Informant/Snitch: Kimberly Alabama Mayor Craig Harris

March 18, 2012

KIMBERLY, ALABAMA - Kimberly Mayor Craig Harris was an undercover informant for the FBI for almost a year, wearing a camera and wire for the agency as it investigated illegal gambling operations in his city, the mayor confirmed today.

Federal court documents filed last week outline some of the mayor’s cooperation with the FBI, which started in late 2010 after Harris was contacted by a community member and offered a bribe to help protect the Kimberly gambling interests of several individuals.

Harris said he immediately contacted the Alabama Attorney General’s office about the bribe, which informed the FBI.

“I initiated the investigation,” Harris said.

The results of that ongoing investigation are just now unfolding, Harris said.

Last week, a plea agreement was filed between the federal government and Morris resident Daniel “Boone” Stone, one of nine co-conspirators mentioned in court documents. That agreement, signed by Stone, was filed in the United States District Court in Birmingham.

The agreement states that Stone will cooperate with the federal government and plead guilty to conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and operating an illegal gambling business, according to court documents. In exchange, the federal government agrees to a sentencing range of six to 12 months imprisonment and fines ranging between $2,000 to $20,000. The court must approve the agreement. The other nine co-conspirators remain unnamed in court documents, although one was referred to as Stone’s father.

News attempts to reach an attorney representing Daniel Stone, Scott Morro, were unsuccessful today.

As the investigation continues, Harris said he is prepared to testify in court as many times as needed by the federal government.

The mayor said he worked as an undercover informant from late 2010 until November 2011. During that time, from about December 2010 until April 2011, Harris said he was given about $125 a week for each gaming facility operated by the co-conspirators in Kimberly. After each payment, Harris said he immediately turned the money over to the FBI to be used as evidence.

The federal government confirms in court documents that Harris was cooperating with agents the entire time of the investigation.

In exchange for taking the money, Harris said he was expected to keep the Kimberly Police Department from investigating those gambling businesses and to alert the co-conspirators if he heard about a possible raid or investigation.

The total amount of money paid to Harris was not listed in court documents. Harris said he did not want to give any details that might harm the investigation, but he said the total amount reached several thousand dollars.

Harris said today that he is relieved that his involvement with the investigation is now public.

Rumors have recently swirled around Kimberly that Harris was involved in a federal investigation, the mayor said. But some of the rumors implied that he was the one being investigated, Harris said.

“There were things being said around town and it got to the (city) council,” Harris said. “I could tell them that yes, there is something going on. But I couldn’t tell them what. I wasn’t going to jeopardize a year and a half investigation. I just wasn’t going to do that.”

Harris said his relationship with the co-conspirators prior to the investigation ranged from vague acquaintances to “fairly friendly.” He said he was familiar with Daniel Stone through Stone’s part-ownership in an IGA grocery store that was located in Kimberly before it closed.

“There were a couple that I would consider not best friends, but more than acquaintances,” Harris said. “If I saw them out in a restaurant, I may go have a drink with them.”

An arraignment for Stone is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Thursday in U.S. District Court. Court documents show that the investigation goes beyond the city limits of Kimberly and includes other surrounding areas in north Jefferson County.

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FBI Pissing Away Tax Dollars Investigating Auburn Alabama Basketball Player

March 9, 2012

AUBURN, ALABAMA - Federal authorities are investigating suspended Auburn point guard Varez Ward for alleged point shaving involving at least two games this season, Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday.

The report, citing anonymous sources, said the FBI began an investigation in late February, centering on losses to Alabama on Feb. 7 and Arkansas on Jan. 25.

Ward has confided that he spoke with federal authorities and denied the allegations, according to a source familiar with Ward’s side of the story, al.com reported.

Ward also said federal investigators confiscated his phone under court order and had him take a lie-dectector test, the source said, according to the report.

NCAA officials said they are “very concerned” by the allegations and have been in contact with the school and federal investigators since the issue arose last month.

“The NCAA takes any allegation of point shaving very seriously because sports wagering threatens two of our core principles — the well-being of student-athletes and the very integrity of intercollegiate sport,” the NCAA said in a written statement Thursday. “As allegations of point shaving, if proven, are also potential federal crimes, the NCAA will defer action until any process with the FBI has concluded.”

Ward and guard Chris Denson were both suspended before a Feb. 25 game against Arkansas, but Denson returned for the next game. Denson was questioned and cleared of involvement in point shaving, the Yahoo! Sports report said.

“Auburn officials were made aware of a rumor regarding an allegation two weeks ago and immediately reported it to the FBI, the NCAA and the SEC,” Auburn said in a statement Thursday. “Because of the nature of the allegation, Auburn is not in a position to make any further comment on the situation.”

The report said a player reported concerns to an assistant coach in late February.

Auburn coach Tony Barbee has said only that Ward and Denson violated team rules. He declined to specifically address any allegations after Thursday night’s loss to Mississippi in the opening round of the SEC tournament.

“Obviously our university released a statement which I totally support and stand behind, and obviously because of the nature of the allegations and the story, and because of the statement, I won’t be able to elaborate or answer any questions or make any further comment,” Barbee said.

Ward didn’t play in the final three games of the regular season or travel with the team to New Orleans for the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Denson played 32 minutes and scored 11 points Thursday in Auburn’s 68-54 loss to Mississippi, but declined to speak with reporters after the game. His teammates also deferred comments to their coach.

Yahoo! Sports reported that other Auburn players were questioned about whether Ward tried to get them to participate in the alleged point shaving.

Ward, a Texas transfer, has averaged 9 points a game and leads the Tigers in assists.

Ward scored three points and had six turnovers in the 68-50 loss to Alabama, playing 17 minutes. Vegas Insider said Alabama was favored by five points.

In the 56-53 loss to Arkansas, Ward played only 19 seconds before crumpling to the floor with an injury. Barbee later said Ward took a knee to his right leg, which he injured while a sophomore at Texas.

Auburn still covered the 9½-point spread.

Between those two games, Ward had his hottest streak of the season. He scored 53 points in the three-game stretch, including 24 against Mississippi State.

The directors of three sports books in Las Vegas said they have not been contacted by the FBI in connection with the probe, according to al.com.

“We haven’t heard from them about any Vegas action,” one sports book director said on condition of anonymity, according to the report. “If there is something wrong, if something happens here, they’d absolutely be involved. There’s been nothing at this time.”

Ward has not commented publicly since his suspension. He has not responded to requests for comment through his email and Facebook accounts, al.com reported.

His last Twitter post was on Feb. 24 when he tweeted, “Can’t win for losing smh” (shaking my head). It was the last in a series of posts that day, the first saying that his knee was “hurting bad.”

Ward, who is from Montgomery, was injured at Texas when he ruptured his quadriceps tendon on a dunk during pregame warm-ups. He sat out last season under transfer rules and has two years of eligibility remaining.

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Millions Wasted On Shoddy FBI Investigation, Prosecution, And 2 Federal Jury Trials – Casino Owner, State Lawmakers, And Others Not Guilty Of Laundry List Of Bogus Charges

March 7, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA — A jury Wednesday acquitted a casino owner, three state lawmakers and two other defendants on all counts in a high-profile federal case that alleged cash offers for votes to legalize gambling in the state.

The jury returned its verdict after seven days of deliberations in the trial for VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor, state Sen. Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb, former Sens. Larry Means of Attalla and Jim Preuitt of Talladega, VictoryLand lobbyist Tom Coker, and Country Crossing casino spokesman Jay Walker.

McGregor was accused of offering large campaign contributions to legislators for their votes for gambling legislation. State Sen. Harri Anne Smith and former Sens. Larry Means and Jim Preuitt were accused of agreeing to accept bribes in return for their votes.

The jury found McGregor and the others innocent of all counts, including conspiracy and bribery.

The case was the latest in a series of government corruption investigations in Alabama, including the conviction of former Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy on bribery charges in 2006 and a probe of Alabama’s two-year college system that brought down three legislators and the system’s former chancellor in 2008.

