Dumbass Hover Alabama Area Police Officer Left Gun In Bar Bathroom, Man Killed Himself With It Hours Latter

October 14, 2012

HOOVER, ALABAMA – It is a sad, sordid, suburban tale of a gun.

A police officer’s gun. A gun that ended up in the wrong hands. And, because of a series of bad decisions, a gun that ended a man’s life.

And it all happened in the span of several hours.

Hoover police Capt. Gregg Rector gave this account of what happened on Oct. 1: A police officer from a suburban city stopped in a Hoover bar and, well, heard the call of nature. He stepped into a stall, did his business and left – leaving his weapon behind.

By the time he realized what he had left behind, the Glock was gone.

And the second part of the story began.

Police say Steven Michael Bradford, 25, of Bessemer, found the gun in the On Tap bathroom. He took it and left with his friends to drink more at Fuego Cantina on Southside. He told his friend, Matthew Lee Dodd, 26, also of Bessemer, about his find.

Dodd offered to buy the $600-plus gun for $225, and Bradford sold it on the spot. Dodd and another friend, age 24, left a short time later, and stopped at the Chevron station on University Boulevard for snacks.

The gun was tucked between the two front seats. Dodd went inside to get snacks. The friend stayed behind in the car. As Dodd walked toward the convenience store, he heard a popping sound. He went back to the car, and found his friend dead in the car with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

The officer, whose agency Hoover police declined to identify out of professional courtesy, found out what happened the following morning, before he had even reported the gun missing. Another police officer called to tell him about the shooting in Birmingham the previous night. “Somewhere along the line, he put two and two together, and realized it may have been his gun,” Rector said.

The officer filed a report with Hoover police. He also notified his own chief of the missing weapon.

The death investigation was left up to Birmingham police, because it happened in that jurisdiction. Birmingham homicide Sgt. Scott Thurmond said today they are waiting for the final report from the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office, but have investigated the death as a suicide. “We know he pulled the trigger, and that no criminal act took place,” in the shooting, Thurmond said.

Thurmond added that the gun did not belong to a Birmingham officer.

Though Hoover had no role in the death investigation, Rector said Hoover police officials thought it important someone be held accountable for the chain of events that ended with a man dead.

“We took it very seriously,” Rector said. He said he didn’t know whether the officer would face any disciplinary action, because that would be left up to the chief of that agency.

Hoover launched their own investigation and today arrested both Bradford and Dodd.

Bradford is charged with second-degree theft of lost property. Dodd is charged with receiving stolen property. Both were being held in the Hoover City Jail this afternoon, awaiting transfer to the Jefferson County Jail. Their bond is set at $10,000.

“We’ve got confessions from both of them,” Rector said. “They were upset that what happened happened. But the fact is one took something that didn’t belong to him, and the other bought something that he knew was stolen. Tragically, the third one winds up dead.”

Rector said this was one of the most bizarre cases he’s worked.

“No one ever wants to misplace a gun, especially if you’re a police officer,” he said. “You’ve lost something that has the potential for someone to take a life with it.”

“I am sure this guy feels terrible,” Rector continued. “He’s probably embarrassed that he lost his gun, and unfortunately something tragic happened within hours of him doing so.”

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Shooting And Killing Naked Unarmed Student By University Of South Alabama Police Officer Was Unjustified

October 11, 2012

ALABAMA – The shooting of an unarmed and naked Alabama university student killed in a late-night confrontation with a campus police officer appears to be unjustified, the lawyer for the young man’s family said Thursday.

Part of the brief incident Saturday night that led to the death of 18-year-old Gilbert Thomas Collar of Wetumpka, Alabama, was captured on a surveillance camera outside the University of South Alabama police station.

The video has not yet been viewed by reporters or the public, but the Collar family’s attorney, Jere Beasley, said, “There is nothing on the surveillance tape that justifies the use of deadly force.”

Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran said Tuesday that Collar, naked, sweating profusely and acting erratically, showed up at the police station and began banging on the door and window.

An officer came out, his handgun drawn, and started issuing orders to Collar while retreating backward across the back patio of the building, according to Cochran.

After retreating for more than 100 feet, according to Cochran, the officer fired when Collar drew within five feet of him. Collar, struck once in the chest, collapsed and died at the scene. The incident unfolded over no more than 20 or 30 seconds, Beasley said.

While Cochran said the police investigation into the shooting continues, Beasley said he questioned why the officer did not wait until backup arrived to engage Collar, who had no history of violence or drug use. He also questioned why the officer did not use either pepper spray or a baton in an effort to subdue Collar.

The officer had access to both pepper spray and a baton, Beasley said, but he noted that campus police are apparently not certified to use stun guns.

“Had either a stun gun, baton or pepper spray been used in this case, we wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

Both Beasley and sheriff’s investigators believe someone gave a substance to Collar that led to his erratic behavior. At Tuesday’s news conference, Cochran said witnesses told police someone had given Collar LSD sometime during the night.

Beasley said it would be irresponsible to say Collar was on drugs until toxicology results are completed, which could take several weeks. He also said he doubted witness statements to police that Collar attacked occupants of two cars before reaching the police station.

Cochran said Tuesday that a witness interviewed by police took a picture of Collar against the side of one car.

“One victim had advised that he had grabbed her arm and was trying to bite her on the arm and making weird noises and statements towards this victim,” he said.

Beasley said state Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka, will ask Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Attorney General Luther Strange to launch a review of training and equipment standards for university police departments statewide.

Mask did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The death has, of course, been hard on Collar’s family, Beasley said. But he added they have forgiven the officer who fired the fatal shot, and are praying for him.

The family will wait for the results of investigations before deciding whether to file a lawsuit against the school, Beasley said.

“The goal of the parents is to make sure that this does not happen again to any other student under like or similar circumstances,” he said.

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University Of South Alabama Police Officer Shot And Killed Naked Unarmed 18 Year Old Freshman On Mobile Alabama Campus

October 7, 2012

MOBILE, ALABAMA – Authorities are investigating why a University of South Alabama officer fatally shot an 18-year-old freshman who they say was naked and acting erratically outside the campus police station early Saturday.

With few details of the shooting, the student’s mother and one of his friends said they could not understand how a six-year varsity wrestler and good-natured teenager could have died under such strange and sad circumstances.

According to a statement from the school, the campus police officer heard a loud banging noise on a window at the station at 1:23 a.m. CT (2:23 a.m. ET) Saturday. When he left the station to investigate, the school said, “he was confronted by a muscular, nude man who was acting erratically.”

The man, later identified as Gilbert Thomas Collar, of Wetumpka, Alabama, repeatedly rushed and verbally challenged the officer in a fighting stance, the school said.

The officer, whose name hasn’t been released, drew his weapon and ordered Collar to stop, the school said. The officer retreated several times to try to calm the situation.

“When the individual continued to rush toward the officer in a threatening manner and ignored the officer’s repeated commands to stop, the officer fired one shot with his police sidearm, which struck the chest of the assailant,” the school statement said. “The individual fell to the ground, but he got up once more and continued to challenge the officer further before collapsing and expiring.”

Collar’s mother, Bonnie, said the two people who called her with the news of her son — someone from the school and another involved in the investigation — did not mention that her son was trying to attack anyone when he was shot.

“He was wearing no clothes and he was obviously not in his right mind,” she told CNN. “No one said that he had attacked anybody, and obviously he was not armed. He was completely naked.”

Bonnie Collar said she did not know why her son was acting that way when he was killed. She said he weighed 135 pounds and was 5-foot-7 with a wrestler’s build.

“The first thing on my mind is, freshman kids do stupid things, and campus police should be equipped to handle activity like that without having to use lethal force,” she said.

Campus police immediately contacted the district attorney’s office to request an external investigation, and the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department will assist, the school said.

The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of internal and external investigations, according to the school, which enrolls about 15,000 students.

Investigators are looking at security camera tape of the shooting, Collar’s mother said. CNN’s calls about the tape were referred to school spokesman Keith Ayers, who did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Earlier Saturday, Ayers called it a “campus tragedy” for the university family but offered no other details, citing the active investigation.

One of Collar’s oldest friends was Chris Estes, 18. He said the boys became friends at age 5 and grew up playing baseball together. Along with their friend Jared, they became three best friends with the slogan “JGC for life,” Estes told CNN by e-mail.

“Gil was a very ‘chill’ guy, mellow and easy going,” Estes wrote. “That’s why I don’t understand the story that he attacked the cop. He got along with anybody at school no matter who you were. He could always have a conversation with anyone. As many times as I’ve hung out with Gil, I’ve never seen aggression in him, especially not towards a cop.”

As the boys grew up in Wetumpka, Estes said, Collar stopped playing baseball to focus more on his dominant sport, wrestling. Collar’s mother said he was a two-time state qualifier in wrestling, and Estes said he could have wrestled at the collegiate level if he chose.

“Gil loved to hang out with friends, he loved having a good time and made the best out of every situation, always keeping his head up,” said Estes, who stayed behind to attend nearby Auburn University at Montgomery.

Estes said it’s unfortunate he didn’t go off to college with his friend. “If I did, I think the whole situation would have been avoided,” he said.

Collar’s mother said their hometown of nearly 8,000 people is in disbelief about the shooting. On Twitter, some used the hashtag #WetuFam (Wetumpka Family) on Saturday in remembering Collar.

“Our entire community is in shock because this is so different than his demeanor and his personality that we’ve seen for the 18 years that he’s been on this earth,” she said.

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5 Years Of Litigation Over Jefferson County Alabama’s Occupational Tax Brought Government To Its Financial Knees, Threw 100’s Of Families In Turmoil, Cost Taxpayers Many Millions, Made Millions For Law Firms, And Saved Workers About $4 A Week

October 1, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA — Five-plus years of litigation over Jefferson County’s occupational tax has brought government to its financial knees, thrown hundreds of families in turmoil, made millions for a few law firms and saved workers about four dollars a week, a Birmingham News analysis showed.

The lawsuit Edwards v. Jefferson County, filed in May 2007, killed the original tax. The December 2009 suit, Weissman v. Jefferson County, delivered the fatal blow to a replacement tax passed four months earlier.

For workers with jobs in Jefferson County, the litigation rid them of a widely unpopular tax on their wages, and even earned them a modest refund.

But it also opened a Pandora’s Box, pushing Jefferson County back to the horse-and-wagon days when doing government business took all day.

The occupational tax generated roughly $1 billion for county spending during its 23 years in existence, an analysis of county and court records shows.

The tax provided $69 million in the 2008 budget year, some 40 percent of the county funds that were not already earmarked for a specific purpose.

But commissioners have not seen a full year’s worth of revenue from the occupational tax since 2009 and not even a nickel from it since November 2010, the News analysis showed. In addition, the county has had to refund several months’ worth of the tax revenue.

Through the budget that takes effect on Monday, commissioners have cut General Fund spending in half during the tax litigation.

Nearly 900 county employees have lost their jobs since May 2007, county records show. More than 2,000 county workers and their families suffered months of reduced wages in 2009 and 2011 that cost them millions of dollars.

County services have been drastically reduced. Hours-long waits for car tags and vehicle registration are the new normal.

“At this point there are no winners, not even those benefiting from the reduction of their taxes,” said Chriss Doss, a county commissioner from 1975 until 1987. “Jefferson County has a lot of potential. But it is hamstrung by the situation that now exists.”

Detractors long have called the tax an unfair burden on workers. Many among the 42 percent of workers who commute from outside Jefferson County have called it taxation without representation.

Tax opponents say the revenue loss has forced county officials to address the runaway spending that the tax enabled for prior commissioners.

State Rep. Arthur Payne, R-Trussville, points to the $360,000 discretionary fund each commissioner controlled in the late 1990s and early 2000s, at a time when the county commission was asking legislators to double the occupational tax rate.

“The legislature never wanted the tax enacted in the first place,” said Payne, an opponent of the tax throughout his 34-year legislative career. “I’m glad the tax is gone. We don’t need it back. I think the county will be better off without it.”
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Diminishing returns
The county occupational tax generated nearly $253 million between when the Edwards suit was filed on May 11, 2007, and when collections ended for good on March 16, 2011, as a result of the Weissman case, the News analysis showed.

But Jefferson County only was able to keep 78 percent of the tax revenue, some $196 million.

Workers got 16 percent of that money back in court-ordered refunds, some $40 million after deducting lawyer fees and other expenses.

Combined, the lawyers who filed the suits received about 6 percent of the tax revenue from that period.

The Edwards suit lawyers — Jim McFerrin, Sam Hill and Allen Dodd — split some $9.5 million. Clay Lowe Jr., Wilson Green and Donald Jones Jr. divided $6.4 million in the Weissman suit.

The judge in the Weissman case also set aside $525,000 in tax money to cover the refund administrator’s fee and costs.

Taxpayers also paid the county’s $3 million legal bill from the suits, the News analysis showed.

The law firm Haskell Slaughter received $1.8 million between 2007 and late 2010 in the Edwards suit.

The firm that took over, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, was paid $705,000 for its work on the Edwards suit, bringing the county’s total legal bill to $2.5 million in that suit.

The county has paid Bradley Arant another $450,000 in the Weissman case, records show. The firm has received nearly $1.2 million total in the two suits.

The judge in the Edwards suit also ordered the county to pay the estimated $1.1 million cost of providing refunds in that case, another taxpayer expense.
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Worker benefits
Taxpayers’ lawyers in both cases have said throughout the litigation that their clients are winners, too, and not just because they will receive partial refunds from taxes they paid during the county’s unsuccessful appeals.

“Basically we’re saving taxpayers approximately $70 million per year in occupational taxes they no longer pay,” said McFerrin, one of the lawyers in Edwards case.

Broken down individually, each worker’s financial windfall is modest, the News analysis showed.

The net refund for a person making an average salary in Jefferson County, roughly $46,000, was less than $115.

That taxpayer also would save nearly $210 per year — $8,400 at that wage over a 40-year career — now that the .45 percent tax on pay no longer is in effect.

But the cumulative effect of the tax savings from more than 300,000 affected workers will make a difference in the communities where they live, McFerrin said.

“When you throw $70 million into the economy it has a multiplier effect,” he said. “That is money going into the local economy that would not otherwise if the tax was still in effect.”
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Warring leaders
Jefferson County’s occupational tax lived and died amid a conflict between the county commission and legislative delegation.

