition.

"It's still my stuff," he said.



Look for more on this in the coming week or so. This trend is kind of an interesting one. On one hand, folks are having their cars stolen. On the other, some in the community are hesitant to raise any alarm because they feel like it's almost a public service to remove old rusting cars, especially if they're just sitting out in people's yards. Mr. Gilley - the man in this story - had four cars stolen and is pretty clear in his feelings on the matter. - Nick

Mother indicted in newborn's death

AP



DECATUR, Ala. (AP) -- A Lacey's Spring woman has been indicted on a child endangerment charge in connection with the death of her newborn son. The indictment alleges that 21-year-old Christian Celia Atchley endangered her child by using illegal drugs. She was arrested yesterday.

Atchley's common-law husband, 31 year old James Robert Hill Junior, was charged with capital murder last week. Morgan County Sheriff Greg Batlett said the infant's body was found inside a clothes basket at the couple's mobile home October 29th.

A coroner ruled the baby had cocaine in his system and died of blunt force trauma.

Atchley's bond was set at $100,000. Hill is being held in the Morgan County Jail without bond.

Clerk pleads guilty to illegal payments

AP

By RUSS BYNUM

Associated Press Writer
Mon Aug 13, 9:27 PM ET

SAVANNAH, Ga. - A southern Georgia court clerk has pleaded guilty to federal charges of making $73,286 in illegal payments to himself and other county employees on orders from a judge.

Daniel Leccese, resigned as Clinch County court clerk on Friday, when he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Macon to a single county of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Prosecutors say he used the U.S. mail to collect the fees used to illegally pay himself $17,705 and to pay the rest to other co-conspirators.

Leccese is the first person to be prosecuted in a federal investigation of secret payments ordered by Superior Court Judge Brooks E. Blitch III that were kept off the county books and never reported to tax authorities.

For more about the illegal payments click here.

Man sues flower company, saying it ruined his marriage by revealing affair

By Mallory Simon

Court TV Thu Aug 9, 6:16 PM ET

( Court TV)

A Texas man is suing 1-800-Flowers for $1 million, saying the company is to blame for his pending divorce.

After Leroy Greer's wife filed for divorce in January 2006, he began seeing another woman and sent his new girlfriend a dozen long-stemmed roses. But a few months after the flowers were sent, Greer reconciled with his wife, and she moved back in to his Missouri City home, according to Greer's lawyer, Kennitra Foote.

That was, until his wife received a thank-you note from 1-800-Flowers.

Confused about the purchase, Bernice Greer called the company, and they faxed her the receipt.

"Just wanted to say that I love you and you mean the world to me!" read the greeting from Greer to his girlfriend, whose name and address were included in the receipt for more than $100 in roses.

Bernice Greer promptly moved out again, continued with the divorce and is now asking a court to give her more money because of her husband's now-documented infidelity, according to the lawyer.

Along the bottom of the fax, Greer's wife apparently added her own comment, according to a copy included in the suit. "Be a man!" it began. "If you got caught red handed then don't still lie. Your tmobile has her number so why still lie."

Greer filed suit Aug. 6 in Texas Southern District Court, accusing the company of breaching their contract with him. Greer claims a sales representative promised him before his purchase that the company would not send notice of the transaction to his home or business.

As a result of the infidelity claims, Greer's wife is now asking for an additional $300,000, as well as $4,000 to $5,000 a month in child support for the boy the couple had together.

"Infidelity is one of the things that would qualify as a pendulum-swinger in a divorce case," Foote said. "And now the wife has cold, hard evidence, and it is solely because of 1-800-Flowers."

A spokesperson for 1-800-Flowers, Steven Jarmon, declined to answer questions about the case, but e-mailed this statement:

"At 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, we take pride in creating relationships with our customers by recognizing and thanking them for their business," the statement said. "We take all matters relating to our customers seriously; however, we are not responsible for an individual's personal conduct. Beyond this, it is the company's policy not to comment on pending litigation and legal matters."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Piedmont man killed in car accident


08-12-2007

A Piedmont man was killed in a car accident Saturday morning when the car he was driving ran off the road and hit a tree, according to state police.

William Scott Brown, 39, was traveling on Rabbittown Road, two miles east of Alabama 9, when his 1999 GMC Sierra PK left the roadway at 6:10 a.m. Saturday, according to state troopers.

Troopers had no further information on the cause of the accident. The report said it is still under investigation.