The federal investigation of vote buying began with three Republican legislators telling the FBI they were offered campaign contributions if they would support legislation designed to let electronic bingo games operate in Alabama. The three used recording devices to tape calls and meetings and the FBI tapped phones during a yearlong probe that coincided with Republican Gov. Bob Riley creating a task force to shut down electronic bingo. Riley contended the machines, featuring flashing lights and sound effects, were illegal slot machines and not simply an electronic version of paper bingo.

Riley’s task force seized machines and won court battles while casino operators failed in 2009 and in 2010 to pass protective legislation.

Federal prosecutors said behind the scenes, two casino operators and their lobbyists were offering millions in campaign contributions, benefit concerts by country music entertainers, free polling and other incentives for votes.

Ronnie Gilley, the developer of Country Crossing casino in Dothan, and two of his lobbyists, Jennifer Pouncy and Jarrod Massey, pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Former state Rep. Terry Spicer of Elba also pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Massey and Gilley. All four helped the prosecution and are scheduled for sentencing in April.

Prosecutors said Gilley provided Smith with $200,000 in campaign money, plus a fund-raising concert by John Anderson and Lorrie Morgan. They accused Gilley and McGregor of promising Means $100,000 for his vote. They accused Gilley, McGregor and Walker of promising Preuitt $2 million in contributions, a fund-raising concert by country music starts and other campaign support.

Defense attorneys argued the case was based on lies told by the guilty in hopes of getting lighter punishment.

All three indicted senators voted for the gambling legislation when it passed the Senate on March 30, 2010. The FBI announced its investigation two days later, and the bill died in the House without coming to a vote.

McGregor’s casino, 15 miles east of Montgomery, was once the state’s largest with 6,000 machines, but it has been closed since the crackdown in 2010. Other casinos, including one in Dothan operated by Gilley’s former partners, are operating.

The trial was the second for the defendants. The first ended in August with no convictions, two defendants acquitted, and the jury unable to resolve all charges against the remaining defendants.

One thing that was never in dispute in the trial was the profitability of electronic bingo. McGregor’s attorneys acknowledged his casino in Shorter made $40 million in 2009 when it was operating all year and lost $4 million in 2010 when it was closed most of the year.

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Gulf Shores Alabama Police Empoyee Barry Martin Arrested After Stealing Guns, Drugs, And Electronics From Evidence Room

January 31, 2012

GULF SHORES, Alabama — A 58-year-old civilian employee of the Gulf Shores Police Department has been arrested for allegedly stealing guns, electronics and prescription drugs from the agency’s evidence room, law enforcement officials said today.

Barry Martin of Gulf Shores remained in the Baldwin County Corrections Center, charged with one count of second-degree theft of property and one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, according to Gulf Shores police Chief Ed Delmore.

Martin has been placed on administrative leave and termination proceedings are in progress, according to Lt. Bill Cowan, Gulf Shores police spokesman.

“We’re not talking about a number of employees,” Delmore said. “This is one employee who did something very egregious. And someone who we were completely surprised by. This is a real kick in the teeth to us. But it should not reflect on the entire agency filled with dedicated professionals.”

Martin has been employed with the Police Department since 1999 as a detention officer and in July 2010 was also made the custodian of the evidence room. In a joint investigation by Gulf Shores police, the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office, Martin was arrested five days after the local police were notified of the potential discrepancies in the evidence room, according to Delmore.

About 100 or fewer cases could be affected by the thefts, and the District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the files and cases to compare items to what was seized, according to District Attorney Hallie Dixon. “We’re starting with the drug cases. There are 11 Gulf Shores drug cases pending and all have been indicted. We have additional cases pending” that have not been indicted.

Maj. Anthony Lowery of the Sheriff’s Office said the case does not involve the drug task force cases since those are handled through the Sheriff’s Office in Robertsdale.

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Tuscaloosa Alabama Police Officer Robert Ashley Fourt Arrested, Suspended, And Charged With Domestic Violence And Criminal Mischief

January 26, 2012

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — A Tuscaloosa police officer has been placed on administrative leave after being arrested in a Tuesday night incident.

According to police, Robert Ashley Fourt, 54, of Tuscaloosa was arrested by investigators for domestic violence and third-degree criminal mischief.

Fourt is a sergeant in the patrol division of the Tuscaloosa Police Department, where he has been employed since 2003, Tuscaloosa police spokesman Sgt. Brent Blankley said. Blankley said Fourt was placed on administrative leave after his arrest.

Officers responded to a residence in the 4600 block of Woodland Hills Drive Tuesday at 6 p.m. on a domestic call.

“The victim told officers that the suspect was highly intoxicated and destroying items inside the residence,” Blankley said.

Fourt was taken into custody without incident by officers. A small fire that police said was set by Fourt in the residence’s garage was put out by the Tuscaloosa Fire Department.

Blankley said the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit was contacted to investigate the incident because Fourt was a Tuscaloosa police officer. No TPD investigators were called to the scene, Blankley said.

Fourt was taken to DCH Regional Medical Center to be treated for a cut to his head. He was booked into the Tuscaloosa County Jail Thursday.

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Alabama Postal Worker Went Postal In Montgomery Post Officer – Two Guns

December 2, 2011

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA- A 29-year-old postal employee was charged with two counts of attempted murder Friday after authorities said he used two guns to fire shots inside the main post office in Alabama’s capital city.

No one was injured in the shootings Thursday night. Officials weren’t disclosing a motive or whether the employee was targeting any specific employee.

Officials said the employee, Arthur Lee Darby Jr., was in the Montgomery County Jail with bond set at $1 million.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Clark Morris, said the man showed up for work in the mail sorting area and began firing shots about 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Witnesses said a supervisor yelled that a man had a gun, and employees scurried outside.

Police took the man into custody within 10 minutes of getting a 911 call from the post office.

Police Chief Kevin Murphy said many officers were able to respond quickly because they were on holiday patrols at a nearby mall and shopping centers and many had special training on how to handle such incidents.

“The best news is that nobody was hurt and the local police responded quickly,” Postal Service spokesman Tony Robinson said Friday. “Management quickly had the building evacuated, which helped minimize the potential threat to the people.”

The post office, located on the city’s east side one block away from Auburn University Montgomery, reopened Friday morning with counselors available to talk to employees, Robinson said.

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Alabama State Police Trooper James Heath Moss Indicted After 120 MPH Wreck In Patrol Car That Killed Innocent Couple

November 21, 2011

ATHENS, ALABAMA – An Alabama state trooper has been formally charged with two counts of criminally negligent homicide in connection with a wreck that killed an Athens couple in April.

A Limestone County grand jury last week indicted James Heath Moss, 30, of Athens. Moss turned himself in on the indictment warrants Sunday, then immediately posted a $10,000 bail.

The trooper was heading to another accident to provide traffic control on the morning of April 25 when he rear-ended the Mitsubishi Mirage in which Jamie Lee Gossett, 31, and his wife, Sarah Rene Gossett, 38, were riding. Their vehicle was pushed into a field and caught fire. They had been on their way to Tanner High School to pickup their daughters when the accident occurred.

Moss was driving at speeds of up to 120 mph in the seconds before the crash, based on information from the car’s information module, said attorney Derek Simpson of the Huntsville law firm Warren & Simpson, who has filed a civil suit on behalf of the administrator of the Jamie Gossett estate.

Moss had continued to work in the office of the state trooper post in Decatur in the months following the accident.

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Tuscaloosa County Alabama Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Althea Mallisham Pleads Guilty After Taser Weapon Attacks On Inmates

November 16, 2011

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – A former Tuscaloosa County sheriff’s sergeant pleaded guilty today to federal charges that she wrongfully used a taser as punishment on prisoners on three separate occasions in 2008.

Althea Mallisham, 52, pleaded guilty to three counts of deprivation of rights under color of law during a hearing today before U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Hopkins. Hopkins has set Mallisham’s sentencing hearing for March 15.