In 1987, commissioners asked the delegation for an occupational tax. The delegation, which controls the revenue sources the commission may tap, balked at the request, Payne said.

When the county responded by discovering and dusting off a 1967 law that would allow the commissioners to impose the tax anyway, the battle was on.

The delegation rewrote the tax law in mid-1999 in a bill that also would distribute a substantial portion of the proceeds to programs the legislators had selected across the county. The county refused to collect the tax, then beat back the rewrite law in court.

Payne and other delegation members then figured that, if they repealed the 1967 law, the county would have to go along with a second tax rewrite planned for the 2000 Regular Session.

“It was never really our intention to do away with the tax,” Payne said. “We passed the repeal bill because the county kept fighting us and we were trying to get them to pay attention.”

By 2002, judges had thrown out the repeal law and both tax rewrites, leaving the original version intact. The occupational tax seemed to have become one of life’s certainties.

Then in 2005, the Alabama Supreme Court in an unrelated case issued a ruling that threatened to breathe new life into the 1999 occupational tax repeal bill.

Commissioners vainly asked for a legislative fix. But none would come until 2009, after a virtual shutdown of county government due to the loss of the original occupational tax.

Since the 2009 replacement tax was struck down, the delegation has been unable to agree on any new revenue source. Legislators also have demanded deep county spending cuts.

Commissioners say the reductions they have made have left Jefferson County unable to meet the demands of the state’s largest county and job center. Budgets for the sheriff’s department and roads department rank last among the seven largest counties in Alabama, said David Carrington, the commission president.

Jefferson County has few revenue choices beyond an occupational tax, he said.

Most Alabama counties rely on a one-cent sales tax for money, but two-thirds of Jefferson County’s sales tax is earmarked for health care and the civic center, he said.

“In retrospect, the legislative debate on the county’s revenues, earmarks and expenditures should have happened years ago before the occupational tax was passed,” Carrington said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t.”

Without new revenue, the county’s ability to provide even basic services, much less attract new businesses, will continue to deteriorate, said Doss, the commissioner from the pre-occupational tax era.

“At this point, there is no major effort to move in a positive direction,” he said. “The longer we wait, the longer it will take to fix.”

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Crazed Semmes Alabama Public Works Supervisor Mark Raiford Faces 20 Years In Prison – Arrested After Shooting At Car With 5 Teens Inside And Holding Them At Gunpoint

September 25, 2012

SEMMES, ALABAMA – A Semmes public works supervisor was arrested by the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office on Monday after deputies say he shot at a car with five teenagers in it.

Mark Raiford, 39, was booked early this morning and charged with discharging a gun into an occupied vehicle. The charge is a felony.

“This could have been a situation with a horrible ending,” Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran said.

None of the teens were injured in the shooting.

Lori Myles, public information officer for the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department, said Raiford shot at the vehicle after he caught the teens toilet papering his house. They rang the doorbell on his home on Sky Vista Drive West before fleeing the scene, according to Cochran.

“It just points to how dangerous this is – some things that kids do,” Cochran said. “It’s a dangerous situation to involve yourself in, but at the same time, shooting into an occupied vehicle when they were clearly fleeing from your residence – and all they were doing was rolling your yard – is an overreaction to tremendous levels.”

According to Cochran, Raiford emptied a .380 pistol shooting toward the car, striking the vehicle’s bumper and tire. Five shell casings were recovered from the scene, none of which indicated he was shooting head-on, according to deputies.

Raiford called the sheriff’s office before catching up with the teens at a nearby service station. Armed with a Glock pistol, Raiford held them hostage at gunpoint until deputies arrived.

Cochran said Raiford only held them “for a few moments.”

No more charges are expected for Raiford, although he has the option of pressing charges against the teens for criminal littering, a “minor” misdemeanor, Cochran said.

Deputies said the teens knew a teen living in Raiford’s home through school, although they declined to give details on how they knew each other.

Booking records show Raiford was released around 6 a.m. today. He has a court date scheduled on Oct. 10.

If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

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Hundreds Of Alabama Jobs Down The Drain As US Goverment Gives Military Uniform Contract To Federal Prison Industries – “Cheap” Prisoner Labor, But Finsihed Uniforms Cost More Than From Private Industry

September 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Two southeast companies that make U.S. military uniforms are shedding hundreds of jobs, as the government looks to federal inmates for the fatigues.

American Power Source makes military clothing in Fayette, Ala., but its government contract expires in October. Federal Prison Industries – which also operates under the name UNICOR will snag the work, and leave the task to inmates. FPI has the first right of refusal for U.S. Government contracts, under a 1930 federal law.

American Apparel, the Selma, Ala., based military clothing manufacturer closed one of its plants and continues to downsize others due to the loss of some of its contracts to FPI. According retired Air Force colonel and spokesman Kurt Wilson, the company laid off 255 employees and cut the hours of 190 employees this year alone. So private workers end up losing their jobs to prisoners.

“The way the law is – Federal Prison Industries gets first dibs and contracts up to a certain percentage before they have to compete against us,” Wilson, the executive vice president of business development and government affairs, said. “The army combat uniform, for instance, is an item that they take off the top. As a result American tax payers pay more for it – but the bottom line is each soldier is paying more for their uniform.”

American Apparel charges $29.44 per uniform, but the FPI uniform costs $34.18 – a 15 percent difference.

FPI has been around since the 1930s. It provides training, education and employment for inmates in federal custody. With more than 13,000 inmates, FPI operates in about 80 factories across the United States. The company is not allowed to sell its goods to the private sector — and the law requires federal agencies to buy its products, even if they are not the cheapest.

“It has been going on for some time,” Wilson said. “Unfortunately what comes to bear now is, as demand for uniforms begins to decrease, budgets decrease and the problem gets bigger for us. Therefore we have to lay people off.”

FPI officials were unavailable for an interview, but the company does offer a number of statistics which dispute the criticism.

“It is important to note that FPI produces only 7 percent of the textile garments purchased by DLA. The other 93 percent are produced by other entities,” Julie Rozier, an FPI spokeswoman said in a statement to Fox News.

“FPI’s percentage has remained fairly consistent over the past decade, with slight declines. FPI is a program that directly protects society by reducing crime and preparing inmates for successful release back into society to become law-abiding citizens; FPI does not receive a congressional appropriation for its operations,” the statement said.

Inmates working for UNICOR or FPI are 24 percent less likely to reoffend and 14 percent more likely to be employed long-term upon release, according to the government company’s website. More than 40 percent of Unicor’s supplies were purchased from small businesses in 2011.

The battle between the two has caught the attention of lawmakers in Washington.

Representative Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., is sponsoring a bill which would reign in the ability to take work from private companies.

“We all have seen those terrible statistics, forty-plus months of 8.1 percent unemployment. We know the actions the government has taken it doesn’t look like this is going to get better any time soon,” Huizenga said. “Here we are having a prison population coming in and taking jobs away from the private sector – why in the world we think this is OK. I can guarantee you if this were a Chinese product with Chinese prisoners making that – we would be outraged.”

Huizenga went on to say the outrage amongst his constituents is palpable.

“It’s just this outside entity called UNICOR or Federal Prison Industries coming in and saying sorry – that work is now ours. We are going to having prisoners doing this,” he said. “Of course they are outraged, of course they are frustrated. They are angry, they’re hurt frankly that their own federal government would come in and do this to them at a time when their watching their friends and neighbors struggle with $4 gasoline and they’re trying to keep their mortgage in check.”

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Montgomery Alabama Police Officer Milton Strother Arrested, Quits, Charged With Theft

September 14, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – The Montgomery Police Department confirms that it has arrested one of its own officers in connection with the theft of funds confiscated in a narcotics arrest.

Police Chief Kevin J. Murphy immediately initiated termination proceedings against the officer, who has resigned.

MPD charged Milton Strother, 25, with one count of second-degree theft, a Class C felony.

Following his arrest late Tuesday, Strother was transported to the Montgomery County Detention Facility, where he was being held under a $2,500 bond.

Montgomery Police initiated the investigation after determining that cash seized in a narcotics case last year had not been returned as ordered by a judge hearing the case.

In the course of the investigation, MPD says it developed information that led to Strother’s arrest. Strother was hired in 2007.

Because the investigation is continuing, no additional information is available for public release.

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Moulton Alabama Police Officer Mitchell Breland Arrested, Suspended, And Charged With Abuse And Torture Of A Child

September 14, 2012

MOULTON ALABAMA – A father and police officer arrested for child abuse.

“It’s real disheartening as a supervisor of the department. Its dishearting for law enforcement in general because we are sworn to uphold the law,” said Moulton Police Chief Lyndon McWhorter.

Moulton Police Officer Mitchell Breland, 27, faces two charges of felony torture or willful abuse of a child following an investigation by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.

It absolutely just breaks my heart to hear. We have six kids and own a business in town, and I just hate to hear anything like that. Its inexcusable. Absolutely inexcusable. Someone who is out there in the public supposed to be protecting our kids, and then to find out they have been abusing theirs,” said Moulton resident Chris McKay.

Breland has three daughters, all under 10 years old. Recent posts on his Facebook page show he made several trips to the hospital with a least one of his daughters over the past few months. He claimed she suffered injuries at a park. The statements were posted shortly before the investigation began.

The Moulton Police Department was first notified last month that Breland was being investigated by the Department of Human Resources. He was then placed on administrative leave.

“As far as we could tell he was an excellent officer on the job, and again that’s where it kinda gets you blind-sighted because when you get a call about someone that you are not suspecting anything of, and then you have to go and do administrative leave and know that they are under investigation. That’s real heartbreaking to me,” McWorther said.

Breland will face the charges in front of a Lawrence County Judge, but for the Moulton Police Department regardless the outcome…the real damage is already done.

“It’s out there. Whether there is a conviction or not. You have public opinion and it’s a black eye toward law enforcement and our profession,” McWorther said.

At this point, Breland remains on administrative leave with pay pending a follow up investigation. According to The Decatur Daily, Breland resigned from the Decatur police force in 2010 after his estranged wife accused him of assaulting her and threatening her with a gun.

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Alabama Gives Up Information On Voters, Including Cellphone Numbers, Address, Birthdate, Etc. For Just A Penny

September 13, 2012

MOBILE, ALABAMA – For one penny, a political candidate, or even a private company, can buy from the state the name, address, even cellular telephone number if a person submitted it, of any registered voter.

And for $30,000, it can get the whole database from the Secretary of State’s Office on all 3 million Alabama voters.

That news surprised Foley resident Joni Alexander, as she was cooking chicken cacciatore Monday for her husband, who was coming home for a lunch break, when her cell phone rang.

It was an automated message, sometimes referred to as a robo-call, trying to encourage her to vote for a mayoral candidate.

“We get about 1 million robo-calls on the home phone, but I have never gotten one on my cell phone,” said Alexander, a retired teaching assistant. “I just instantly got mad and hung up. Then, after a few minutes, I thought, ‘How in the world did they get my cell phone number?’”

Alexander said she called the number back and left a message. Eventually, she learned that the candidate had bought her telephone number from Secretary of State Beth Chapman’s office, which, in accordance with Alabama law, sells the information to help fund its voter registration program.

For one penny per voter, the information is available in digital format. But if someone wants a printed page, it’s $1 per voter.

The information that can be bought includes the voter’s full name, address, phone number, date of birth, race, gender and 10 years’ worth of voting history. The list can be honed down so, for example, a candidate for county commission could buy information on all the voters in his or her district.

Alexander said that when she registered to vote, she wrote in her cell phone number, never imagining that information would be sold. She said she expects private businesses to sell such information, but not the government.

The state earns about $45,000 a year by selling this information, according to Deputy Secretary of State Emily Thompson. That money helps pay the salary of the state’s supervisor of voter registration, as well as for technology.

“There are two sides to the coin,” Thompson said. “Voters think the bar is too low, and some are shocked when they learn that we can sell their information. Then, the people who want the information sometimes don’t want to have to pay for it.”

Mostly, political candidates buy the information, to make phone calls or send brochures in the mail, said Ed Packard, supervisor for voter registration with the Secretary of State’s Office. But occasionally a business, such as a real estate firm or an insurance agency, will buy the data.

Packard said a law was passed when the statewide voter file was created in the late 1980s allowing the information to be sold to candidates or organizations sponsoring get-out-the-vote efforts. Sometime later, he said, the law was expanded allowing “pretty much anybody” to purchase the list.

Officials in the Secretary of State’s Office tried to change the law so that information on victims of domestic violence could keep their information secret. But that was never approved by the Alabama Legislature, Packard said.

“Every now and then, we do get phone calls, not a high number of them, from folks who are not pleased their information is for sale,” Packard said. “We tell them it’s state law. They’ll have to talk to their legislator about it.”

Packard said he’s heard complaints from some buyers, who have said Alabama charges more for this information than many other states.

According to a recent story on Fox News, 47 states sell — or even give away for free — voter information, some for as little as $25 for the whole statewide voter roll.

Alexander said she understands why candidates would want this information. But, she said, she wished the state would put a disclaimer on registration forms, saying the information could be sold.

“Virtually anybody can request this information,” she said. “I don’t like it. I just don’t like it.” 

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HIV Infected Alabama Prison Inmates Sue State Over Segregation From Other Inmates – State Won Similar Challenge In 1999

September 6, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – A lawsuit seeking to end Alabama’s distinction of being one of two states that still segregates HIV-infected prisoners is going to trial under a federal judge’s order Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson rejected the state prison system’s request to dismiss the suit. His ruling allows the non-jury trial of the case to start Sept. 17 in Montgomery.

The suit was filed by eight inmates who want to end their segregated housing and mix with other prisoners.

Prison Commissioner Kim Thomas said the state won a similar case in 1999 and is prepared for trial on this one.

Margaret Winter of the ACLU’s National Prison Project said the organization looks forward to “bringing an end to the Alabama Department of Corrections’ long shameful history of discrimination against people with HIV.”

Thompson noted in his order that Alabama began segregating HIV-infected inmates in the 1980s, when many states were doing it. But only six states did it by 1994 and now only Alabama and South Carolina continue the practice.

The Alabama prison system houses 260 inmates with HIV. They are confined at the Limestone Correctional Facility at Capshaw, Decatur Work Release Center, Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women and Montgomery Women’s Facility.

The judge rejected the state’s arguments that it is immune from suit and that prisoners have no right to medical privacy. But he left one dismissal issue undecided: whether the suit is too similar to litigation filed by HIV-infected inmates in 1997 that sought to end segregated housing. That 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that case in the state’s favor in 1999.