Theft of tritium devices reported


08-12-2007

Days before the Anniston Army Depot reported a small warehouse fire involving radioactive materials to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it reported the theft of two telescopes containing the same radioactive material, The Star has learned.

The two unconnected events were the first involving the Anniston Army Depot since 2000, NRC records show.

A spokesman for the NRC said depot officials followed the correct procedures in reporting both incidents. The gas involved, tritium, is one of the least dangerous radioactive materials, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

On Aug. 2, the Depot reported the theft of two M114 A1 Elbow Telescopes used on M102 Howitzers, a field artillery weapon. The telescopes went missing after the howitzers were painted at the Depot, the NRC report says. They were discovered to be missing the week of July 23.

Dan discusses more about the theft and other recent incidents at the Depot here.

Sheriff: Argument over football led to fatal shooting in Prattville

AP
08-13-2007

WETUMPKA — Three Prattville High School students and a Montgomery teenager have been charged with murder in a fatal shooting that apparently occurred after an argument over whether Wetumpka or Prattville has a better high school football team.

Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin said the shooting occurred after an argument Friday night at a back-to-school event in Wetumpka.

Killed was Ramonda Mitchell, 35, of 114 Crenshaw Drive. Franklin said the shooting occurred about 4:30 a.m. Saturday in the Crenshaw community, just west of Wetumpka.

Charged in Mitchell's death are James Gray, 19, of Montgomery, and Justin Edwards, Greg Hall and Eric Hardison, all 18, of Prattville. They are being held in the Elmore County Jail under bonds of $500,000 each.

"What in the world are these children these days thinking about?" said Wanda Freeman, who lives in the Crenshaw community. "Why would you shoot somebody over something as silly as a football team? I just don't understand it. Nobody around here does."

Edwards, Hall and Hardison are seniors at Prattville High School, Autauga County schools Superintendent Larry Butler said.

Investigators believe the trouble started Friday night during a back-to-school party at the National Guard Armory in Wetumpka.

"A group from Prattville got into an argument with a group from Wetumpka about who had the better football team," Franklin said. "The Prattville group left and told people they were going home to get their guns and come back and shoot people."

Several guns were used and several shots were fired when Mitchell was killed, the sheriff said.

The four suspects were arrested by Millbrook police on Alabama 14 between Wetumpka and Prattrille.

Investigators asked for high bonds in an effort to keep a lid on emotions, Franklin said.

"I have spoken with the parents of these young men and told them their sons need to stay in jail for a while," he said. "That's for their own protection. I don't want anybody from Wetumpka thinking they can ride over to Prattville Saturday or Sunday night and settle the score."

Siegelman seeks release from prison while appealing federal conviction

AP
08-12-2007

MONTGOMERY — Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman has asked a federal appeals court to order his release from prison while his conviction is being appealed.

Siegelman's attorneys filed an 80-page motion Friday with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking that the former governor be released on bond while the court's judges consider his appeal. The motion outlines issues Siegelman expects to argue in his appeal and says he has a good chance of having his conviction reversed.

Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy were convicted last year of bribery and other charges in a government corruption case. Siegelman and Scrushy were sentenced on June 28 and immediately taken into custody. Siegelman was sentenced to more than seven years in prison and is serving his sentence at the federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana.


More on Siegelman here.

Mobile home destroyed in fire


08-11-2007

A mobile home on Old Coldwater Road in Wellborn was destroyed by fire Friday afternoon, according to Anniston fire officials.

A neighbor across the street reported the blaze at 2:45 p.m. When firefighters arrived the trailer was fully involved, according to reports.

The single-wide was a total loss, reported Anniston Fire Department. Firefighters could only protect the property around it and keep the fire from spreading.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation Friday evening. Fire officials did not know whether the mobile home was in use or vacant. No injuries were reported.

All troopers to be on duty for week-long traffic blitz


08-11-2007

If you meet up with Trooper Greg Gregory on the highway in the next week, odds are it's too late — you just got a ticket.

The Alabama Bureau of Investigation Lieutenant normally wears a suit and tie, but this Monday through Friday he'll be suiting up, along with every other trooper in the state, for a massive week-long blitz called "Take Back our Highways."

"I'm still going to be in my unmarked car," said Gregory, "but I'll be back in uniform out there being sneaky."

It's been about 13 years since Gregory, a criminal investigator, has worked the roads – 16 if you take out the overtime programs he participated in at the beginning of his career.

The state troopers are calling up everybody in a shock-and-awe effort to curb the rising highway fatality rate.

The idea is simple: If a trooper has been to the Academy, they'll be out patrolling the highways, said Jacksonville Post Commander John Henderson.