Mallisham admitted in a plea agreement also filed today in the case that she used an X26 Taser to electro-shock three different prisoners who were either in handcuffs or locked in a cell and did not pose a threat to her.

“This correction officer deliberately inflicted significant pain on those entrusted to her care for no legitimate law enforcement purpose,” Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, said in a news release from the U.S. Justice Department.

Mallisham faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, for each count.

“It’s a sad situation that resulted in her having to enter a plea of guilty to the indictment,” her attorney, Tommy Spina, said after the hearing. “She has accepted responsibility for her actions and is prepared to face the consequences that the judge sees fit to impose.”

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Department Of Homeland Security Not Helping Alabama Enforce Immigration Law

October 27, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The government hasn’t offered to help Alabama put in place a strict immigration law that the Obama administration is challenging in court, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.

The administration has sued to block the law, which is considered the toughest state immigration measure in the country.

“We have been working with the Department of Justice in its challenge to that law,” Napolitano told the House Judiciary Committee.

A federal appeals court in Atlanta this month temporarily blocked a part of the law that required public schools to check the immigration status of students. But the court did not bar law enforcement officials from detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally.

A final ruling in the case is not expected for several months.

Alabama Republicans have argued that the law, passed this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Robert Bentley, was necessary to protect the jobs of legal residents.

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said he’s not surprised by Napolitano’s comments.

“I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that the federal government won’t help us enforce our laws considering it hasn’t been enforcing its own law for years. That’s why we’re in this mess to begin with. In Alabama, we’re trying to turn off the magnet drawing illegal aliens across the border. The Obama Administration is trying to make the magnet stronger,” said Hubbard.

The Obama administration, which also is challenging a similar law in Arizona, has argued that enforcing immigration law is a federal responsibility.

Advocates against the strict state law have argued that giving immigration enforcement power to local authorities will lead to racial profiling of immigrants, both legal and illegal.

“Common sense law enforcement is about prioritizing resources,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “The Department of Homeland Security should work with the Department of Justice to hold Alabama accountable, and prioritize valuable enforcement resources carefully to make sure the most dangerous individuals are detained and deported.”

Napolitano said that while it is too soon to know what impact the new law will have, such worries “should be a real a real concern.”

Similar laws have been passed in Utah, Georgia, South Carolina and Indiana. Civil rights groups have sued to block them.

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Innocent Man Released After 4 1/2 Years Of Life Sentence In Alabama State Prison

October 24, 2011

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Antonio Williams walked out of prison this summer with a proclamation of innocence.

He had not, a judge ruled, raped a little girl, a crime for which he had served four years, six months and 26 days in prison.

Williams walked out of prison with that proclamation, with the feeling of redemption it brought.

But he walked into the world without much else. The family he left behind was broken, the jobs he could perform had disappeared.

The life he knew was gone.

“You cannot give back five years of my life for something I didn’t do,” Williams said. “Right now, I want justice.”

Williams, 43, says he is able to forgive. But as he tries to restart his life, he cannot promise to forget.

He can’t forget the time he spent in prison, nor the stigma of being convicted — even wrongly — of child rape.

He can’t forget that it’s been almost six years since he has seen or talked to his own little girl, who now is almost a teenager.

And he can’t forget the system that found a way to convict him in the first place.

“I haven’t got no sorry or thank you from these folks.” he said.

‘Tried to be fair’

Williams grew up in Birmingham, according to court documents. He attended Wenonah High School and graduated there in 1986.

After graduation, Williams worked a variety of jobs including as a cook at Burger King and McDonald’s, and a dietary assistant at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

In 2000, he became a father. The relationship with the little girl’s mother had ended before Williams knew she was pregnant.

“I wasn’t denying her,” Williams said of his infant daughter. “She was the spitting image of me.”

The mother told him about the baby, but later tried to claim it wasn’t his.

A paternity test proved otherwise, and he vowed to stay in his daughter’s life, despite the mother’s objections.

Williams spent time with his daughter at her grandfather’s house where she lived. Her mother had four children, and all lived with her father who had custody of them.

Williams said the other girls would get upset if he paid attention only to his daughter, so he did for all what he did for his. “I tried to be fair,” he said.

That included giving the girls baths, a fatherly task that would come back to haunt him.

In 2005, Williams learned that he was accused of rape and sexual abuse of his daughter’s 9-year-old half sister, one of the girls he had helped to bathe and take care of.

The allegations surfaced in interviews at the Prescott House after it was discovered that the little girl had sexually transmitted diseases.

“She said I touched her on her private parts, three times,” Williams said. “She said that I told her if she told everybody what I did, I would kill her.”

The girl’s father was trying to get custody of her. Williams was trying to get custody of his own daughter.

Someone, Williams said, concocted lies to stop that from happening. Lies that wouldn’t go away.

“I was mad as hell,” Williams said. “They were playing with an innocent man’s life.”

Williams was arrested on April 27, 2005, after being indicted by a grand jury.

“I didn’t think it would go that far,” Williams said. “The detective had told me I had nothing to worry about, that a grand jury would never indict me.”

Prosecutors claimed that Williams had sexual intercourse with the alleged victim, and improperly touched her, several times when the girl was between the ages of 3 and 6.

A year later, Williams said he went to trial before an all-white jury, where various family members of the girl — relatives both by blood and by marriage — testified. There were no eyewitnesses, and no physical evidence, such as DNA. Just the word of an abused little girl mired in a dysfunctional family.

A jury on April 5, 2007, unanimously convicted Williams of two counts of rape.

“I cried,” Williams said. “I never was, and never will, be a child rapist.”

Williams waited for jurors outside of the courthouse. He screamed at them as they left, something former Circuit Court Judge Gloria Bahakel noted in Williams’ sentencing hearing three weeks later.

Williams’ pastor, the Rev. Thomas Moon who has since retired from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Titusville, pleaded with the judge not to hold that against Williams. Williams was a member of the church before his arrest, and was in the choir.

“When I went through instruction classes with him, I was aware of the temper problems in the past,” Moon told Judge Bahakel. “I have counseled him on being more respectful of the process and not letting his personal emotions burst out. He has a very strong feeling that he is innocent in this matter.”

At the May 2007 hearing, Bahakel asked Williams if he had anything to say.

“Nothing I can say,” a weary Williams said. “I am still not guilty.”

Prosecutor Jim Neill argued for the maximum sentence.

“This man raped and sexually abused not just once or twice, but several times, according to evidence, a 5 to 6-year-old girl. He deserves the maximum penalty in this case.”

Bahakel sentenced Williams to life in prison. His only previous convictions were for driving without a license, and third-degree trespassing. He was also ordered to enter the prison’s sex offender program.

“I thought it was unbelievably harsh,” Moon said.

Williams went to prison on May 18, 2007.

Prison is not an easy place for convicted child rapists, but Williams said he kept a low profile. Prison records show no infractions, and Williams said he dodged questions from fellow inmates about why he was in prison.

“It was real scary,” he said. “I was nervous at first, but after that I got the hang of it. It taught me a lot.”

Williams repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, and filed appeals to that end, but no one other than his close circle of friends believed him.

That changed in April of this year when the alleged victim, now 15, changed her story.

Drastically.

Problems with the case

On April 14, 2011, the girl was interviewed again at the Prescott House on an unrelated issue. It was then that she admitted Williams had never abused or raped her. In fact, she named someone else as the rapist, and her older half-sister corroborated that with tales of her own abuse.

Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls said his office moved quickly to correct the wrong.

“The victim lied, and she maintained that lie through the investigation and trial,” Falls said. “As soon as we knew that, we contacted the defense attorney and the judge.”

Williams was appointed an attorney and a hearing was set before Circuit Judge Stephen Wallace.

Wallace, in a ruling issued in May 2011, outlined problems with the initial case: From the outset, the alleged victim was reluctant and gave contradictory testimony.