Attorneys for the eight inmates argued that conditions are much different, with medical advances changing attitudes about HIV and that HIV is no longer an “invariably fatal disease” like the appeals court found 13 years ago.

Thompson said he would rule at the end of the trial whether the current case is too similar to the original suit to proceed.

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Federal Lawsuit Against Birmingham Alabama Police Use Of Pepper Spray In Schools Granted Class Action Status

September 5, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – A federal judge has granted class action status to a lawsuit challenging the Birmingham Police Department’s use of pepper spray in schools.

U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon granted a request by attorneys for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which had filed the lawsuit in 2010 with eight named students who were hit by pepper spray, to certify a class consisting of all current and future high school students of Birmingham City Schools for the lawsuit.

The questions being answered on behalf of that entire group is whether the police department’s policy in the use of pepper spray in schools and the training provided to the school resource officers are “constitutionally defective,” according to the judge’s order.

Attorneys for the police department did not respond to email requests for comment.

Kallon, who issued the order Friday, has previously dismissed the Birmingham Board of Education and superintendent from the lawsuit. He has not ruled on requests by an assistant principal and the police officers to dismiss all remaining claims against them as well.

John Carroll, dean of the Cumberland School of Law, said that granting a request for class action status, does not mean a judge won’t later rule in favor of the defendants in a case. But what ever ruling the judge makes in the case would apply to the entire class, he said.
Having the lawsuit become a class action case was good news to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“This definitely elevates things to a different level,” said Ebony Howard, attorney with the center. “This is no longer eight kids challenging the (pepper spray) policy … This order is saying that every high school student in Birmingham has standing,” she said.

“We definitely feel that it is a positive sign,” Howard said.

The center filed the lawsuit in late 2010 claiming police officers working at the schools have used pepper spray for what are really just behavioral problems that don’t pose a threat to the officers. The center has stated in court documents that since 2006, more than 100 school children in Birmingham have been pepper sprayed, although more recently center officials put that number at 200.

The lawsuit seeks a policy on pepper spray use in schools and specialized training for police who service as school resource officers.
The police department has a general policy for its officers on use of chemical spray,

but has no specific policy regarding use of the spray in schools, according to court documents.

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REALID And Criminal Background Checks Are Not Enough, Alabama Department Of Corrections Now Taking Fingerprints From Those Visiting Prison Inmates

September 5, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – The Alabama Department of Corrections has enacted a first-in-the-nation policy requiring visitors at the state’s prisons to have their fingerprint scanned before they are allowed to enter the facilities.

An inmate stands at his cell door at the maximum-security facility at the Arizona State Prison in Florence, Ariz.

No other state prison system in the country has a similar requirement, a USA TODAY check of other corrections departments showed.

The change, implemented in August, has its roots in the prison system getting a new computer program, said Brian Corbett, spokesman for the Department of Corrections.

“Our IT department came up with the idea of scanning fingerprints as part of the upgrade,” Corbett said. “We still require visitors to have a government-issued photo ID, and that requirement will remain in place. But there are times when someone else resembles the photo on an ID. Scanning the fingerprint of visitors verifies they are who they say they are.”

The move is drawing some criticism.

State Departments of Corrections routinely require that visitors be approved, and each visitor undergoes a criminal background check. However, the fingerprint requirement is “extreme” said David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project.

“Alabama prison officials can’t say with a straight face that it is a security issue,” Fathi said. “Not when the remaining 49 state prison systems do not require the scanning of visitors’ fingerprints. It is an unnecessary barrier to visiting inmates.”

“Visiting during incarceration is a key factor that will determine if the inmate will re-offend” after being released, Fathi added. “There is study after study that shows the vital role interaction with family and friends plays with inmates while they are in prison. That support net is very important in the rehabilitation process.”

Alabama prison visitors’ fingerprints will not be filed in a database, and the prints will not be shared with other local, state or national law enforcement agencies, Corbett said. The prints will not be used to check whether the visitors have outstanding warrants, he said. Alabama operates 29 facilities that house a total of about 25,500 adult inmates.

Fingerprint scans, which are used to ensure only those on a list of approved visitors get into the prison, also make the visitation process more efficient, Corbett said.

“Under the old system, the corrections officer had to look at every ID and verify the identity of the visitor,” Corbett said. “That was a time-consuming task. Now the verification process is much faster.”

Fathi isn’t buying it.

“If showing a driver’s license is all that is required to get on an airplane that will fly you near the White House, it should be enough to get you inside a prison to visit someone,” he said.

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Nutcase Prichard Alabama Police Officer Ivan Lopez Arrested After Road Rage Incident

August 31, 2012

PRICHARD, ALABAMA – A Prichard Police Officer was booked into metro jail on reckless endangerment charges.

Ivan Lopez turned himself into Mobile Police Tuesday.

He’s accused of road rage during an alleged incident on the Cochran-Africatown Bridge back in July.

A woman, who we won’t identify, told police she was driving behind Lopez in his white Mercedes that night.

She says she passed him because he was driving too slowly.

As the woman approached the top of the bridge, she says she noticed Lopez in her rear view mirror, speeding towards her.

The woman claims the officer zoomed by her, cut her off, then completely stopped his car in front of her. She says she was forced to swerve to avoid hitting the car.

“After I did that he came beside me and tried to hit me with his car. He kept swinging his car towards mine and I kept moving out of his way,” the woman said. “At one point, when he came up and started the same thing again, I held up my cell phone and I said, ‘please leave me alone, if you don’t, I’m calling the police. ‘ “

The woman says Lopez then informed her he “was” the police.

The woman frantically dialed 911. She says Daphne Police advised her to exit the interstate and wait for police.

According to the woman, Daphne Police questioned Lopez at the scene.

She filed a complaint with Mobile Police, and after its investigation, Lopez turned himself into authorities.

Prichard Police Chief Jimmie Gardner responded to the incident.

“It’s the responsibility and duty of our officers to serve and protect the citizens. A citizen has alleged that an officer engaged in reckless endangerment while traveling down the road in a private vehicle.

This allegation is under investigation and if found to be true, we will take all appropriate actions,” says Gardner.

Lopez was released from jail on his own recognizance.

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Montgomery Alabama Police Officer Milton Strother Arrested And Quits – Charged With Theft Of Funds In Narcotics Arrest

August 30, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – The Montgomery Police Department confirms that it has arrested one of its own officers in connection with the theft of funds confiscated in a narcotics arrest.

Police Chief Kevin J. Murphy immediately initiated termination proceedings against the officer, who has resigned.

MPD charged Milton Strother, 25, with one count of second-degree theft, a Class C felony.

Following his arrest late Tuesday, Strother was transported to the Montgomery County Detention Facility, where he was being held under a $2,500 bond.

Montgomery Police initiated the investigation after determining that cash seized in a narcotics case last year had not been returned as ordered by a judge hearing the case.

In the course of the investigation, MPD says it developed information that led to Strother’s arrest. Strother was hired in 2007.

Because the investigation is continuing, no additional information is available for public release.

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Fifth Grade Atlanta Georgia Teacher Helped “Dumb As Hell” Students Cheat On Tests – Just One Of 180 Teachers Inplicated In Scandal

August 28, 2012

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – A former fifth-grade teacher implicated in a cheating scandal reportedly gave students the illegal assistance because she thought they were “dumb as hell.”

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, math teacher Shayla Smith was accused of offering students the answers to a test they were taking at the time. She had reportedly been responsible for supervising them while the tests were being completed.

Schajuan Jones, who taught a fourth-grade class across the hall from Smith’s former room, overheard her talking to another teacher about the test.

“The words were, ‘I had to give your kids, or your students, the answers because they’re dumb as hell,’” Jones was quoted as saying about the interaction between Smith and the unidentified third teacher.

A former student also allegedly accused Smith of cheating, adding that the educator offered the girl, now in eighth grade, the answers to a math test in 2010.

The tribunal deliberated for just one hour before handing down a guilty verdict. Smith had been charged with willful neglect and immorality, and she subsequently lost her job.

Smith’s case was part of a larger investigation that implicated approximately 180 public school teachers in the city, sparked by investigations performed by the newspaper.

All tests proctored by Smith were allegedly marked with suspicious erasure marks, amounting to what was termed a “practically impossible frequency of changes from wrong to right [answers].”

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Birmingham Alabama Judge Tosses Bogus Charges Against Man After Proscutors Piss Away $60,000+ In Taxpayer Funds Pursuing Imaginary Case – Spending By State Nearly Equal To Multi-Week Capital Murder Cases

August 25, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA — The prosecution of Gabe Watson earlier this year in the 2003 Australian honeymoon drowning death of Tina Thomas Watson cost taxpayers about what they normally spend on a multi-week capital trial in Jefferson County, records show. The public price tag topped $60,000 for the eight-day trial in Birmingham last February, which ended abruptly when Circuit Judge Tommy Nail tossed out Watson’s capital charge before the case reached the jury.

But how that money was spent was just as unusual as the Watson case itself, in which the Alabama Attorney General pushed to lock up the Hoover man for the rest of his life, after he already had admitted negligent manslaughter in his wife’s death and served 18 months in prison there.

The Birmingham trial, and events around Tina Thomas Watson’s death while diving at a shipwreck on Oct. 22, 2003, will be the subject of a movie “Fatal Honeymoon,” which premieres tonight on the Lifetime cable network.

Typically in capital murder trials, the main costs to taxpayers are fees for court-appointed defense lawyers, a defense investigator and a mitigation expert, said Talitha Powers Bailey, director of the capital defense clinic at the University of Alabama School of Law.

For example, those expenses in Anthony Lane’s 2011 capital trial and death sentence cost taxpayers about $58,000, court records show. The defense of Jeffrey Riggs, who was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2010, cost taxpayers some $64,000. Both trials lasted longer than a week.

But Watson, 34, paid for his lawyers, Brett Bloomston, Joe Basgier and Mike Hanle as well as defense expenses and experts.

“There are very few defendants who can afford their own defense,” said Bailey, who estimated 90 percent of capital defendants in Alabama get court-appointed lawyers. “He is an exception.”

International spending

The major taxpayer cost in the Watson trial was flying and housing seven witnesses from Australia and seven other witnesses from five states outside Alabama, records obtained from the state Attorney General’s Office showed.

Their airfare cost some $21,000, hotels another $2,800 and their meals nearly $2,400, records show.

Other expenses included:

More than $10,000 in travel costs for state prosecutors and staff, mostly in Australia during the investigation, according to the attorney general’s office. Expenses such as copies, phone calls and transcriptions totaled nearly $1,600.

Expert witness fees for prosecutors exceeded $3,400, according to the attorney general’s office.

Extra security — three additional deputies posted in court each day — cost nearly $7,000, the Jefferson County sheriff’s office said.

Airfare to extradite Watson from Australia to Alabama cost more than $3,800, the state attorney general’s office said.

Jury selection, involving a larger-than-normal pool of 70 people, cost some $1,500, according to the circuit court administrator. Paying the final 14-member jury cost nearly $1,100 more.

No specific figure was available, but paying the judge and support staff during the eight-day trial cost an estimated $6,000.

Watson’s trial drew international attention, including several reporters from Australia. It attracted so many spectators — supporters for each side as well as the curious — the trial had to be moved to the largest courtroom in the county’s Criminal Justice Center.

Bailey gave state prosecutors credit for frugal spending, but said some people would consider any expenditure to prosecute Watson a second time in Alabama to be a waste.

In fact, Watson’s trial was delayed for nearly a year because county and state budget cuts had left the courthouse with inadequate security for the trial.

The state Attorney General’s Office declined further comment after releasing the trial-expense figures.

“I guess the question of stewardship of money really comes down to the prosecutors’ choice to bring the charges,” she said.

Atypical prosecution

Watson’s capital prosecution was anything but typical. State prosecutors, not the local district attorney’s office, pressed the case during Troy King’s unsuccessful bid to be re-elected as attorney general.

Before Watson’s release from the Australian prison in late 2010, King’s office obtained an indictment in Jefferson County charging him with committing the capital crime of murder-for-profit in a scheme hatched in Hoover.

Watson could be convicted in Alabama despite the Australian guilty plea if the state could prove an element of the crime occurred in Alabama, Nail ruled.

To gain Watson’s extradition from Australia, which does not have capital punishment, Alabama prosecutors had to agree not to seek the death penalty.

That helped speed jury selection, since questioning individual jurors who express strong views about capital punishment often bogs down the process, Bailey said.

“There’s this kind of duel going on as they question the jury pool,” she said. “It takes a really long time.”

The most unusual turn was when Nail dismissed the case at roughly its evidentiary midpoint — after the prosecution had called its witnesses but before the defense put on its case.

The judge ruled the Alabama charge was based on speculation but not buoyed by proof that Watson intentionally killed his bride of 11 days or tried to profit from murder. Tina Thomas Watson’s death was not a crime in Alabama, he said.

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Stevenson Alabama City Attorney Parker Edmiston Pisses Away Tax Dollars And Court Time To Make Man Dig Up And Move His Wife’s Grave

August 21, 2012

STEVENSON, ALABAMA – An Alabama man is fighting city officials to keep his wife buried in his front yard.

James Davis told The Associated Press he only buried his wife in front of their log home in Stevenson, Ala., because she asked him to when she died in 2009.

The city sued to move the body elsewhere, citing a need to avoid setting a precedent, and a county judge has ordered Davis to disinter his wife.

However, that order is on hold as the Alabama Civil Court of Appeals considers his challenge to the ruling.

Davis, 73, told the AP he’s shocked by the fight.

“Good Lord, they’ve raised pigs in their yard, there’s horses out the road here in a corral in the city limits, they’ve got other gravesites here all over the place,” he said. “And there shouldn’t have been a problem.”

City Attorney Parker Edmiston reminded critics that Davis lives in downtown Stevenson, not out in the country.

“We’re not in the 1800s any longer,” he told the AP. “We’re not talking about a homestead, we’re not talking about someone who is out in the country on 40 acres of land.

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Notorious Harpersville Alabama Court Disappears, Finally – Operated Speed Trap And A Gateway To Debtor’s Prison, Stripping Citizens Of Their Rights All Along The Way – Private Company Running Probation System That Jails Those Who Cannot Pay Protracted Fees On Traffic Tickets Continues Operation – County Circuit Judge Orders Than No Information, Documents, Or Computer Files Be Destroyed, Promising To Jail City Or Company Officals Who Do

August 10, 2012

HARPERSVILLE, ALABAMA – Just like that, the notorious municipal court of the Town of Harpersville is … gone.