"There's been an increase in Alabama traffic deaths in the last few years," said Henderson. "Despite law enforcement, better-engineered roads and safer cars, traffic deaths are the highest they've been since 1973.

"Any fatality on the highway is one too many," he said, "but the fatalities keep rising —5 percent in 2006."

Troopers who normally drive a desk — some haven't patrolled in years — will all be called up as a force multiplier.

How do they feel about that?

Gregory said he's looking forward to it. "We're all kind of excited," he said. "It's a good break from the routine."

Henderson said the effort might require a little adaptability on the part of everybody,

"It's going to require a mental shift of gears for them," said Henderson, "but I don't have any real concerns about the capability of our people."

When people think of troopers, he said, they often think of the patrolmen in blue and grey, but hundreds of troopers work in various drug, investigative, aviation, training, driver's license and administration units.

Gregory doesn't have any concerns about falling back into the familiar traffic routine.

"We all had the original basic training," he said. "It's not like getting thrown in the breech with no instruction. It won't be too difficult to pick up where we left off. There are just a couple of changes in traffic law, but other than that it's all the same."

The added manpower will allow the Jacksonville/Gadsden post to cover their region a lot more effectively.

"Obviously there's more going on than our current force can stay on top of," said Henderson, "with our brother and sister troopers, we're going to get a lot better handle on it."

They will be stopping drivers to remind them there is no God-given right to travel 10 mph over the limit, he said.

"It's going to wake folks up and get them to slow down," said Henderson.

They are announcing this blitz to the public, he said, but that's no guarantee they will mention the next one. Scare tactics definitely play a part in this campaign. "Just because you don't see the blue and grey doesn't mean they're not there," he said.

The Jacksonville/Gadsden post's most recent manpower report lists 51 troopers employed. Two additional troopers normally process driver's licenses and six work for the Alabama Bureau of Investigations. All will be out haunting the roadways this week.

Fair warning, said Henderson, there are more highways out there than Interstate 20 and U.S. 431. In fact, there will be marked, semi-marked, and unmarked cars patrolling a dozen or so highways all week, not just the main arteries. Driver's license checkpoints will be set up in various locales as well, screening for impaired drivers, proper child restraints, headlights and other common infractions.

The troopers likely also will make use of their LIDAR system – a laser speed-measurement device. Troopers use a sort of tag-team strategy to catch speeders. Henderson said normally six to eight cars will line up together, one will do the measuring and tell the next trooper in a rotating line which car to go after.

Using this strategy, a normal yield is about 250 tickets in about six hours, he said. This week they'll have between 15 and 20 cars. Imagine the possibilities.

There's a bigger picture here however; writing tickets is merely a means to an end, he said.

"If we write a billion tickets but the wrecks are still happening and people are still dying, we're not getting anywhere," he said.

Jury in Bobo trial has yet to reach verdict

AP

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- The jury in the Medicaid fraud trial of Tuscaloosa physician Phillip Bobo has yet to reach a verdict. Jurors will enter their third day of deliberations when they return to a federal courtroom at 9 a.m. today.

Bobo is accused of offering a bribe to a health care group not to compete for a state Medicaid contract. The jury listened to seven days of testimony before they began deliberations last Thursday.

Man who admitted killing 2 Athens officers hospitalized

AP



MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- A man who pleaded guilty to murdering two Athens police officers was hospitalized in critical condition Monday less than a week after arriving in prison, and officials said they were unsure what was wrong with him.

Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said Farron Barksdale was found unresponsive in his cell at Kilby prison on Saturday suffering from what appeared to be a heat-related condition that was complicated by an upper respiratory condition.

But doctors also found "old" bruises on Barksdale, Corbett said, indicating an injury that happened several days before.

For more about why Barksdale was in prison and other circumstances surrounding his condition click here.

Noriega to appear before his trial judge

AP






MIAMI (AP) -- Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega wants U.S. officials to send him back to his home country when he finishes his drug trafficking and racketeering sentence next month, but American prosecutors are pushing for him to be extradited to France to face another trial.

Noriega is set to appear Monday before Senior U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler, the same jurist who presided over his original trial. Hoeveler will decide whether the U.S. extradition attempt is valid, although it is unclear when he will rule. A magistrate judge will separately decide whether Noriega should actually be sent to France.

Noriega, 72, is set to be released on Sept. 9 after 15 years in prison in Miami. He wants to fly immediately to Panama to fight a conviction in the slayings of two political opponents, his lawyers have said.