“She merely indicated that the defendant had touched her while giving her a bath. She did not say it was inappropriate,” Wallace wrote. “She was unable to discuss or recall the allegations that she made to the social worker at the Prescott House, even denying at one point that she had made any allegations against defendant. Only in her testimony, and only after being prompted, did she fully implicate Williams.”

In this year’s hearing, the girl was asked repeatedly if he had ever touched her inappropriately or raped her. Each time she categorically denied it. She named the person who raped her and said he threatened her with harm if she ever told, which is why, she said, she wrongly named Williams the culprit.

“The court took exhaustive measures to examine and re-examine,” Wallace wrote. “She was asked every conceivable way whether any touching or abuse occurred, and she repeatedly and unequivocally denied that any such contact or rape ever took place.”

The judge’s order also noted that the girl told her stepmother after trial that she had not been sexually abused or raped by the defendant, but the stepmother never relayed that to authorities. Also, the victim’s half sister testified that she had been similarly abused by the person the victim is now claiming abused her.

Wallace called some of the testimony admitted into the original trial “appalling.”

He also lashed out at William’s original defense attorney, saying he had never requested to look at the victim’s 2003 interview at the Prescott House. “If he had, he would have discovered that she gave no disclosure that anyone had touched her, let alone Williams,” Wallace wrote.

In his findings, Wallace said based on the newly discovered evidence and testimony, “there is a great likelihood that had this information been known, the defendant would not have been convicted.”

There was evidence the alleged victim had had sexual contact, primarily by contracting an STD at age 6, and the judge said he is convinced she was raped by one person, or multiple people.

“The court is hopeful the true perpetrator will be brought to justice,” Wallace wrote. “Regardless, it is the court’s duty to correct the injustice committed here.”

Wallace set aside and reversed the convictions, and ordered a new trial.

Falls said he can’t recall a time in his 14 years at the district attorney’s office that a conviction was secured only to find out the victim was lying.

“I’m not sure there’s anything I can say to rectify the situation. This is a rare circumstance, and it is what everyone in this office works to prevent,” Falls said. “Our job is not to just prosecute, but to honestly seek the truth in every case. We have to rely on witnesses to prosecute those cases. This is a terrible situation where that reliance was betrayed.”

Prosecutors declined to go forward with a new trial against Williams. The person now being named as the suspect has not been charged. “We would have to make sure we had extensive corroborating, independent evidence,” besides the girl’s testimony, Falls said.

Starting over

Williams walked out of the Jefferson County Jail at 6:23 p.m. on Aug. 23.

“First of all, I said, ‘Thank God I am free,’” Williams said.

Wearing his only pair of jeans, a T-shirt and boots, Williams carried with him a partial transcript of his case, and nothing else.

He walked the several miles to the Cotton Avenue apartment of one of his best friends, where he had his first home-cooked meal in years and the support of his good friend Andre Savannah.

“I believe he was done wrong. He lost five years of his life for something he didn’t do,” Savannah said. “It was dirty, and it was wrong.”

Williams came back to virtually nothing.

His apartment, and all of his furnishings, were gone. His daughter’s aunt had kept for him one suitcase of his belongings, such as photos of Williams and his daughter, and his high school diploma.

He recently moved into his own apartment near his best friend, but the efficiency unit is all but empty. He was diagnosed with a learning disability as a child, so he gets a disability check and use it to pay for his apartment. He has a few items of clothing, a pallet on the floor, and a phone with an answering machine. There is no furniture, and no food in the refrigerator which, two weeks after moving in, was still unplugged.

The only decor is a 4 x 6 plaque on the wall that he received from his church before his arrest and conviction. “It was for me being a role model,” he said proudly.

“I don’t like starting over like this,” he said. “It’s very hard.”

In fact, he and his friends aren’t sure where to even start.

“You have to wonder what does a guy do that has been in jail for all these years,” the pastor said. “For him to get back on his feet in this type of economy, with his skill level, is going to be a tough road to go.”

Moon is trying to help guide Williams in this transition.

“I am trying to do what I can to help him out. The state of Alabama just let him out and sent him home, with nothing,” he said. “I would not want to be in his shoes right now. It is an overwhelming task for anyone.”

Though Williams wrote his daughter from prison, he never heard back from her. He has no way of knowing if she ever got his letters. He has not seen her since 2005, when she was 6.

He hasn’t yet tried to see her, he said, because he is afraid of angering her family.

“The hurting part is not seeing my child. It’s very hard,” Williams said. “It’s like a child crying at night, that’s how hard it is.”

“And,” he said, “I don’t know how she’s going to react to me when she sees me.”

“He has every right to see her,” Moon said.

“And is there any way for him to be compensated for the time he was wrongly incarcerated?” Moon said. “Where can he find work? What options does he have? Are they going to ask him where he has been for the past four years? Employers don’t want to mess with that.”

Williams said he has talked to six lawyers since his release, but none would help him. He thinks he finally has found one interested in taking him on as a client.

He wants justice, he said, whatever that may be.

“This part of my life is always going to be forever damaged, and that’s something I’ll never get over,” he said. “Only God knows how frustrated and angry I am.”

He wants his name publicly cleared.

“I ain’t no child molester,” he said. “I don’t just believe in God and his son Jesus Christ, I live it.”

Still, he said he is ready to move forward, somehow.

“I am going to live my life. I am going to get back on my feet,” Williams said. “It’s not by the grace of man, it’s by the grace of God. He done blessed me once; he’s going to bless me again.”

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Former Bayou La Batre Police Officer Sgt. Jason Edwards Arrested On Theft Charge

October 7, 2011

MOBILE COUNTY, ALABAMA – Mobile County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a former Bayou La Batre Police sergeant this morning, accused of stealing $2,600 from the department.

A Mobile grand jury indicted Jason Edwards on a charge of first-degree theft of property. He was released on $20,000 bail.

Edwards, who acted as a spokesman for the department for many years, resigned May 5 without notice.

“I understand that this resignation will not be accepted in good standings and furthermore agree that I will not seek employment with the police department in the future,” he said in his letter of resignation, a copy of which was obtained by the Press-Register.

It’s likely that the charge stems from a May inquiry by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation into money that had been seized but later went missing.

Mayor Stan Wright said at the time that he would do everything in his power to see the culprit “prosecuted to the fullest.”

Wright now faces his own legal troubles, accused of defrauding the federal government after Hurricane Katrina. He has denied wrongdoing.

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Hispanic Students Disappear From Alabama Schools After Federal Judge Upholds Majority Of New Immigration Laws

October 2, 2011

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – Hispanic students have started vanishing from Alabama public schools in the wake of a court ruling that upheld the state’s tough new law cracking down on illegal immigration.

Education officials say scores of immigrant families have withdrawn their children from classes or kept them home this week, afraid that sending the kids to school would draw attention from authorities.

There are no precise statewide numbers. But several districts with large immigrant enrollments — from small towns to large urban districts — reported a sudden exodus of children of Hispanic parents, some of whom told officials they planned to leave the state to avoid trouble with the law, which requires schools to check students’ immigration status.

The anxiety has become so intense that the superintendent in one of the state’s largest cities, Huntsville, went on a Spanish-language television show Thursday to try to calm widespread worries.

“In the case of this law, our students do not have anything to fear,” Casey Wardynski said in halting Spanish. He urged families to send students to class and explained that the state is only trying to compile statistics.

Police, he insisted, were not getting involved in schools.

Victor Palafox graduated from a high school in suburban Birmingham last year and has lived in the United States without documentation since age 6, when his parents brought him and his brother here from Mexico.

“Younger students are watching their lives taken from their hands,” said Palafox, whose family is staying put.

In Montgomery County, more than 200 Hispanic students were absent the morning after the judge’s Wednesday ruling. A handful withdrew.

In tiny Albertville, 35 students withdrew in one day. And about 20 students in Shelby County, in suburban Birmingham, either withdrew or told teachers they were leaving.

Local and state officials are pleading with immigrant families to keep their children enrolled. The law does not ban anyone from school, they say, and neither students nor parents will be arrested for trying to get an education.