Poof.

It was there — likened as it was to a debtor’s prison — and then it went away.

Quietly. Quickly. Gone this week. Like a thief in the night.

poof.

But the scrutiny of that town — and of the private company paid to run a probation system that jails those who cannot pay protracted fees on traffic violations — will continue.

Shelby County Circuit Judge Hub Harrington made national news last month when he described in an order how Harpersville routinely denies citizens their rights.

This week he issued another order, a restraining order warning Harpersville, its judge and the probation company, Judicial Correction Services, not to throw anything away.

“It has come to the attention of the court that … the town of Harpersville has enacted an ordinance to affect the abolition of the Harpersville Municipal Court,” he wrote.

He ordered records and documents preserved, police records, traffic citations, warrants, complaints, internal and external correspondence, memos, messages notes, minutes, transcripts, emails, hard drives, on and on and on.

Everything.

Not only that, but he made clear to the mayor and council, to Municipal Judge Larry Ward and Court Clerk Penny Hall, that they are personally responsible for making it happen. If not, they’ll “be held in contempt of court and face immediate incarceration.”

Same for Kevin Egan, chief marketing officer for JCS. If JCS fails to comply, Egan goes to jail.

Harpersville Mayor Theoangelo Perkins did not return calls, nor did Ward. Hall’s phone went straight to … dial tone.

JCS’s hired consultant, Steve Bradley, and JCS lawyer Wayne Morse, of Waldrep, Stewart & Kendrick, said Harpersville’s decision did not involve JCS.

But it’s all — again — extraordinary.

Faced with scrutiny, Harpersville took its ball and went home. As if it would all go away.

“I think the judge is legitimately concerned that there is some whitewashing going on,” said Kevin Garrison, a lawyer who brought the suit that opened all this up. “He’s making sure what happened doesn’t get swept under the rug.”

Yeah. That.

On one hand it is almost satisfying to see the Harpersville court go kaput.

It was long known as a place where tickets equaled cash, a speed trap where the limit on U.S. 280 changed six times in seven miles. It became, as Harrington described it in the previous order, a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket.” All in the name of the law.

Which is why there’s no satisfaction watching Harpersville courts go away. There are too many questions. There is too much left to know.

But we do know a system that jails people for months because they can’t pay growing fees on traffic cases and misdemeanors is flawed.

A city that lets its courts become ad-hoc taxers is misguided. And one that allows private companies to become jail-threatening bill collectors is an affront to all that is right with this country.

Harrington knows that. It appears he will not let it happen. Not in Harpersville.

But Harpersville is not alone in out-sourcing justice. What of Birmingham? Or Hoover? What of Homewood, Pelham and so many more?

They may not have a Harrington looking over their shoulder. But if they care at all for justice, they need to take a long, hard look at themselves.

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Road Rage: Prichard Alabama Police Officer Ivan Lopez Arrested After Nutting Up When Woman Passed Him – Repeatedly Tried To Cause Accident – Kept Trying To Hit Woman

August 9, 2012

PRICHARD, ALABAMA – A Prichard Police Officer was booked into metro jail on reckless endangerment charges.

Ivan Lopez turned himself into Mobile Police Tuesday.

He’s accused of road rage during an alleged incident on the Cochran Bridge back in July.

A woman, who we won’t identify, told police she was driving behind Lopez in his white Mercedes that night.

She says she passed him because he was driving too slowly.

As the woman approached the top of the bridge, she says she noticed Lopez in her rear view mirror, speeding towards her.

The woman claims the officer zoomed by her, cut her off, then completely stopped his car in front of her. She says she was forced to swerve to avoid hitting the car.

“After I did that he came beside me and tried to hit me with his car. He kept swinging his car towards mine and I kept moving out of his way,” the woman said. “At one point, when he came up and started the same thing again, I held up my cell phone and I said, ‘please leave me alone, if you don’t, I’m calling the police. ‘ ”

The woman says Lopez then informed her he “was” the police.

The woman frantically dialed 911. She says Daphne Police advised her to exit the interstate and wait for police.

According to the woman, Daphne Police questioned Lopez at the scene.

She filed a complaint with Mobile Police, and after its investigation, Lopez turned himself into authorities.

Prichard Police Chief Jimmie Gardner responded to the incident.

“It’s the responsibility and duty of our officers to serve and protect the citizens. A citizen has alleged that an officer engaged in reckless endangerment while traveling down the road in a private vehicle.

This allegation is under investigation and if found to be true, we will take all appropriate actions,” says Gardner.

Lopez was released from jail on his own recognizance.

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Retired Veteran Troy Alabama Police Officer Willie Toney Arrested After Grand Jury Indictment – Charged After Sex With A Child Under 12

August 4, 2012

TROY, ALABAMA – A recently retired Troy Police officer has been taken into custody after a grand jury indicted him Wednesday on charges of sexual abuse.

Willie Toney is accused of multiple sex crimes against a victim younger than 12 and is being held in the Pike County Jail on one count of first-degree rape, two counts of first-degree sodomy and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, according to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

The case was brought up again this week after being presented to a grand jury at least twice before, with the jury returning no indictments, according to previous stories in The Messenger.

Toney retired last week from the TPD. He served on the city’s police force for more than 18 years – part of that time as a school resource officer.

Toney was arrested by the Alabama Bureau of Investigations and the Pike County Sheriff’s Office. No further information is being released at this time.

Information regarding other indictments handed down by the grand jury this week should be available tomorrow.

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Former Veteran Anniston Alabama Police Officer Frederick Boyd Arrested In Mississippi After Murdering His Wife, Shooting A Family Member

July 24, 2012

ANNISTON, ALABAMA – A former warrants officer for the Anniston Police Department was in custody in Mississippi Monday in connection with two Calhoun County shootings that led to a manhunt and security lockdowns at the police department and City Hall.

Frederick Boyd, 43, surrendered to officials in Meridian, Miss., before noon Monday, hours after the Anniston Police Department and the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office issued warrants for his arrest in two early morning crimes. Boyd faces a murder charge in the Monday morning shooting death of his wife and an attempted murder charge from an incident in Hobson City the same morning.

Calhoun County Chief Deputy Matthew Wade said deputies responded to a call on Martin Luther King Drive in Hobson City around 7 a.m. Monday. A man, identified as a family member of Boyd, said the suspect knocked on his door and opened fire on him. After the man said he shot back, Boyd left the scene in a black GMC Yukon sports utility vehicle, Wade said.

Wade said deputies were going to Boyd’s residence on Chatwood Drive in Saks to question him when they learned of a second shooting that morning at the home already under investigation by the Anniston Police Department.

Anniston police Lt. Fred Forsythe said Boyd was the suspect in the death of his wife, Carmella Boyd, 41. Police said the shooting took place around 8 a.m.
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Huntsville Alabama Releases Video Of Former Police Officer Phillip Lee Jr Brutally Attacking And Beating Female Motorist

July 24, 2012

HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA – The city has released a copy of a dramatic dashboard video that shows a former Huntsville police officer, Phillip Lee Jr., jerking a female driver from her car and then throwing her to the ground.

The Dec. 13, 2011, incident in the Blossomwood neighborhood led to Lee’s firing in late May. He is also accused of roughing up a handcuffed suspect last October.

Lee, who had been with the police force since 2008, contends his firing was not supported by the facts established by an impartial hearing officer who viewed all the evidence and heard from witnesses. The City Council is expected to decide Thursday whether to give Lee his job back.

The police department’s evidence against Lee includes four police dashboard videos, as well as pictures of injuries suffered by the female driver, Edith Stewart.

The Times obtained copies of the videos from the city attorney’s office, along with Hearing Officer Maureen K. Cooper’s written findings.

Lee, assigned to the south precinct, was patrolling in Blossomwood just after 3 p.m. on Dec. 13 when he pulled Stewart over for speeding near the corner of Tennessee Street and Hermitage Avenue. Stewart’s teenage daughter was also in the vehicle.

A video camera and microphone in Lee’s police cruiser captured what happened next.

“Do you want a teenager?” Stewart asks the officer.

“Naw, but you need to slow your tail down coming through this neighborhood,” he replies.

Stewart, who had opened her driver’s side door, then yells, “We were fighting cause she …”

Before she can finish, Lee says, “Get out of the damn car,” and begins to yank Stewart out of the driver’s seat.

The video shows Stewart hitting Lee in the chest. The officer then slams Stewart against the side of the car and slings her to the ground as two other officers approach.

“What the hell’s wrong with you, man?” one of the officers appears to say.

As she is being led in handcuffs to Lee’s patrol car, Stewart says, “I didn’t do anything wrong, damn it.”

On Feb. 9, the City Council agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a legal claim filed by Stewart and her husband, Michael Terrell Stewart.

Police Chief Lewis Morris determined that Lee’s behavior during the traffic stop and an unrelated arrest on Oct. 24, 2011, violated numerous city personnel rules including conduct unbecoming an employee, incompetence, neglect or inefficiency in the performance of duties, and habitual or repetitive acts of misconduct.

Cooper, the hearing officer, noted in her written findings that pictures of Stewart show “minor abrasions on the right side of (her) face, elbow and knee. In addition, her right knee is bruised.”

Stewart reported Lee to the police department’s internal affairs division, which reviewed the dashboard video and interviewed Lee plus the other officers at the scene, Robert Wilcox and Larry Cook.

Lee told internal affairs that he perceived the traffic stop to be a domestic violence situation because the driver was yelling and there was a young girl crying in the front passenger’s seat.

He told Sgt. Burnie Stedham that his intention was “merely to pull (Stewart) out of the car, removing her from the situation so he could try and calm her down.”

After reviewing the evidence and testimony, Cooper concluded that Lee was “rude and discourteous to Ms. Stewart from the beginning of the traffic stop.”

“He issued a command for her to get out of the car but reached down to pull her from the car before completing that command. Once she struck him … he had no choice but to arrest her, turning a routine traffic stop into a much more serious situation,” Cooper wrote.

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Bibb County Alabama Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins Releases One Of Three Who Burned Churches From Prison – Let Out Of Prison Early

July 16, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – One of three men who pleaded guilty to arson in a series of 2006 rural Alabama church fires has been granted an early release from prison.

Bibb County Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins on Monday ordered the release of 25-year-old Russell DeBusk.

DeBusk, a former Birmingham-Southern College student, was convicted of setting fires at five Bibb County churches. He was sentenced to seven years in federal prison and to a 15-year sentence in Alabama. Two of those years were to be served in state prison and the remainder on supervised release.

Wiggins ordered DeBusk’s release, saying the state sentence could run concurrently with the federal sentence that DeBusk has already served.

District Attorney Michael Jackson said he is “outraged” and trying to determine if he can appeal Wiggins’ order.

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Broke: Bankrupt Jefferson County Alabama Wants Federal Judge To Look Again At How It Can Pay Lawyers $1 Million A Month

July 9, 2012

JEFFERSON COUNTY, ALABAMA – Alabama’s Jefferson County wants a federal judge to take a second look at a June 29 ruling favoring Wall Street creditors in order to clarify how the cash-strapped local government can pay $1 million a month in fees to its bankruptcy lawyers.

The county, which last November initiated the biggest U.S. municipal bankruptcy, said Judge Thomas Bennett’s ruling clearly barred setting aside county revenues in reserve funds for estimated professional fees but did not forbid using the revenues for paying lawyers for completed work.

The county’s bankruptcy lawyers said in a written filing on Friday that they may eventually appeal the judge’s 43-page ruling and requested immediate guidance so accurate payments can be made to JPMorgan Chase and other creditors holding $3.2 billion of debt tied to Jefferson County’s sewer system.

“Absent guidance as to whether legal fees actually incurred (as opposed to ‘an estimate for professional fees and expenses’) are operating expenses that may be properly deducted, the county will not be able to make the required calculations,” the county’s bankruptcy lawyers said.

The judge set a July 25 hearing on the county’s request.

In last month’s ruling, closely watched by America’s $3.7 trillion tax-free debt market, Bennett sharply curbed set-asides by the county from money owed creditors for depreciation, amortization and estimated legal fees. The ruling aggravates a cash crunch for Jefferson County, which may exhaust its general fund within three months.

The county had been very aggressive in holding back payments to the sewer system’s warrant holders and rattled assumptions of investors that interest payments on revenue bonds continue in municipal bankruptcies.

Bank of New York Mellon and other creditors had argued that the county had been illegally using money for purposes beyond ensuring efficient operation of the system that serves 130,000 customers.

Jefferson County, the home of Birmingham, Alabama’s business hub, filed a $4.23 billion bankruptcy claim on November 9. Its massive sewer debt, aggravated by political corruption and loss of local tax in a court case, fueled the financial crisis.

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Mobile Alabama Woman Shot And Killed By Savage Black Beasts She Confronted About Speeding Through Her Neighborhood

July 8, 2012

MOBILE, ALABAMA – A 40-year-old woman was fatally shot Saturday night after confronting a group of men in a car about speeding through her west Mobile neighborhood, Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said today.

No one has been arrested. The incident took place in the 5500 block of Racine Avenue in west Mobile about 6:20 p.m.

Mobile police identified the woman as Wendy Fisher, who was shot in the chest by one of several gunshots fired at her, police spokeswoman Ashley Rains said.

Fisher was taken to University of South Alabama Medical Center, where she died, Rains said.

Rains said that an “altercation” took place between Fisher and a group of men who were not known to her. Rich confirmed earlier reports that the confrontation involved speeding on Racine Avenue, a street that connects Overlook Road and Moffett Road and is frequently used as a shortcut by motorists. The shooting scene is located close to the Overlook Road end of Racine.

According to Rains, the car involved was a dark gray or green Honda, Nissan Altima or similarly-styled vehicle occupied by three or possibly four black men. The car sped away from the scene after the shooting, Rains said.

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Birmingham Alabama Police Officer Sharon Maniaci Arrested, Suspended, And Charged With Public Intoxication – Arrested At City Jail

July 4, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – A Birmingham police officer was arrested today on a charge of public intoxication, and has been placed on leave, pending an internal investigation, according to Birmingham Police Capt. Henry Irby.