But many Spanish-speaking families aren’t waiting around to see what happens.

A school worker in Albertville — a community with a large poultry industry that employs many Hispanic workers — said Friday that many families might leave town over the weekend for other states. About 22 percent of the community’s 4,200 students are Hispanic.

“I met a Hispanic mother in the hallway at our community learning center this morning, where enrollment and withdrawal happens. She looked at me with tears in her eyes. I asked, `Are you leaving?’ She said `Yes,’ and hugged me, crying,” said the worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not an authorized spokeswoman.

In Russellville, which has one of the largest immigrant populations in the state because of its poultry plants, overall school attendance was down more than 2 percent after the ruling, and the rate was higher among Hispanic students.

There’s “no firm data yet, but several students have related to their teachers that they may be moving soon,” said George Harper, who works in the central office.

Schools in Baldwin County, a heavily agricultural and tourist area near the Gulf Coast, and in Decatur in the Tennessee Valley also reported sudden decreases in Hispanic attendance.

The law does not require proof of citizenship to enroll, and it does not apply to any students who were enrolled before Sept. 1. While most students are not affected, school systems are supposed to begin checking the status of first-time enrollees now.

The Obama administration filed court documents Friday announcing its plans to appeal the ruling that upheld the law.

The state has distributed to schools sample letters that can be sent to parents of new students informing them of the law’s requirements for either citizenship documents or sworn statements by parents.

In an attempt to ease suspicions that the law may lead to arrests, the letter tells parents immigration information will be used only to gather statistics.

“Rest assured,” the letter states, “that it will not be a problem if you are unable or unwilling to provide either of the documents.”

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Federal Judge Upholds Majority Of New Alabama Immigration Laws Targeting Wetbacks

September 28, 2011

ALABAMA – A federal judge on Wednesday said Alabama law enforcement officers can try to check the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally, but blocked other parts of the state’s new crackdown law, which is considered the toughest in the country.

Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn generally let stand the parts of the law that allow the state to enforce its own penalties if they match already existing federal laws, such as being in the country illegally. She also upheld a provision requiring schools to determine if students are in the United States legally.

“Nothing in the text of [federal immigration law] expressly preempts states from legislating on the issue of verification of an individual’s citizenship and immigration status,” she wrote. “There is also nothing in the [law] which reflects congressional intent that the United States occupy the field as it pertains to the identification of persons unlawfully present in the United States.”

But the judge did block parts of Alabama’s law that she said go beyond federal code, such as the provision that makes it a state crime for an illegal immigrant to apply for or solicit work, or for someone to transport an illegal immigrant.

The Obama administration had asked the court to block 10 provisions in the law, but the judge agreed to halt just four. The other six she allowed to go into effect while a full trial proceeds.
People gather in front of the Alabama State Capitol for a rally against Alabama’s HB56 on Aug. 28, 2011, in Montgomery, Ala. (Associated Press)People gather in front of the Alabama State Capitol for a rally against Alabama’s HB56 on Aug. 28, 2011, in Montgomery, Ala. (Associated Press)

It marks a major victory for Alabama, which passed the law during its legislative session earlier this year.

Late last month Judge Blackburn had halted the entire law, saying she needed more time to consider the complex arguments and study the issue. But she had promised a ruling by the end of this month.

In upholding enforcement parts of the law, she reached a different conclusion from the one that both federal district and appeals courts reached on Arizona’s similar law.

But in her 115-page opinion Wednesday, Judge Blackburn said as long as state laws or regulations aren’t inconsistent with the intent of Congress, they are allowed.

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Huntsville Alabama A&M University Police Officer Jennifer Faye Atkinson Arrested On Drug Charges

September 2, 2011

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — An Alabama A&M University police officer has been arrested on drug charges, Huntsville police said.

According to police, Jennifer Faye Atkinson was arrested Thursday and charged with unlawful distribution of a controlled substance.

Police said more details cannot be released that may hinder the investigation or subsequent prosecution. The Alabama A&M police department is working with Huntsville police on the investigation.

Atkinson was booked into in the Madison County Metro Jail on a $2,500 bond.

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Wetback Commits Murder, Pleads Guilty, Sues State Of Alabama In Class Action Suit

August 24, 2011

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA - An illegal immigrant who pleaded guilty to murder is suing Alabama officials, claiming the defense he received at taxpayer expense was inadequate.

The federal lawsuit has some of the defendants scratching their heads.

“There seems to be something wrong when an illegal immigrant can file something with the judicial system when he was illegal to begin with,” Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver said in Dothan.

Cenobio Sanchez is the lead plaintiff in what he hopes will become a class-action lawsuit on behalf of indigent defendants who have had court-appointed attorneys in Houston County. His attorney, Stephen Etheredge, said the case could have statewide impact because several counties are looking at adopting Houston County’s system of indigent defense.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages, but Etheredge said the real aim is to get a better system in place for representing poor people who can’t afford a lawyer.

In Houston County, two attorneys are on contract to handle indigent defense cases for each circuit judge.

Sanchez, 42, of Gordon was charged in 2007 with the stabbing death of his roommate during an argument over the volume of a radio. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to murder and possession of a fake Social Security card and a fake federal work permit. He was sentenced to 40 years for the murder and an additional five years for possession of the forged instruments.

He is suing the governor, the administrator of the state court system, and several Houston County officials. A second plaintiff, Tina Mikel of Cowarts, is also listed in the suit. She pleaded guilty to a drug charge. They are seeking to be representatives in a class-action lawsuit.

Sanchez argues that his defense was inadequate because his court-appointed attorney had a private law practice in addition to her county work and was handling 329 felony cases in 2008, plus 53 non-felony cases. He says that far exceeds the levels recommended by legal groups. He complains that his attorney lacked time to meet with him and investigate his case before trial. He says Houston County’s system forces people to plead guilty because they know their attorneys will be poorly prepared if they go to trial.

His court-appointed attorney in the murder case, Valerie Judah, said Sanchez wanted to plead guilty because he thought the judge would order him returned to Mexico rather than sentence him to an Alabama prison.

Judah said she and other contract attorneys in Houston County have heavy caseloads. “But we have good win-lose ratios,” she said in a phone interview Monday.

After pleading guilty, Sanchez went back to court in Houston County, contending that he lacked adequate legal representation when he entered the plea, but a Houston County judge rejected his argument. Sanchez is appealing .He is currently confined at the Easterling Correctional Facility in Clio, about 30 miles north of Dothan.

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Trial To Begin For Russell County Alabama Deputy Sheriff Tim Watford – Charged After He And Deputy Kirby Dollar Beat Handcuffed Man

August 22, 2011

PHENIX CITY, ALABAMA – The trial of a former Russell County Sheriff’s deputy accused of beating a handcuffed man will begin on Monday in Opelika, a little more than a week after his co-defendant accepted a plea deal.

Former deputies Tim Watford and Kirby Dollar, who accepted a plea deal last week, were indicted earlier this year for violating Patrick C. Harrington’s civil rights by beating him as he lay on the ground in handcuffs on Nov. 26, 2010, in Smiths Station.

Dollar and Watford were charged with one count each of deprivation of rights under the color of the law and aiding and abetting.

The prosecution claims the two former deputies, allegedly off duty at the time, were acting as law enforcement officers during the assault of Harrington while he was in handcuffs. In court documents, prosecutors claim Dollar was responsible for most of the beating, but charge Watford willfully aided in the assault.

The charge carries a potential sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

After initially pleading not guilty with Watford, Dollar changed his plea on Aug. 11 as part of the plea deal. Under the agreement, Dollar pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in exchange for a reduced sentence of 57 months and no further charges, according to court documents. Dollar also agreed to pay restitution.

Dollar is scheduled to be sentenced in Montgomery on Nov. 18.

A U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson said the office could not comment on whether Dollar would testify in Watford’s trial, which will begin Monday with jury selection at the federal courthouse in Opelika. Dollar’s attorney was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.

In March, the two were indicted by a federal grand jury and arrest by the FBI before being released on $25,000 bonds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama.

Dollar and Watford, along with former Phenix City police officer Rachel Hauser, former Russell County Sheriff Tommy Boswell and the city of Phenix City, are also defendants in a civil suit filed by Harrington in December 2010 alleging civil rights violations and emotional distress. Harrington is asking for $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages from each of the defendants.

The parties are trying to negotiate a settlement outside of court, according to court records.

Harrington, found sleeping in his pickup truck in a parking lot in Smiths Station, was detained by bail bondsmen for allegedly jumping bail on a drug paraphernalia charge. The deputies and Hauser, all narcotics officers, allegedly left Dollar’s residence and drove to the scene of the arrest in an unmarked police car after being contacted by the bondsmen.

After the alleged incident, the three officers were suspended without pay before resigning on Dec. 2, 2010.

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Former Section Alabama Police Officer Ryan Keith Evans Arrested On Sex Abuse Charges

July 8, 2011

SCOTTSBORO, Alabama — A former Section police officer faces various sex abuse charges after being arrested in south Alabama.

Officials say Ryan Keith Evans was brought back to Jackson County from Houston County on Thursday. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Jackson County on charges following charges of sodomy, enticing a child and possession of pornographic material.

Evans’ bond was set at $130,000. Jail officials say he has posted the bond and has been released.

Evans was employed as a Section police officer prior to 2009.

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Morgan County Alabama Corrections Officer Joshua Coppinger Arrested And Charged With Sex With An Inmate

June 30, 2011

DECATUR, Alabama – A Morgan County corrections officer has been arrested after authorities believe he engaged in sexual conduct with an inmate, police said.

Joshua Coppinger, 32, was arrested on charges of sexual conduct with a person in custody and booked into the Morgan County Jail, said Sheriff Ana Franklin in a statement Thursday.

Coppinger was fired and arrested after an internal investigation, Franklin said. He has since been released on a $2,500 bond. No additional details about allegations were released.

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Alabama Now Has Toughest Immigration Law

June 9, 2011

ALABAMA – Republican Governor Robert Bentley on Thursday signed into law a crackdown on illegal immigration in Alabama that both supporters and critics consider the toughest in the nation.

Under the new measure, police must detain someone they suspect of being in the country illegally if the person cannot produce proper documentation when stopped for any reason.

It also will be a crime to knowingly transport or harbor someone who is in the country illegally. The law imposes penalties on businesses that knowingly employ someone without legal resident status. A company’s business license could be suspended or revoked.

The law requires Alabama businesses to use a database called E-Verify to confirm the immigration status of new employees.

“We have a real problem with illegal immigration in this country,” Bentley said after signing the law. “I campaigned for the toughest immigration laws and I’m proud of the Legislature for working tirelessly to create the strongest immigration bill in the country.”

Alabama is the latest state to follow the lead of a controversial measure passed in Arizona last year. The courts blocked implementation of a provision allowing Arizona police to check the immigration status of people there.

But the U.S. Supreme Court recently endorsed a separate Arizona law requiring employers to use E-Verify. The court also ruled that Arizona could suspend or revoke business licenses of those companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

Alabama’s law is unique in requiring public schools to determine, by review of birth certificates or sworn affidavits, the legal residency status of students.

“We fear that it will, in effect, ban the student through fear and harassment,” said Shay Farley, legal director of Alabama Appleseed, a nonprofit policy and legal advocacy organization.

Farley said there is also concern about the increased financial burden on schools to collect the information.

“We definitely believe this is the nation’s toughest immigration law,” said Jared Shepherd, a law fellow with the Alabama American Civil Liberties Union.

The Alabama bill passed the state House of Representatives and Senate by large margins before landing on Bentley’s desk. Republicans took over majority control of both chambers of the Alabama legislature last year for the first time in 136 years.

Civil rights and immigrant rights groups mounted a campaign against the measure, urging voters to contact the governor and ask him to veto the bill.

Some pointed to concerns in Georgia, where farmers have complained that tough new curbs on immigration are creating a shortage of seasonal workers before they even go into effect.

But Gene Armstrong, mayor of Allgood, Alabama, a small community where the Hispanic population has grown to almost 50 percent, is not worried.

“We managed in the past without illegal immigrants to pick the tomatoes here, and I haven’t heard anyone say that if we sent them all home nobody would be left to do that work,” Armstrong said.

“When you have 9 percent unemployment, I think that some people who might not have wanted those jobs previously might reconsider.”

Several states have enacted immigration restrictions, even though the issue is supposed to be the responsibility of the federal government.

Immigration rights advocates have sued Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia to block the measures and are vowing to mount a similar legal challenge against Alabama.

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A-Hole Cordova Alabama Mayor Jack Scott Won’t Allow Single-Wide FEMA Trailers For Tornado Victims – But Of Course Exempts Its Police Department

May 30, 2011

CORDOVA, ALABAMA – A mayor in a small town devastated by a tornado has sparked outrage over his refusal to let homeless residents stay in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Jack Scott has been branded heartless after his decision not to waive a local law banning single-wide trailers in the town of Cordova, Alabama.

He said he fears the temporary accommodation could become permanent and says he doesn’t want run-down mobile homes parked all over town.

Angry residents met on Saturday night and called for Mr Sciott’s removal from office.

One resident, James Ruston, said his house was knocked off its foundation by the tornadoes that blasted through the town last month and is still uninhabitable.

He thought help had finally arrived when a truck pulled up to his property with a mobile home from FEMA.

Then he was informed of the ban on single-wide mobile homes.

Mr Ruston and many others see the city’s decision as a sign that leaders don’t care that some people are barely surviving in the rubble.

Felicia Boston, standing on a debris-strewn plot where a friend lost his home in the tornado, said: ‘People have to live somewhere. What’s it matter if it’s in a trailer?’

Mr Scott, however, has heard all the complaints but is unrepentant.

He said: ‘I don’t feel guilty. I can look anyone in the eye.’

Blue-collar Cordova has a population of about 2,000 and is 35 miles north west of Birmingham.

It was hit by a pair of powerful tornadoes on April 27, the day twisters killed more than 300 people across the South east.

Officials say 238 died in Alabama, the highest death toll for any state in a spring of violent weather, the Associated Press reports.

An EF-3 tornado with winds of at least 140mph walloped the town around 5.30am, knocking out power and damaging numerous buildings.

An EF-4 with winds around 170mph struck about 12 hours later, killing four people and cutting a path of destruction a half-mile wide through Cordova.

On Main Street, virtually every storefront was destroyed and is now deserted, blocked by a chain-link fence.

Scores of homes, businesses and city buildings were destroyed.

Residents assumed they would be living in hundreds of the skinny FEMA mobile homes like people in neighbouring towns hit by tornadoes.

The Cordova Police Department, a pharmacy, a bank and City Hall all have moved into similar trailers since the storm.

But the city enacted a law three years ago that bans single-wide trailers.

Mr Scott said that older single-wide mobile homes are allowed under the law as well as double-wide mobile homes.

The law is the law, he said, and a tornado isn’t any reason to change it.

The residents disgust and despair is exacerbated by the decisions of other towns with similar laws that have granted waivers.

At Saturday night’s meeting resident Harvey Hastings said: ‘There are trailers all over here but Scott wants to clean all the trash out. He doesn’t like lower-class people.’

The cotton mill, brick plant and coal mine that once made Cordova prosperous shut down years ago.

Resident Tony Tidwell said residents simply can’t afford to new houses to replace the homes that the twisters blew away.

He accused the city of double standards over it decision to the local authorities to use trailers but not residents.

‘Let the people have a place to live,’ he said.

Mr Scott defended that decision by saying the city can use small trailers because it is for the common good.

The mayor said: ‘It’s temporary and we know it’s temporary. We’re trying to provide services for everyone.’

Storm victims are supposed to live in FEMA accommodation for a maximum of 18 months after a disaster, yet about 260 campers are still occupied by survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast more than five years after those storms.