Officer Sharon Maniaci, 36, was arrested just before 7:30 a.m. at the Birmingham City Jail, Irby said. The officer was off-duty at the time of the arrest, but Irby would not elaborate on why she was at the jail.

Maniaci, a resident of Irondale, has worked for the department three years and is currently on the morning shift in the West Precinct, Irby said.

She was booked into the City Jail and released on $500 bond.

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Second Birmingham Alabama Police Officer Arrested After String Of Arson Fires

June 17, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – The Birmingham Police Department reports that a second arrest has been made in connection with an arson investigation. The arrest is related to the ongoing arson investigations in the western area of Birmingham. Although investigations of additional locations are still ongoing, this arrest is associated with reported fires on Warrior Road. The suspect taken into custody in this investigation is an employee of the Birmingham Police Department.

Chief A.C. Roper states, “The investigation has progressed well as we continue to dig deeper into this arson investigation. We are still chasing leads but the evidence thus far has led us to arrest another officer. I am pleased that our investigators are representing the department with professionalism and honor as they conduct a methodical and comprehensive investigation.”

“We are certainly disappointed that the evidence has led us to an internal arrest. However, I am impressed with the speed of the investigation and the fact that our Police Department has left no stone unturned. The Birmingham Police Department is committed to excellence and to the safety of each of the citizens in our City and that holds true today’” said Mayor William A. Bell, Sr.

Additional information will be released upon completion of warrant procedures. All other arson investigations are still ongoing.

The suspect is in the custody of the Birmingham City Jail.

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Many Feds And Local Police Officers Spend 8 Hours Assaulting Empty Montgomery Home Looking For Savage Black Beast Who Killed 3 And Wounded Others In Auburn Alabama

June 12, 2012

AUBURN, ALABAMA – A small army of law enforcement officers swarmed a Montgomery, Alabama, home where they believed a triple murder suspect was hiding but abruptly left the premises early Tuesday without saying if they had captured anyone.

Police surrounded and searched the house for more than six hours, spraying “a powerful dose” of tear gas in hopes of flushing out the man accused of killing three people and wounding three others at nearby Auburn University.

They left without telling any of the journalists assembled in the area if Desmonte Leonard, 22, wanted on three counts of capital murder, had been apprehended.

The officers from local, federal and state agencies looked frustrated, CNN affiliate WFSA reported.

Police had arrived at the house after at least three tips about someone who looked like Leonard being in the area, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said.

They searched the attic one time and but did not find the suspect, though coughing could be heard, Strange said earlier. Another search was planned at that time.

“They are going to do another, what they call toe-by-toe search, through the entire attic looking in HVAC ducts, looking in chimneys, looking in every crevice,” Strange said.

Police were tipped off when the owner of the house returned to find the suspect inside, Montgomery County Sheriff D.T. Marshall said.

Just after midnight, the operation was scaled way down. The search was expected to continue after daylight, WSFA said.

Saturday night’s shootings took place at an off-campus apartment complex in Auburn, about 50 miles east of Montgomery. The dead included two former Auburn football players, and a current football player was among the wounded.

Leonard has been the target of an intense manhunt for two days, and two other men have been jailed on charges of hindering prosecution in the case.

Auburn police said one of those arrested, Jeremy Thomas, 18, escaped from the scene of the shootings with Leonard. Montgomery police say Gabriel Thomas, 41, tried to mislead investigators during the search, and they arrested him Sunday at the request of U.S. marshals.

Police did not immediately disclose the relationship, if any, between the two men. Both were arrested in Montgomery, but Jeremy Thomas was expected to be transferred to a jail in Lee County, which includes Auburn, police said.

Officers received a call reporting the shooting at the University Heights apartments clubhouse about 10:03 p.m. Saturday, Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson told reporters Sunday.

Arriving officers found Edward Christian, 20, dead at the scene.

Christian, of Valdosta, Georgia, was off the football team because of an injury, Dawson said. Former player Ladarious Phillips, 20, and Auburn resident Demario Pitts, 20, died later at a hospital, he said.

Two others, including current Auburn sophomore offensive lineman Eric Mack, 20, of Cameron, South Carolina, were taken to East Alabama Medical Center in the nearby town of Opelika.

Mack was released from the medical center Sunday morning, while another man, Xavier Moss, 19, was treated and released from the same facility.
Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson told reporters Sunday that Leonard was thought to be in Montgomery, Alabama.
Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson told reporters Sunday that Leonard was thought to be in Montgomery, Alabama.

A third man, John Robertson, 20, was transferred to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, where he was in critical condition after being shot in the head.

Leonard and two other men were thought to have fled the scene in a white Chevrolet Caprice, authorities said. Police later found the car abandoned in an adjacent county, Dawson said.

The Opelika-Auburn News reported Monday that a $15,000 reward — $10,000 from the FBI and $5,000 from the U.S. Marshals Service — was offered for information leading to Leonard’s arrest and conviction.

Police have a motive in the shooting, but Dawson would not release it, saying “that’s for the courtroom, later on.” He did say authorities believe gunfire erupted during a fight at a party.

Several media outlets cited unidentified witnesses as saying the altercation was over a woman.

Witness Turquorius Vines told affiliate WGCL the violence was sudden.

“It went from us chilling with all these females to a massacre for no reason at all,” he said.

“I heard what appeared to be six or seven gunshots outside my apartment,” resident Nate Conoly told affiliate ABC 33/40. He said he couldn’t see anything when he peered outside his window, but heard screaming. “… I went back into my apartment and locked the door,” he said.

A woman identifying herself as only Leonard’s grandmother answered the telephone Sunday at an address listed as his in court records, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.

“I’m just very surprised by all of this,” she told the newspaper. “This is not the grandson I know, I can tell you that. I’ve just been sitting here, can’t hardly move, I’m so in shock by it. It just doesn’t seem real.”

Dawson said he was not aware of any connection between Leonard and the university.

Auburn officials expressed condolences to the victims’ families, saying many athletes on the football team were grieving after the deaths of Christian and Phillips.

Gene Chizik, Auburn’s head football coach, called it “a sad, sad day for everyone associated with the entire Auburn family.” Chizik said he was “devastated” by the three deaths, including those of Christian and Phillips, whom he knew personally.

“We have a lot of people on our football team that are hurting right now, and we’re going to do everything we can to help them get through this,” he said. “We are relieved that Eric Mack, who was also a victim in this incident, is expected to make a full recovery. This is a very trying time for everyone involved, and I would just ask that you lift up the victims and their families in your prayers.”

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Savage Black Beast Who Killed 3 And Injured 3 Others In Auburn Alabama Massacre Had Been Previously Arrested On Gun And Theft Charges, But Never Tried In Court – Also Subject Of 2 Child Support Cases

June 11, 2012

AUBURN, ALABAMA – A man sought by authorities in connection with a shooting near Auburn University that left three people dead and injured three others, one critically, has previous arrests for gun offenses, but was never prosecuted, according to media reports Monday.

Desmonte Leonard, 22, of Montgomery, is the subject of a multiagency manhunt that stretched into its second day Monday. Leonard faces three charges of capital murder in the shooting late Saturday at an off-campus Auburn, Alabama, apartment complex, police said.

Two former Auburn University football players were among those killed, and a current football player was wounded.

Officers received a call reporting the shooting at the University Heights apartments clubhouse about 10:03 p.m. Saturday, Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson told reporters Sunday.

Arriving officers found Edward Christian, 20, dead at the scene. Christian, of Valdosta, Georgia, was off the football team because of an injury, Dawson said.
Multiple victims in Auburn shooting

Former player Ladarious Phillips, 20, and Auburn resident Demario Pitts, 20, died later at a hospital, he said. Two others, including current Auburn sophomore offensive lineman Eric Mack, 20, of Cameron, South Carolina, were taken to East Alabama Medical Center in the nearby town of Opelika.

Mack was released from the medical center about 11 a.m. Sunday after being treated for a gunshot wound, hospital spokesman John Atkinson said. Another man, 19-year-old Xavier Moss, was also treated and released at the Opelika hospital.

A third man, 20-year-old John Robertson, was transferred to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, where he was in critical condition and undergoing surgery Sunday, police said. Dawson said he had been shot in the head.

Leonard and two other men were thought to have fled the scene in a white Chevrolet Caprice, authorities said. Police later found the car abandoned in an adjacent county, Dawson said, and it was being processed Sunday.

The men believed to have fled with Leonard were being sought for questioning Sunday, Dawson said, but did not release their identities, saying only that “it would probably be in their best interest to come forward.”

The Opelika-Auburn News reported Monday that a $15,000 reward — $10,000 from the FBI and $5,000 from the U.S. Marshals — was offered for information leading to Leonard’s arrest and conviction.

Court records show Leonard was charged in 2008 with theft and carrying a pistol without a permit, and in 2009 he was charged with second-degree assault for allegedly shooting a 16-year-old in the groin, according to the newspaper.

However, the cases were not prosecuted. The Opelika-Auburn News reported that a grand jury declined to indict Leonard on the charges. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that prosecutors did not pursue charges against Leonard in the shooting after the victim said Leonard was not the one who shot him.

Leonard has also been involved in two child support cases, including one filed Friday, The Birmingham News reported. The latest suit claims he is the father of a girl born in 2011. In January, according to the newspaper, a court ruled Leonard was the father of a 4-year-old girl by another woman. He was ordered to pay $305 in child support, $21 of which was to go toward about $7,300 in back child support he owed, the News said.

Police have a motive in the shooting, but Dawson would not release it, saying “that’s for the courtroom, later on.” He did say authorities believe gunfire erupted during a fight at a party.

Several media outlets cited unidentified witnesses as saying the altercation was over a woman.

Witness Turquorius Vines told affiliate WGCL the violence was sudden.

“It went from us chilling with all these females to a massacre for no reason at all,” he said.

“I heard what appeared to be six or seven gunshots outside my apartment,” resident Nate Conoly told affiliate ABC 33/40. He said he couldn’t see anything when he peered outside his window, but heard screaming. “… I went back into my apartment and locked the door,” he said.

Dawson told reporters Sunday that Leonard was thought to be in Montgomery, about 55 miles west of Auburn.

A woman identifying herself as only Leonard’s grandmother answered the telephone Sunday at an address listed as his in court records, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.

“I’m just very surprised by all of this,” she told the newspaper. “This is not the grandson I know, I can tell you that. I’ve just been sitting here, can’t hardly move, I’m so in shock by it. It just doesn’t seem real.”

Dawson said he was not aware of any connection between Leonard and the university.

Auburn officials expressed condolences to the victims’ families, saying many athletes on the football team were grieving after the deaths of Christian and Phillips.

Former Auburn quarterback Barrett Trotter told ABC 33/40 he was “pretty devastated, pretty shocked just like everyone else at what happened.”

“When you have that team, family atmosphere we have at Auburn, anything like that is going to be a real blow to everyone there,” he said.

Gene Chizik, Auburn’s head football coach, called it “a sad, sad day for everyone associated with the entire Auburn family.” Chizik said he was “devastated” by the three deaths, including those of Christian and Phillips, whom he knew personally.

“We have a lot of people on our football team that are hurting right now, and we’re going to do everything we can to help them get through this,” he said. “We are relieved that Eric Mack, who was also a victim in this incident, is expected to make a full recovery. This is a very trying time for everyone involved, and I would just ask that you lift up the victims and their families in your prayers.”

“You don’t really know what to do after something like this happens,” Trotter told ABC 33/40, “but you have to trust the Lord and believe everything is going to be all right.”

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Savage Black Beast Starts Shooting At Auburn Alabama Party – Current And Former University Football Players And Others Catch Bullets – Three Dead

June 10, 2012

AUBURN, ALABAMA – Three people were fatally shot, including two former Auburn University football players, and another three people were wounded during a party at an apartment complex near the school, authorities said Sunday.

Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said during a news conference that current football player Eric Mack was among those wounded and was being treated at a hospital.

The two slain former players were identified as Edward Christian and Ladarious Phillips. The other person killed was identified as Demario Pitts.

Officials also said Xavier Moss and John Robertson were wounded.

“This is a trying time, not only university students and athletes, but it’s young poeple. it’s six young people that have been shot. As you can tell, the community is shaken by this and grieving today,” Dawson said.

Police say Desmonte Leonard has been charged with capital murder and has not yet been captured. Dawson stressed that the football team was connected to the shooting only because current and former players were victims.

“Them being football players really has nothing to do with this. They’re victims of a shooting,” Dawson said.

Turquorius Vines, 23, said he was at the pool party Saturday evening at the University Heights apartments with one of his friend, Pitts. He said he and his friend were approached by two other men who started arguing with them over a woman.

Vines said he punched one of the men, while Pitts hit both of the men over the head with a bottle. Either one or both of the two men then started shooting, he said. He said his friend was shot and killed, while two others also were hit by gunfire. Vines said he had never before seen the men who he had been arguing with.

“It’s like I lost a lung,” Vines said of his friend. “I don’t know how I’m going to survive this.”

Several emergency vehicles had converged overnight around the University Heights apartment complex where reports indicated a number of students who attend Auburn University typically reside. The building was swathed in yellow police tape.

It appeared that the shooting happened in an archway near the apartment complex information center, near the edge of the parking lot. Five uniformed officers guarded the area, which was sealed off with crime scene tape, and a handful of crime scene investigators were at work.

Mack, the wounded player, is a junior offensive lineman from St. Matthews, S.C. He played in five games last season. Christian is an offensive lineman who was out last season while dealing with a back injury. Phillips was a backup fullback. Coach Gene Chizik said in April that Phillips had decided to give up football.

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Bessemer Alabama Postal Worker Derrick Harris Arrested On Drug And Animal Cruelty Charges

June 6, 2012

JEFFERSON COUNTY, ALABAMA – A Pleasant Grove man has been arrested on 19 charges of animal cruelty in relation to the seizure of 20 pit bull mixes from his home.

Derrick Harris, 37, was arrested by Pleasant Grove police at his place of employment, the Bessemer Post Office, Wednesday afternoon. Police say they arrested him at his workplace because he was not showing up at his home in Pleasant Grove.

Harris faces 19 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty in addition to two felony charges for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

A total of 20 pit bull mixes were seized from Harris’ home on May 29 by the Birmingham Jefferson County Animal Control and Greater Birmingham Humane Society. The Pleasant Grove police chief said the dogs were in bad condition, chained up and many unable to reach their food and water. The dogs were taken into the BJC and GBHS for medical care.