Mr Scott said the same thing could happen in Cordova if the city bends it rules to help tornado victims.

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For 9 Months Alabama Federal Prosecutors Posted Sensitive Details Of Ongoing Criminal Investigations In Publicly Accessable PACER Database

April 22, 2011

ALABAMA – In a shocking failure to protect sensitive details about dozens of ongoing criminal investigations, federal officials somehow allowed confidential information about sealed cases to be publicly accessible via the court system’s online lookup service, The Smoking Gun has learned.

Over the past nine months, details of 40 separate sealed court applications filed by federal prosecutors in Alabama were uploaded to PACER, the web-based records system that counts nearly one million users, including defense lawyers, prosecutors, journalists, researchers, private investigators, and government officials.

The court applications, made by ten separate prosecutors, included requests to install hidden surveillance cameras, examine Facebook records, obtain credit information on certain individuals, procure telephone records, and attach devices on phone lines that would allow agents to track incoming and outgoing calls. Remarkably, the U.S. District Court records–which covered filings as recent as April 11–included specific names, addresses, and phone numbers that should never have appeared on PACER.

The confidentiality breach was first discovered by a TSG reporter and brought to the attention of Department of Justice representatives and court officials in the Middle District of Alabama, which is comprised of 23 counties and includes Montgomery, the state’s second-largest city. By late yesterday afternoon, prosecutors had the confidential information scrubbed from the online records system and placed under judicial seal at the federal courthouse in Montgomery (pictured above).

It is likely impossible to determine if the sensitive information was viewed or disseminated by other PACER users, let alone gauge whether any cases were jeopardized by the posting of the sealed material.

Prosecutors were incredulous when told that law enforcement sensitive information was available on PACER. A Justice Department source termed it a “disastrous situation” for which prosecutors were not responsible. One government lawyer said they were “shocked” to discover that details from sealed court applications were essentially sitting in plain sight.

While Debra Hackett, the U.S. District Court clerk, initially told TSG that federal prosecutors were to blame for failing to have certain information properly sealed, her position apparently shifted after discussions with United States Attorney Leura Canary (seen at left). Canary, a source said, was “appalled” to discover that court employees had made the confidential information publicly available.

In a statement provided late yesterday to TSG, the Middle District’s chief judge, Mark Fuller, noted that, “The confidential information has been sealed. I regret the error was not identified earlier and have adopted procedures to ensure that it will not occur in the future.” It remains unclear why U.S. District Court personnel believed that, while the documents themselves had to be kept in a safe in the clerk’s office, details from those records could be made available through PACER.

The bulk of the 40 court applications involved prosecutors seeking judicial authorization to obtain telephone records and/or the placement of pen registers and trap and trace devices on targeted phones. A pen register tracks outgoing phone numbers, while a trap and trace captures incoming numbers.

The use of the devices is a standard investigative technique employed by federal agents handling narcotics, organized crime, public corruption, and fugitive cases. Information gathered by the devices can provide investigators with a nexus between suspects, help identify additional targets, and aid in the establishment of the probable cause needed to wiretap phone calls.

While the physical court applications themselves were successfully sealed–as were the related orders signed by federal judges–and not available to be downloaded in PDF form from PACER, the online entries for these cases (known as “criminal miscellaneous” files) included the confidential information.

For example, 35 sealed applications dealt with a total of 39 separate phone numbers being targeted by federal investigators. In each instance, the phone number was actually included in the PACER entry. As a result, TSG reporters were able to use public databases and online searches to identify several individuals whose phone usage is of interest to criminal investigators. Some of the targeted numbers included area codes for cities like Miami, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.

The names of five individuals for whom prosecutors sought court permission to obtain credit information were also uploaded to PACER.

Additionally, on March 31, prosecutor Susan Redmond filed separate applications for court orders authorizing the “Installation and Service of Surveillance Camera” at two residences and one business in Montgomery. The applications were approved by Judge Susan Russ Walker, who signed an order sealing documents related to the surveillances.

However, the corresponding PACER entries included the name of the business (which a reporter easily located) and the exact addresses of the two homes now being surveilled by federal agents. Click here to see a since-deleted PACER index page for the three applications, and here for a page containing additional details on one of the applications.

TSG will not further identify where the hidden cameras have been installed, since such a disclosure could compromise the government’s ongoing criminal investigation (though here, here, and here are photos of the targeted locations–blurred, of course, to render them unidentifiable).

Each of the 40 applications prepared by federal prosecutors would have had a notation on its face page that the document was filed “UNDER SEAL,” as seen in this excerpt from a prosecution request for AT&T telephone records.

Perhaps in the future those two words need to be rendered in larger type. And maybe even neon.

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Broke State Of Alabama Closing Forensics Labs

April 14, 2011

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – Adding $350,000 to the budget is not enough to save three forensic satellite offices and they will close, probably some time this summer, according to the state forensics director.

“I needed $850,000 to keep them open and carry us through Sept. 31 (the end of the fiscal year),” state Forensics Director Michael Sparks said Wednesday.

“(The Legislature) found $350,000, which was cut 15 percent, giving us only $297,500. I appreciate what they gave us and I’ll go as far as I can, but it will not take us to Oct. 1.”

Sparks said while other state agencies are laying off employees because of budget cuts, he is trying not to. He said closing satellite offices in Florence, Jacksonville and Dothan will help him keep employees.

He said the employees — 15 at the three offices — will be moved to regional labs.

Sparks said as it stands now, the Florence office will merge with Huntsville, the Dothan office will merge with Montgomery and the Jacksonville office will become a part of Birmingham.

“We don’t have an exact time yet (to close the offices). We’ll look at that in the next few weeks and make that decision, but we can’t go until the end of summer,” he said.

Area law enforcement officials thought the problem had been worked out and the Florence office would stay open until the end of the fiscal year.

“We were informed last week that everything had been worked out so the office would be open for a while longer and then they would look for funding for next year — now this,” Muscle Shoals Police Chief Robert Evans said.

State Rep. Greg Burdine, D-Florence, was caught off guard when he found out Wednesday about the decision.

“I don’t understand this,” he said. “I thought everything had been worked out. We knew we were going to have to go back and get more money, but we thought this $350,000 was going to get things handled for the rest of the fiscal year.”

The three offices scheduled to close do mostly drug testing. The Florence office covers six counties and has assisted other labs in handling backlogs of drug analyses.

Local departments now go to the Huntsville forensic lab for services such as DNA testing, ballistics and autopsies. With the Florence lab closing, they will be forced to go to Huntsville with drug cases.

“I talked with Sparks last week and tried to plead our case, but I didn’t get anywhere,” Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said.

Rushing said he asked Sparks how much it would save the department to close the three labs.

“He said there were other factors that went into the decision, (including) the cost of the building and utilities,” Rushing said.

Sparks said he did not know how much it costs to operate the three departments. He said expenses varied from department to department.

“My question is, if the salaries aren’t going away, where are the savings other than the cost of the lease or rent of the building and the utilities,” Evans said. “To me, it doesn’t add up.”

Sparks said he understands closing the satellite offices could put a hardship on smaller departments. He suggested sending the drugs to the department by mail, UPS or FedEx.

“There’s not any law enforcement agency in the state that would send illegal drugs to a lab by mail,” Rushing said.

Many law enforcement agencies said the closings will force them to rethink how and when they take drugs to the lab to be tested.

“We’ll likely wait and not go but once a month,” Killen Police Chief Mark Parker said. “I can’t afford to have a man go to Huntsville once or twice a week and have to sit there and wait to turn the evidence over.”

Colbert County Sheriff Ronnie May agreed.

“We’ll have to look at going once or twice a month and taking 15 to 20 cases at a time, which will cause a backlog,” May said. “That’s what made the lab in Florence so important. We could get the results quicker. This is a blow to law enforcement in the area.”