Harris was booked into the Pleasant Grove Jail and is being transferred to the Jefferson County Jail. His total bond has not yet been set.

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Violence A Big Problem In Overcrowded And Underfunded Alabama Prison System – And Its Only Going To Get Worse

June 3, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Violence has become a growing concern in Alabama’s prisons, an analysis of incident data shows, and prison officials and other experts fear it could become an even bigger problem next year when the system’s overpopulated facilities will be operated on even less money.

Three inmates have been killed in Alabama prisons since this budget year began in October. In the four previous years, prisons had reported, at most, one homicide.

In the 2010-11 year, the Department of Corrections reported no homicides. But it counted 1,397 fights and nonsexual assaults, up from 1,000 the previous year. In addition to an almost 40 percent increase in inmate-on-inmate violence, assaults leading to serious injury doubled, rising from 47 to 95.

Prison officials say that’s a result of better record-keeping. But people who work closely with inmates say the threat is real, leading some prisoners to arm themselves in defense and others to clamor for safer cell space.

“It’s gotten much worse in the last two or three years,” said Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that represents prisoners. “I’ve been hearing from folks that it’s gotten impossible to get into honors dorms because everybody and his cousin is trying to get in.”

Challenge

Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas said the department’s goal is to prevent as many assaults and fights as possible. But violence is an ongoing challenge, he acknowledges, and one that is made more difficult by having too many inmates and too few officers. That problem is likely to get worse in the coming year.

The Department of Corrections’ budget for next year already has been cut $16 million, and there is a potential for an additional $35 million cut, which would mean a “dynamically different prison system,” Thomas said.

“We may have to put it very, very close to a line I’m not comfortable with,” Thomas said.

Already, violence is commonplace in Alabama’s prisons, and not just in the facilities housing what are considered the most hardened criminals. In 2010 and 2011, the highest rates of inmate-on-inmate violence — and the highest rates of assaults causing serious injuries — were in medium-security prisons, according to a Birmingham News analysis of prison reports.

Stevenson and others representing prisoners believe the state’s official counts underestimate the dangers faced by inmates. It’s a suspicion that has been borne out in the past.

The Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta filed suit in 2009, claiming inmates at Donaldson Correctional Facility in west Jefferson County were at risk of harm because of crowding, short staffing and pervasive violence — contentions backed by correctional officers.

As a result of the suit, the Southern Center discovered the state’s public reports about inmate attacks routinely did not match the prison’s internal records.

Between April 2008 and April 2009, the Department of Corrections’ public reports listed only one assault with serious injury at Donaldson. Internal records showed at least 16 Donaldson inmates were taken to outside hospitals during that time for treatment of serious injuries. Among other things, assaults had left two of the inmates with collapsed lungs, another vomiting and urinating blood, and another blind in one eye, according to court documents.

In August 2010, Alabama prison officials installed a system that keeps better track of any assaults or fights that occur. “We do realize that we have to make sure that the figures we gather are validated and accurate,” Thomas said. “We want to make sure we accurately report those to the public.”

Melanie Velez, a lawyer for the Southern Center who was involved in the case, said she believes reporting is better and Donaldson is safer as a result of the lawsuit, which settled in 2011.

“There was nowhere to go but to improve the situation there,” she said.

But she doesn’t believe Alabama prisons have violence under control. “We receive hundreds of letters a month from people who are incarcerated there and their loved ones,” she said.

Rosemary Collins of Shelby County understands why. An advocate for criminal justice reforms as part of a group called Alabama CURE, she hears regularly from inmates who feel threatened by stabbings and other attacks they see around them. One of the inmates is Collins’ 50-year-old son, Victor Russo, who is serving a life-without-parole sentence at St. Clair Correctional Facility near Springville.

“It’s really scary,” she said.

In the past seven months, at least three inmates have died at the hands of other inmates, according to prison officials.

Jabari Leon Bascomb died of multiple stab wounds he received at St. Clair on Oct. 15, just three days after his 22nd birthday.

John Abraham Rutledge, 30, was found strangled to death in his cell at St. Clair on April 27.

Jeremy Jones, 33, died May 24 after being stabbed during a fight with another inmate at Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent.

For every inmate killed, many others were assaulted.

Comparing data

In the state’s 2011 budget year, the inmate-on-inmate assaults and fights reported by the prison system translated to an annual rate of a little more than 4 per 100 inmates. It’s hard to compare that rate with the department’s historical figures because of changes in the way statistics have been collected and reported over the years.

It’s also difficult to judge Alabama’s record against other states because of the different ways violent incidents can be categorized and tallied.

“I don’t know you can say there’s a benchmark because there are so many factors that can go into that,” said Morris Thigpen, a former Alabama prison commissioner who is now director of the National Institute of Corrections.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that the rate of inmate-on-inmate assaults was less than 3 per 100 inmates across all state and federal prisons in 1995 and again in 2000. The agency has since stopped reporting that information, a spokeswoman said.

As of 2011, Tennessee’s Department of Correction reported assaults at a rate of about 2.5 incidents per 100 inmates, while Georgia’s reported rate was 4.5 per 100 inmates and North Carolina’s rate approached 11 per 100 inmates.

At best, though, tracking violence behind bars is an imperfect science.

The Center for Behavioral Health Services and Criminal Justice Research at Rutgers University has found the numbers reported by prison systems are consistently lower than the numbers reported by inmates.

Jing Shi, a research analyst and statistician for the center, said about 20 percent of inmates reported in a 2005 survey that they’d been physically assaulted just in the preceding six months. A key was that researchers asked about specific behaviors, such as slapping and kicking, that inmates might not even think to report as an assault, she said.

Shi said research has linked the prevalence of violence to a range of things, including the way a prison is designed and the way it is run.

In Alabama, a key problem has been the intersection of get-tough criminal policies and anemic funding for prisons. As it stands, Alabama prisons house almost twice as many inmates as they were designed to hold, and they have an 11-to-1 ratio of inmates to correctional officers. In 2005, Alabama ratio’s was better, at 9-to-1, and it was still the worst of any state, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

“I think Alabama has been very fortunate, given how understaffed they have been through the years, to have been able to maintain as safe facilities as they have,” Thigpen said.

E.J. “Mac” McArthur, the chief of the Alabama State Employees Association, said to the extent peace has been maintained so far, it’s a credit to seasoned correctional officers. “Regrettably,” he said, “I think we’re living on borrowed time.”

In March, Kim Thomas took the unusual step of leading news reporters on a tour through St. Clair Correctional Facility to highlight the dangerous conditions resulting from overcapacity, understaffed prisons. Thomas pleaded not only for more money for prisons but also for sentencing reforms.

Over the past decade, drug courts and other initiatives have helped control the prison population by diverting thousands of convicts into community corrections programs. Even so, Thomas said, the prison population has continued to grow. Legislators, who have added to the problem by continually creating new crimes and increasing the penalties, passed a measure this year to try to slow the progression. But the measure, which will make it easier for nonviolent offenders to avoid incarceration, offers no short-term fix for prison crowding or the violence it fuels.

“You put enough water in a balloon, it’s going to bust sooner or later,” said Capt. Lloyd Wallace, who works at Limestone Correctional Facility and is president of the 500-member Alabama Correctional Organization.

Unlikely alliance

Wallace said inmates aren’t the only ones at risk. That’s why his group joined with inmates in the Donaldson case to try to address the safety issues. But what he considers the core problem, short staffing, is getting worse throughout the prison system, he said.

“Our staff is lower now than I’ve seen it in years,” Wallace said.

And in the short term, it is more likely to get worse than better. The Legislature cut the prison agency’s budget by a little more than 4 percent for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins in October. And even that amount depends on voters approving a transfer from the Alabama Trust Fund to the state’s General Fund next September.

As of February, the department had fewer than 2,300 correctional officers, less then 65 percent of the authorized number. Thomas said he worries the count will continue to slide. If the worst budget cuts come to pass, the system could be unable to operate safely and might be required to release large numbers of prisoners, he said.

Advocates for prisoners agree staffing and crowding are huge issues. But they say the prison system also has helped foster dangerous conditions by not attacking violence more aggressively, whether it comes at the hands of inmates or staff.

Just this past month, the U.S. Justice Department said it would look into reports that employees had been sexually abusing inmates at the Tutwiler women’s prison near Wetumpka. Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative requested the investigation, saying that at least two Tutwiler inmates had gotten pregnant by guards in recent years and many others had been raped or subjected to sexual advances.

While some offending employees were fired or dismissed, Stevenson told the Justice Department that Tutwiler also retaliated against women who lodged complaints about sexual assaults.

Velez said the issue is similar to physical violence in prisons.

“It’s definitely a combination of factors that include overcrowding and understaffing but also a real reluctance on the part of Alabama corrections officials to realize they have a problem,” she said. “In order for there to be a real systemic change to the culture of violence that permeates Alabama prisons, the Department of Corrections has to recognize that it has a real problem.”

Instead, she and other lawyers say the department fails to protect inmates from assaultive staff and fellow inmates. “They’re letting people fight,” said Stevenson. “They’re not responding in any meaningful way.”

Stevenson is reluctant to call for prosecution of inmates involved in prison clashes; many end up arming themselves and going on the offensive because they have been vulnerable, victimized and unprotected, he said. But, he said, “If you’re only going to do time in segregation for a violent assault, there are going to be more violent assaults.”

Thomas disputes the contention that the prison system doesn’t take the issue seriously.

“We don’t want violence in our facilities,” he said. “It puts our officers in danger, and we are responsible for protecting the inmates.”

Stevenson said society at large has a stake in ensuring that inmates are protected from violence in prison.

“Most people are going to be released,” he said. “Torturing, abusing and assaulting people over many years and then releasing them to the public is not a sensible public safety strategy.”

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After Tornado Tuscaloosa Alabama Is Pissing Away Federal Disaster Funding On Streets, Low Income Housing, And 6 Mile Walking Trail – $3 Million of $16.6 Million Would Go To Loan Programs For Homeowners And Businesses Displaced By Storm

May 28, 2012

TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA – City officials in Tuscaloosa are making plans for how to spend $16.6 million in federal disaster relief funding it’s getting in the wake of the deadly tornado that struck in April 2011.

The Tuscaloosa News reports the City Council is scheduled to vote next week on eight projects proposed to receive the money.

Several council members have endorsed Mayor Walt Maddox’s plan to put $11.9 million into improving streets and low-income housing projects. The mayor’s plan also includes projects to help development of a City Walk recreational trail that would trace the tornado’s 5.9-mile path of destruction.

Another $3 million would go to loan programs for homeowners and business owners displaced by the storm.

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Pedophile Birmingham Alabama Police Officer And Task Force Member Sgt. Patrick Cavan LeBlanc Arrested On Child Pornography Charges – Victim Was Child Family Member

May 26, 2012

HOOVER, ALABAMA – A Birmingham police officer has been arrested on charges of possessing and attempting to produce child pornography.

Patrick Cavan LeBlanc, 44, faces a charge of possession of obscene matter containing visual depiction of person and a second charge of attempted production of obscene matter containing visual depiction.

Hoover Police say the victim in this case was a family member under the age of 17.

LeBlanc was hired by the Birmingham Police Department Aug. 9, 1990. He was assigned to a city-wide task force and held the rank of sergeant, according to Birmingham Police Sergeant Johnny Williams.

Williams says LeBlanc was placed on administrative leave once the Birmingham Police Department learned of the Hoover Police Department’s investigation of LeBlanc. Hoover police began their investigation a week ago after receiving information about a possible suspect in a child pornography case.

“We were notified at the onset of their investigation and we fully support their efforts in conducting their investigation,” Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper said.

The Birmingham Police Department is conducting an internal investigation in addition to the Hoover Police investigation.

LeBlanc turned himself in to the Hoover Police Department Friday, May 25. He was booked into the Hoover City Jail and then taken to the Jefferson County Jail. Police say his bond on both charges is $45,000.

LeBlanc’s arrest occurred on the same day that another Birmingham police officer, Curtis Thornton, was charged in an arson investigation in Warrior.

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Veteran Birmingham Alabama Police Officer Curtis Thornton Arrested And Charged With Arson Amid Investigation Into Series Of Fires That Have Burned 23 Homes In The Area

May 26, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – A Birmingham police officer with almost three years on the force has been arrested after a series of arsons in abandoned houses in the city and a suburb this month.

Fourteen houses were set ablaze in western Birmingham, and nine in the northern suburb of Warrior.

The Birmingham Police Department and the Alabama State Fire Marshal Office said at a news conference on Friday that Curtis Thornton, a patrolman in the city’s western precinct, had been charged with two counts of arson, one count of attempted arson and one count of felony criminal mischief related to the suburban fires.

Officer Thornton has not yet been charged in any of the Birmingham fires, but police officials here said they expected charges to be filed.

“Although no charges have been filed as of this date, obviously we have now the focus of the investigation,” Chief A. C. Roper Jr. said. “We were appalled at the direction the case has taken, but our goal is to bring that person to justice, regardless of who he is or where he might work.”

Besides the state arson investigation, the Birmingham police are conducting an internal inquiry, Chief Roper said.

Officer Thornton, 27, joined the department in August 2009. During the recent arsons, Mr. Thornton was working the morning shift, which begins at 11 p.m. and ends at 7 a.m., in the western precinct. The Birmingham police would not say whether Mr. Thornton had been on duty during any of the fires.

All of the houses burned in the Ensley neighborhood had been abandoned. Ensley was once a bustling neighborhood of steel mill employees and their families, but mill closings have left the neighborhood blighted with abandoned homes, many on the city’s demolition list, waiting to be torn down.

That process can take years, frustrating nearby residents and providing havens for crime. The city estimates that there are 1,800 houses in need of demolition. The Birmingham City Council has already approved more than 700 demolitions, but recovery from tornadoes last spring and a strained city budget have prevented the city from acting.

The house fires began in the early morning hours last Saturday. Over four days, 14 burned, some of them simultaneously. The only injuries reported were minor ones to firefighters. Meanwhile, state fire marshals investigated another string of nine arsons in Warrior. When that investigation led to a Birmingham police officer, investigators decided the two sets of fires might be connected. Officials here would not release more details, saying that the investigation was continuing.

On Tuesday, Mayor William A. Bell of Birmingham is expected to ask the City Council for an emergency $1.5 million appropriation to demolish the burned homes and move forward with others.

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Maule Guards At Alabama Tutwiler Prison For Women Abused Female Inmates For Years – At Least 20 Guards Transferred Or Fired In Past 5 Years After Sex With Inmates

May 23, 2012

WETUMPKA, ALABAMA – Male guards at an Alabama women’s prison engaged in the widespread sexual abuse of female inmates for years, a nonprofit group alleged in a formal complaint filed with the Justice Department on Tuesday.

The Equal Justice Initiative asked the Justice Department to investigate alleged incidents occurring between 2009 and 2011 at the Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama. The federal agency confirmed that it received the complaint though declined further comment.

“In interviews with more than 50 women incarcerated at Tutwiler, EJI uncovered evidence of frequent and severe officer-on-inmate sexual violence,” the Montgomery-based group said in a statement.

“This troubling cycle of abuse and lack of accountability has established a widespread pattern and practice of custodial sexual misconduct,” said Bryan Stevenson, the group’s executive director.

Stevenson also blamed the Alabama Department of Corrections for under-reporting the alleged attacks, which the group says include rapes, and for responding inadequately.

The group claims that more than “20 Tutwiler employees have been transferred or terminated in the past five years for having illegal sexual contact with prisoners.”

“It’s an ongoing thing, a daily thing,” said Stefanie Hibbett, 31, a former Tutwiler inmate. “You see women raped and beaten, and nothing is ever done.”

Hibbett said she was the victim of sexual assault in November 2010. She said she told the prison’s warden about the assault, but no charges were ever filed against the prison guard she says attacked her. An Alabama judge dismissed a civil suit she filed in the case in August.

Several imprisoned women also allegedly became pregnant after being raped by guards, giving birth while in custody, the nonprofit group reported.

CNN cannot independently confirm that account. The Alabama attorney general’s office referred questions to the Alabama Department of Corrections, which did not immediately return a call for comment.

A 2007 Justice Department report found that Tutwiler maintained the highest rate of sexual assault among prisons for women and 11th overall of those evaluated across the United States.

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Dickhead Alabama Department Of Transportation Engineer Travis Kilgore Prevents Installation Of Signs For DeKalb County Tornado Shelters After Fight To Keep FEMA From Tearing Them Down

May 8, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – Talk about a roadblock.

After waging a lengthy battle with state and federal bureaucrats over the right to have storm shelters, a tornado-stricken county in Alabama is running into another pile of red tape — this time over the road signs directing people to those shelters.

As Fox News previously reported, DeKalb County officials fought last year to prevent the Federal Emergency Management Agency from tearing down tornado shelters that were being built at schools. The county won and was allowed to keep the shelters.

But now the state is stepping in to prevent county schools Superintendent Charles Warren from putting up road signs meant to guide people to the shiny new shelter FEMA built at Plainview High School. That school was devastated last spring by a tornado that roared through during the epic April 27 outbreak, in which 33 people lost their lives in DeKalb County.

Because the proposed road signs would be placed along a state highway, the Alabama Department of Transportation opposed Warren’s request for street signs.

In an email exchange with Warren obtained by Fox News, DOT traffic engineer Travis Kilgore explained the state’s position.

“The use of shelter directional signs have not yet been approved for installation on state roads,” he wrote, adding that “the overuse and overcrowding of signs can be a distraction to motorist (sic) and often lead to a disregard or disrespect of necessary regulatory and roadway warning signs.”

Alabama, it seems, does not consider directions to a tornado shelter “necessary.” The email suggested that signs pointing the way to a shelter might only lead to accidents or an epidemic of disrespect for other road signs.

Kilgore insisted that students who would use the shelter during the day know where it is and that many local citizens nearby the school also know where it is — so no need to put a sign on the state road telling them where to look.

He appeared, however, to concede that clear directions are important, but he didn’t want state roads to be a part of it.

“We understand the importance of notifying and guiding the public to storm shelters, but we cannot permit these signs on state routes,” he wrote.

Warren pleaded with the state DOT to change its mind, pointing out that Highway 35 is a busy route across the northern part of the state. Many people from out of town — who missed all the news reports about the shelter’s construction — might be looking for a place to hide should a tornado suddenly appear, he reasoned.

“Their lives could be saved by knowing where a place of refuge is when a tornado is imminent,” Warren wrote. “We have the signs — two of them — already manufactured and ready for placement.”

Though the signs were already paid for, Warren offered to have them remade at county expense if they didn’t meet state regulations.

“No cost would be associated or passed along to the DOT,” he wrote.

But Kilgore resisted. He wrote back: “I admire your persistence in pursuing the ‘Tornado Shelter’ signs and commend the DeKalb County Schools for constructing the shelter, however, I cannot approve installation of the signs on AL-35.

“The Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices requires States to develop a comprehensive plane (sic) to address miscellaneous guide signs and their installation on State roads. We limit guide signs, other than the primary destinations (Towns and Cities), to those destinations that a large number of motorists may be looking for. Our State Traffic Engineer has determined these signs are not approved for installation on State roads and has previously denied requests for shelter signs in South Alabama.”

Fox News has reached out to the office of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, but has not yet received a response.

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Former Brewton Alabama Police Officer Eddie Laffon Barton III Arrested, Charged After Indictment For Ethics Violations – Using Position For Personal Gain, Using Database For Inquires Not Related To Law Enforcement

May 3, 2012

BREWTON, ALABAMA – A grand jury indictment on charges of misuse of a public position has led to the arrest of a former Brewton police officer, according to a story in the Brewton Standard.

Eddie Laffon Barton, III, 37, was arrested by agents of the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center after an Escambia County grand jury handed down the indictments against him.

The indictment charges that Barton intentionally misused his public position for unlawful personal gain, and that he misused confidential law enforcement data by willfully accessing confidential private information about an individual that was unrelated to any official law enforcement duty, the story said.

If convicted, the story said, Barton faces a penalty of two to 20 years imprisonment for the ethics law violation, which is a class B felony, and up to five years imprisonment for the misuse of confidential law enforcement data, which is an unclassified felony.

Barton was released on $25,000 bond following his arrest.

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At Least 3 Attackers Have Invoked Name Of “Trayvon Martin” In Beatings Of White Victims

April 27, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – In at least three cases nationwide, attackers have invoked the name of Trayvon Martin in the beating of white victims, with one alleged attacker saying anger over the case was the motivating factor for the assault.

In the latest incident, Alton L. Hayes, an 18-year-old African American in suburban Chicago, told police that he jumped a white 19-year-old because he was upset about the Sanford, Fla., case, police told the Chicago Tribune.

Hayes and a 15-year-old from Chicago attacked the victim about 1 a.m. April 17 in Oak Park, west of Chicago, police said.

Hayes told police the pair grabbed the man from behind, hit him several times and threatened him with a tree branch, saying, “Empty your pockets, white boy,” FOX Chicago reported. The pair then allegedly threw the man to the ground and hit him in the head several more times before taking off. The man called police, who stopped the pair a few blocks away.

On Wednesday, Hayes was charged with a hate crime, as well as with attempted robbery and aggravated battery. He was being held in Cook County jail on $80,000 bail Thursday, according to jail records. The 15-year-old, who is also black, was charged with attempted robbery.

Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old walking through a gated community, was shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman on Feb. 26. The shooting, and the Police Department’s initial refusal to charge Zimmerman, sparked outrage and protests across the country. A special prosecutor was appointed to the case, and she ultimately charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder.

Now the name “Trayvon” is being invoked not only to describe other cases — in Baltimore, New York and beyond — in which young people have been injured or killed, but also as a sign of anger during attacks on whites.

On Saturday, a mob of about 20 African Americans allegedly beat a white man on the porch of his Mobile, Ala., home with chairs, pipes, brass knuckles and paint cans. The man’s sister said one of the assailants shouted, “Now that’s justice for Trayvon,” WKRG reported.

Despite pleas from the man’s relatives for the incident to be investigated as a hate crime, the attack on Matthew Owens, 40, was investigated as an assault. Investigators insisted that the Martin case had nothing to do with the assault, that the attack arose out of an ongoing dispute between Owens and a neighbor.

On Wednesday, police arrested 44-year-old Terry Rawls for first-degree assault in connection with the attack, WKRG reported.

“I can tell you this without a doubt, 100% certainty, that Trayvon Martin was not the motivating factor in this incident,” Mobile Police Cpl. Chris Levy told WKRG.

Mobile County Dist. Atty. Ashley Rich told WKRG on Wednesday that she was conferring with counterparts at the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI, and that she was leaving it up to federal officials to decide whether the incident merited hate crime charges.

As Owens remained hospitalized this week, conservative talk shows and websites buzzed with news of the attack and supporters started the Facebook page “Justice for Matthew Owens.” Mobile’s mayor, who is African American, tried to clear the air Wednesday and distance the incident from events in Sanford, Fla.

“We don’t have that kind of information that would tell us this stemmed from some hate crime that started somewhere else,” Mayor Samuel Jones told Local15, “or even one that started here that was strictly based on race.”

The Martin case was also mentioned in connection with a third attack on an elderly white Ohio man late last month.

Dallas Watts, 78, told police he was walking home in Toledo on March 31 when he was confronted by six youths, white and black, ages 11 to 17, one of whom directed the group to “take him down,” FoxToledo.com reported.

Watts said he pleaded, “Why me? Remember Trayvon,” in a “peaceful way.” He told reporters that only seemed to anger the youths.

“[Get] that white [man]. This is for Trayvon. … Trayvon lives, white [man]. Kill that white [man],” the boys are quoted as saying in a police report cited by the Toledo Blade.

Three of the six youths have since been charged in connection with the attack, but police did not find evidence to support hate crime charges, FoxToledo.com reported.

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First Arrest Of Savage Beast In “Justice For Trayvon” Beating Of Mobile Alabama White Man On His Front Porch

April 26, 2012

MOBILE, ALABAMA – Mobile Police made their first arrest in the mob beating of Matthew Owens. 44-year-old Terry Rawls surrendered Wednesday on assault charges.

“This here is an ongoing dispute with neighbors, that’s what this is,” explained Corporal Chris Levy with the Mobile Police Department.

Police say the tension between Owens and Rawls had been escalating for three years. In fact, that wasn’t the first time police were called to Delmar Drive. Police say Rawls has attacked Owens before, but charges were never filed because they say Owens instigated it.

“Unfortunately that’s what this is, and these things can lead to violence and that’s what happened,” said Levy.

Matthew Owens suffered severe head injuries and was taken to USA Medical Center after witnesses say a mob of 20 or so people attacked him with paint cans, pipes, and chairs across the street from his sister’s house. But police only expect to arrest three more people. They claim most of the mob were just bystanders.

“What we know is that Mr. Owens was fussing at some kids about playing basketball in the street,” said Levy. “These kids then went back and told their parents about the exchange they had with Mr. Owens, who were having a get together down the street, came down to where Mr. Owens is, and there was a series of racial slurs exchanged, and there was a fight.”

Witnesses claim one of those attackers screamed, “That’s justice for Trayvon” as she drove away. That comment has created has created an uproar nationwide, but police say Florida’s Trayvon Martin case has nothing to do with this.

“I can tell you without a doubt 100 percent that the Trayvon Martin case was not the motivating factor, said Levy. “That 100 percent, it is an ongoing incident between people that have been fighting for a few years now.”

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Mobile Alabama Police Claim That White Man Brutally Beaten On His Porch By Pack Of Black Savages Was Not A Hate Crime – One Attacker Said “Now That’s Justice For Trayvon”

April 24, 2012

MOBILE, ALABAMA – A racially charged beating of a white Alabama man by a throng of African-Americans is not being investigated as a hate crime, despite one witness’ claim that she heard an assailant exclaim: “Now that’s justice for Trayvon.”

Matthew Owens, of Mobile, Ala., was assaulted with baseball bats, paint cans and other weapons at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday after telling a group of children to stop playing basketball in the middle of Delmar Drive, according to Ashley Rains, public information officer for the Mobile Police Department.

After the children left the area, a group of adults armed with weapons returned and confronted Owens, 40, in his front yard, where he was assaulted. Owens’ sister, Ashley Parker, told WKRG she witnessed the attack and that there were as many as 20 assailants. Parker said she overheard one of them say, “Now that’s justice for Trayvon.”

Asked if the incident was being investigated as a hate crime, Rains replied: “No, it’s not. It’s being investigated as an assault.” Eugene A. Seidel, first assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, declined to comment on the case when reached by FoxNews.com.

“Our policy is not to comment one way or another about cases,” Seidel said when asked if his office has inquired about the incident. “All I can say is no comment.”

Trayvon Martin, 17, is the unarmed teenager who was fatally shot Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. George Zimmerman, who has been charged with second-degree murder in Martin’s death, went into hiding Monday as he awaits trial. Emotions ran high as six weeks passed before Zimmerman was charged, leading many African-American community leaders to decry what they perceived as racism in the justice system.

Rains said Parker’s statement could not be independently corroborated as of Tuesday. Attempts to reach Parker — who reportedly characterized the assault as the “scariest thing” she ever witnessed — were unsuccessful.

“We have not been able to find any other witness that can back that statement up,” Rains told FoxNews.com. “It’s unknown right now if that was said.”

Owens, who regained consciousness early Tuesday, remains in serious condition at the University of South Alabama Medical Center, Rains said.

It remains unclear how many people participated in the assault, but Rains said it involved multiple assailants. The relationship — if any — between the children and the alleged perpetrators is also unclear, Rains said.

“We’ve spoken to the victim and we’re doing our best to put together a suspect list and identify any suspects that were in the assault,” she said.

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Mobile Alabama Gang Of Savages Beats Innocent Man On His Front Porch – “Now Thats Justice For Trayvon”

April 23, 2012

MOBILE, ALABAMA – Mobile police need your help to catch a mob that beat Matthew Owens so badly that he’s in critical condition.

According to police, Owens fussed at some kids playing basketball in the middle of Delmar Drive about 8:30 Saturday night. They say the kids left and a group of adults returned, armed with everything but the kitchen sink.

Police tell News 5 the suspects used chairs, pipes and paint cans to beat Owens.

Owens’ sister, Ashley Parker, saw the attack. “It was the scariest thing I have ever witnessed.” Parker says 20 people, all African American, attacked her brother on the front porch of his home, using “brass buckles, paint cans and anything they could get their hands on.”

Police will only say “multiple people” are involved.

What Parker says happened next could make the fallout from the brutal beating even worse. As the attackers walked away, leaving Owen bleeding on the ground, Parker says one of them said “Now thats justice for Trayvon.” Trayvon Martin is the unarmed teenager police say was shot and killed February 26 by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Samford, Florida.

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Birmingham Alabama Cops File Bogus Charges Against Teen Who Was Legally Carrying Rifle And Minding His Own Business Until Harassed By Police Officers

April 23, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – Sean M. Combs, 18, says he’s “100 percent sure” he was acting legally when he strolled on Old Woodward Avenue in downtown Birmingham earlier this month with his M-1 rifle strapped to his back, muzzle to the sky.

What’s unsettling is that Combs is right about what the law says and doesn’t say.

He was arrested April 13 on three misdemeanor charges — for brandishing a weapon, resisting and obstructing police, and disturbing the peace — each punishable by up to 93 days in jail.

But no matter how the case turns out, the Troy High School senior is making his incendiary point.

A teenager out for a Friday night stroll on a crowded street with a classmate friend and his semi-automatic weapon still qualifies as a bizarre night out.

It suggests bad judgment, immaturity and a pathological need for attention — but it’s not banned by law. “You can open carry, like the old wild wild West,” says Michigan State Police spokesman Lt. James Shaw. “It’s legal.”

Still, Sean Combs was deliberately, and perhaps impulsively, pushing the bounds of social acceptability when he grabbed his rifle from the trunk, after deciding not to go to a movie. (Guns are banned from movie theaters, although a pending Senate bill would change that.)

But public strutting with guns is likely one consequence of the au courant embrace of all things NRA, including the state Legislature’s 2011 bill to drop the hunting age from 12 to toddler, or the 2010 law empowering elementary schools to teach children gun safety.

Combs said he believes in “open carry” and the only way to break down social norms against it is to carry firearms openly. He used a rifle, he says, because federal regulations require him to be 21 to buy a handgun. To get the rifle, he only needed to be 18. “It’s like buying a pack of cigarettes,” he explains, correctly.

Why don’t more people walk around with rifles?

Gun law expert Steve Dulan, who teaches firearms law at Cooley Law School, says the law doesn’t differentiate between firearms. “Open carry is certainly lawful and the only reason I advise against it is because of the ignorance of the public and many law enforcement officers,” he says. “You’re likely to be staring down the barrel of a police officer’s gun.”

Combs, who was a captain of Troy High’s cross-country team and gets good grades, is a regular guy, says his friend, Lia Grabowski, who was with him that night. “He’s a really, really nice kid. He’s not someone who’s dangerous or scary.”

A self-described “gun enthusiast,” Combs studies “open carry” laws and websites that advocate carrying firearms out in the open as a political statement. “I did my homework,” he says. He took his gun out of the trunk that night because “I wanted to change a social rule that I don’t agree with” — namely the general social disapproval of guys walking down the street with military weapons slung over their shoulders.

Birmingham Police Chief Don Studt, whose officers arrested Combs on April 13, acknowledges the constitutionality of Combs’ decision to carry his gun, but said “this guy was creating a disturbance and he wouldn’t cooperate.”

Those facts are in contention. The youth’s attorney, James Makowski, says Combs had a clear understanding of the law when he decided to walk down the street with his 1942 military-issue semiautomatic rifle. “It isn’t my style, but it’s his right,” Makowski says. “I’ve never had a client who is so clearly in the right.”

There’s no law against being a jerk. God bless America.

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Alabama Stuck With Crack-Head Immigrant Who Was Arrested 35 Times Over 12 Years On Laundry List Of Charges – Can’t Be Deported Because US Government Doesn’t Recognize His Homeland As A Country

April 22, 2012

ALABAMA – He’s a man without a country.

An immigrant in Alabama who has been arrested 35 times in 12 years cannot be extradited because the United States does not recognize his homeland, the Birmingham News reports.

According to the paper, federal authorities have tried to remove convicted felon Sofyan Eldani, 45, but couldn’t send him to his native Palestine because the U.S. does not recognize it as a country. Eldani says he is a native of Palestine, though he carries an Egyptian passport.

Eldani’s arrests include assault, fraudulent checks, criminal mischief, resisting arrests, reckless endangerment, shoplifting, burglary, drug possession, failure to appear, probation violation, possession of a drug paraphernalia and DUI.

He has at least nine convictions, including four felonies, and served six months in an Alabama prison for receiving stolen property. His most recent arrest was for allegedly being found with crack cocaine during a traffic stop, according to the Birmingham News.

For now, Eldani will remain in Alabama and face his most recent drug trafficking charge in state court.

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Leeds Alabama Police Officer Crashed Patrol Car In Single Vehicle 2 AM Interstate Wreck

April 19, 2012

LEEDS, ALABAMA – A Leeds police officer was taken to UAB Hospital early this morning after the patrol car he was driving overturned on Interstate 20 West, according to Chief Byron Jackson.

No other vehicles were involved, Jackson said, and Alabama State Troopers are investigating.

The officer was released from the hospital about three hours after the crash, which happened near mile-marker 142 just before 2 a.m.

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Attention Whore And Nation Of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan Nuts Up And Claims Jesus Was BLACK And A MUSLIM

April 12, 2012

ALABAMA – With a former U.S. Congressman in the audience, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan made his anticipated, controversial appearance Tuesday night at Alabama A&M University. Surrounded by a security detail of dark suits and bow ties, it was Farrakhan’s white suit that commanded the stage.

Speaking to a cheering crowd that filled most of the auditorium, Farrakhan touched on sensitive religious and racial issues while using his infamous vernacular to hammer some astounding points.

The minister began by referring to the national controversy that had been built around his appearance at the university. ”Here in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and even in other parts of the country, they didn’t like outsiders coming to disturb the plantation. So when an outsider came that master thought might upset the plantation mentality, he would threaten the slave and go, ‘don’t you listen to him, he’s a hater.’ Well you just met me! Who taught you to hate your black self? It wasn’t Farrakahn.”

On the topic of religion and race Farrakhan got personal, ”If He made us black – with kinky hair, broad nose, thick lips – if I don’t like me, how could I like the God who created me?”

Paul Gattis, a reporter for The Huntsville Times who was in the audience wrote, “[Farrakhan] also repeatedly said that it is not known if Jesus was a Caucasian, as He is typically portrayed. Farrakhan made the same point about Elijah, the Jewish prophet.”

Farrakhan referenced the Jewish Seder holiday and specifically the Jewish tradition of the Prophet Elijah’s arrival to each doorway on Passover night: “If Elijah was at the door and he was black, you would call 911 and say there’s a n****r at the door, claiming he’s Elijah! Send the police!”

Why would Jewish people be so shocked? “Because you are not trained to accept wisdom from a black person, no matter how wise that black person is” the minister explained, “Jesus was a black man.”

Most astoundingly, Farrakhan made the argument that Jesus was not Christian. “Because Jesus said ‘Not My will, but Thy will.’ You know what we call that in Arabic? Islam. He was a Muslim.”

Farrakhan: Jesus Was a Black Muslim & Elijah Would Be the N***er at the Door

More religious piety was to come. The controversial minister launched into a diatribe on the story of Cain and Abel, with his own additions.

“When Cain came to present his offering before God as a tiller of the ground, the scripture says God did not respect his offering. I don’t believe that. I’d like to offer a correction. Well who are you? I’m better than those who have revised your Bible. I’m better than those who have translated it out of the original tongues and revised it to fit their purpose! What makes you better? Because I am taught of God.”

A large portion of his speech targeted black education and the poor quality of opportunities for blacks in America. Farrakhan pushed the predominantly black audience to have greater achievements and goals in the world, and not be obligated to whites or Jews to find their success.

“White people suffer from the false notion that white skin makes them superior,” Farrakhan said. “And we suffer from the falsehood that the blackness of our skin makes us inferior. So we’re bowing to white supremacy and manifesting black inferiority.”

“Because most of you that have something , you have it because there’s a white person that has befriended you in some way. Am I saying the wrong thing? So they are the controller of the ceiling, and you only go as far as they permit. And in order for you sometimes to crack that ceiling, you have to genuflect, bow.”

Taking in the full message from the front row was the former Republican Congressman Parker Griffith, who represented Alabama’s fifth district in Congress from 2008-2010.

Several area pastors and rabbis rebuked the Alabama A&M administration for allowing the controversial minister to use school facilities to address the student community. Some of the faith-based leaders unsuccessfully asked for university officials to reconsider Farrakhan’s invitation. Administrators distanced themselves from the event, noting that an assortment of student groups, including the A&M Poetry Club and A&M Democrats, were responsible for Farrakhan’s invitation to come speak.

Farrakhan has previously called white people “potential humans who have not fully evolved” and referred to Jewish groups as a “synagogue of Satan.” The Anti-Defamation League also reports that Farrakhan has accused white Republicans of praying for President Obama’s death

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Man Sentenced To 3 Days In Jail By Autauga County Alabama Judge John Bush For Sagging Pants

April 11, 2012

PRATTVILLE, ALABAMA — A Prattville man was given a three-day jail sentence Tuesday for contempt of court after his wardrobe didn’t pass judicial muster.

LaMarcus D. Ramsey, 20, was in Autauga County Circuit Court to enter a plea on a charge of receiving stolen property. Circuit Judge John Bush took exception to the fact that Ramsey’s blue jeans were sagging too low. The three-day stint will be served in the Autauga Metro jail.

“You are in contempt of court because you showed your butt in court,” a visibly irate Bush told Ramsey. “You can spend three days in jail. When you get out you can buy pants that fit, or at least get a belt to hold up your pants so your underwear doesn’t show.”

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Montgomery Alabama Nightclub Hopes To Lure Local Minority Component With “Food Stamp Friday” Party

March 31, 2012


MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – A nightclub in Montgomery, Ala. is raising eyebrows by hosting a “Food Stamp Friday” party on April 6 that seems to glamorize life on the federal government’s food assistance program.

An invitation for the April 6 party obtained by The Daily Caller tells patrons of the Rose Supper Club in North Montgomery that the Friday night cover charge will be just $5 if a “food stamp card” is shown upon arrival.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was designed for Americans living at near-poverty levels.

According to the flashy, postcard-size flier advertising the party, there will be “free shots at the door.” The announcement’s artwork mimics an Electronic Benefit Transfer card, the debit card used by Americans to redeem their SNAP benefits.

Glamorizing federal assistance bothers some who have seen the posters.

“I just don’t understand how they are promoting this without anyone saying anything about it,” Stephanie Pope, a Montgomery resident who has seen the fliers in gas stations, told TheDC.

Orlando Rogers, an employee who answered the telephone at the Rose on Thursday, confirmed that the “Food Stamp Friday” party is taking place at the venue next month.

Rogers said he wasn’t involved in the planning of the party, so he couldn’t comment on the event’s theme.

“It’s just a little party they’re having,” he said.

But another Rose employee had strong feelings about Food Stamp Friday, telling TheDC that he is not comfortable with the theme because it’s disrespectful.

“Now that’s hurting somebody’s feelings,” Richard Thomas told TheDC. “Name this party something else.”

Thomas said he knows of at least three phone calls placed to the venue complaining about the party’s theme. He said a young party promoter chose the name.

“I don’t know what these young people are doing,” he said.

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On-Duty Ider Alabama Police Officer Keith Murphree Arrested, Charged With Domestic Violence

March 20, 2012

IDER, ALABAMA – An Ider police officer was arrested Monday and charged with third-degree domestic violence, according to the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department.

Deputies arrested Charles Keith Murphree while he was on duty Monday, according to the release from Sheriff Jimmy Harris. Murphree, 42, of Henagar, remains in the DeKalb County Jail awaiting bond to be set.

The news release did not give details about the victim of the alleged domestic violence, but said an investigation is underway “to determine the extent and frequency of abuse.”

Depending on the outcome of the investigation, other charges may be filed, the news release said.

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Botched Autopsy By Alabama Department Of Forensic Science Led To Woman Being Jailed For 9 Months On Bogus Capital Murder Charge

March 20, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – Alabama took the first step Tuesday toward paying nearly $119,000 to a church pianist and mother of two who was wrongfully jailed for nine months on a capital murder charge because of a botched autopsy on her newborn son.

The Senate’s General Fund committee unanimously approved the payment Tuesday for Bridget Lee, a 37-year-old from Carrollton in west Alabama.

“I feel blessed they are considering that, but there is no amount of money that will get my life back,” she said in a phone interview.

Alabama law allows the state Legislature to compensate people who are wrongfully incarcerated. The district attorney who initially prosecuted Lee, Chris McCool, said he never would have brought the case against her if he had been provided the correct facts from the beginning. He supports her getting compensated.

“Our job is not just to prosecute and win cases. Our job is to do justice,” he said in an interview.

Lee acknowledges the facts looked bad when she was arrested in November 2006.

The bank bookkeeper and Baptist church pianist had an affair in her small west Alabama town of 1,000, got pregnant and tried to keep it secret. She felt sick on Nov. 6, 2006, went home from work and delivered a premature baby in her bathroom. She panicked, placed the newborn in a plastic container and hid it in her vehicle for several days before a co-worker’s husband notified authorities.

Lee told investigators the baby was born dead, but a state forensic pathologist ruled the child was suffocated.

“I knew something was wrong because I knew I did not suffocate the baby, but I had no way to prove it,” Lee said.

She was indicted for capital murder, which carries the death penalty. She spent nine months in jail and 20 months on home confinement at her parents’ home.

During the ordeal, her husband divorced her and got custody of the children and their possessions.

Then her attorney got an independent expert to review the autopsy. His findings led the Alabama Department of Forensic Science to reopen the case and rule the child was stillborn. The department also reviewed dozens of other autopsies that the forensic pathologist performed during a brief stint with the department, but did not alter any of those.

Lee’s life is partially back in order. She has a full-time data entry job. She’s playing piano again at Aliceville First Baptist Church. And she’s engaged.

But she said she only has visitation with her children, ages 8 and 10, every other weekend. And her life will never be normal again because some people will always question what happened.

“I live in a small town, and it will always be there,” she said.

The payment to Lee is included in an appropriations measure that must be approved by the full Senate and House, and that must be signed by Gov. Robert Bentley.

The committee’s chairman, Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur, said he expects that to happen because the payment has the backing of House and Senate leaders.

The $118,767 payment would amount to about $50,000 annually for the time she faced the capital murder charge.

“I pray and hope it passes because I lost everything. I lost my children and I lost my reputation,” Lee said.

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