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Former Montgomery Alabama Police Officer Phillip Moultrie Sentenced To 40 Years In Prison After Robbing Illegal Immigrant Motorist

April 14, 2011

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – When Leonel De La Cruz Alefo was driving to work one day last March in his 1995 Toyota Corolla, he was carry­ing with him the $1,700 in cash that he planned to put toward a newer car.

That money was taken from him — and has yet to be re­turned — when Montgomery police patrol officer Phillip Moultrie pulled him over under the pretext of a traffic stop. Alefo drove on to work that day with no money and no cita­tion.

When Moultrie pulled him over a week later in the same area, near Troy Highway and Virginia Loop Road, Alefo did not have any cash to take. That day, Alefo, who works in the logging industry, drove on to work with a citation for alle­gedly running a red light.

Alefo was one of three His­panic victims who came forward last year after Moultrie, a third-shift pa­ trol officer, pulled them over in the early morning hours on March 16, 20 and 24. Moul­ trie, who pleaded guilty last month, took a total of $2,562.25 from them.

The fourth victim was a confidential informant for MPD who used $1,500 of the city’s money.
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Broke State Of Alabama May Stop Having Court Sessions On Fridays To Save Money

April 14, 2011

HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA – An empty courtroom at the Madison County Courthouse could become the norm, at least one day a week. Attorney, Chris Wooten says, “basically what the Chief Justice is having to do, is because of state budget cuts, is give every chief judge in every county the option of closing down the county courthouse on Fridays.”

Wooten says that decision along with an order to reduce the number of weeks allotted for trials will slow down the justice system. “The court, in addition to having to cram everything into four days instead of five, would only be able to hear half as many trials in any given year,” says Wooten.

According to Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, it’s a cost cutting measure. She says employees will still work five days a week. But, they need the extra day to make up for last year’s layoffs and another 150 employees losing their jobs on May 1st. Wooten says, “Everybody that is left at the courthouse is going to be doing their job plus the other folks job. So, that is when this Friday paperwork catch up time, that is when they are actually going to do it.”

Jurors will also be asked to voluntarily forgo juror pay and mileage for trips to the courthouse. Former juror, Jim Rozell says, “people that work for themselves like me won’t be making anything and be losing money and half to pay for gas to come down there.”

Giving up juror pay is not the only way Alabamians might be asked to chip in. Cobb says she hopes the legislature will provide money to the court system by increasing Alabama’s cigarette tax by one dollar per pack. But, Madison County resident, Oneal Seagrobes says, “There’s other ways to cut costs, raising taxes is not going to solve it.”

Wooten says any way you look at it, these changes will only slow down a process that is already slow in the first place. “The current average time from when a case is filed to when it is finally adjudicated here in Madison County is between 18 and 24 months.”

Madison County Circuit Judge Karen Hall says she hopes to keep the Madison County Courts open five days a week as long as she can. She is going to meet with all Madison County judges early next week.

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Former Russellville Alabama Police Officer Robert Saint Arrested After 3 Hour Standoff At His Home

April 12, 2011

RUSSELLVILLE, ALABAMA – A Russellville man is in custody after a three hour standoff.

Police say former Russellville Police Officer Robert Saint barricaded himself in his home Monday night. Witnesses say police blocked off the street.

Officers were called to Saint’s home after a report of shots fired. When they arrived, Saint was in the front yard with a gun. Police say they tried to negotiate with him for several hours. Eventually, they saw Saint on the ground without a gun and were able to arrest him.

Saint was taken to a hospital for an evaluation.

Saint left the Russellville police force in 2004 for health reasons.

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Disgraced Former Dothan Alabama Police Officer David Darby Arrested In Georgia After Flashing Badge At Bar Claiming To Be A Dothan Police Officer – Fired For Using Excessive Force After Being Caught On Patrol Car Video

April 6, 2011

DOTHAN, ALABAMA – A former Dothan police officer fired from his job last year for using excessive force has been arrested in Forest Park, Ga., on a charge of impersonating a police officer.

David Darby was arrested by Forest Park police at Crazy Horse Saloon, not far from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He reportedly used a Dothan police badge and claimed to be a Dothan police officer. He was being held without bond in the Clayton County Jail.

A watch commander in Forest Park confirmed the arrest, but said the public information officer was not available on Sunday to provide details.

Dothan public information officer Cpl. Rachel David said the department issues badges that officers return when they leave the department, but officers can use their own money to purchase wallet badges through a private vendor and the city has no control over those.

Darby was fired by Dothan Police Chief Greg Benton on March 19, 2010. Darby appealed his dismissal to the Personnel Board, which upheld the firing. Darby then appealed to Houston County Circuit Court, and Circuit Judge Butch Binford ruled in the city’s favor last week.

The firing stemmed from two traffic stops over the previous year that were recorded by Darby’s in-car camera. Darby joined the department in September 2008.

Darby is a former firefighter who served as a law enforcement officer for nearly eight years. Prior to working in Dothan, he had worked for the Escambia County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Bay County Sheriff’s Department and the Cedar Grove Police Department.

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Alabama Lawmakers Approve Plan To Finally Rid State Of Some Of Its Many Illegal Immigrants

April 6, 2011

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – The Alabama state House of Representative passed an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration on Tuesday, despite opposition from Democrats and civil rights groups.

The measure, which passed by 73 votes to 28 on Tuesday evening, would give state and local police broad powers to check the immigration status of people detained on other charges.

It also would require businesses in the state to run checks on new employees through a federal computer database, dubbed an “E-verify,” and use a state verification program to deny public services to illegal immigrants.

The bill will now go to the Alabama Senate for a vote.

“We cannot allow Alabama to become a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants,” Rep. Micky Hammon, a Republican who sponsored the bill, told the House.

The law is similar to the controversial anti-immigration measure passed by Arizona last year that sparked a legal fight and a confrontation with the federal government.

During a vigorous debate, legislators voiced concerns over the additional cost the crackdown would place on already strained state and civic budgets.

“We would be growing the state government at tremendous cost to local governments,” James Busky, a Democrat from Mobile, told the legislature.

Rights groups said they were concerned that it would lead to racial profiling in the state, which has a long history of civil rights violations, and infringe the federal government’s duty to enforce immigration laws.

“This is 100 percent the responsibility of the federal government and states cannot usurp that power,” said Shay Farley, legal director of the nonprofit Alabama Appleseed organization.

“It will cause more problems that it solves,” she added.

In addition to Alabama, Arizona-inspired immigration measures are proceeding through legislatures in Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

In Utah, meanwhile, Republican Governor Gary Herbert last month signed milder immigration legislation that included a guest worker program along with increased police enforcement powers.

But lawmakers in Arizona, Nebraska, Kentucky and Kansas have ditched or killed off tough immigration measures in recent weeks, amid concerns over potentially costly litigation, economic boycotts and the practicality of enforcing the laws.

“At one level, a lot of people realized that many of these reforms are more symbolic than anything else,” Mark Jones, a Rice University political science professor said.

“Some will get blocked in the courts because (immigration) is really a federal prerogative, (and) others because they are viewed as unconstitutional due to the discriminatory or racial profiling aspect,” he added.

Arizona’s immigration law required police to investigate the status of anyone they encounter who is suspected of being in the country illegally, although key parts were blocked by a federal judge before it came into effect in July. The state is appealing the ruling.

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Etowah County Alabama Sheriff’s Department Corrections Deputy Arrested, Charged With Bringing Cellphones Into Jail To Sell To Inmates

April 1, 2011

ETOWAH COUNTY, ALABAMA – A Gadsden man was arrested Friday and charged with promoting prison contraband.

Lonnie Lee Argo, 48, was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree promoting prison contraband, a felony offense, according to a news release from Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin.

The incidents occurred between February and March inside the Etowah County Detention Center. Entrekin said Argo allegedly brought cellphones into the detention center, illegally selling them to detainees.

Argo, who was employed by the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office as a detention deputy, since has been relieved of his duties.

He turned himself in and was booked into the Etowah County Detention Center before being released on a $7,500 bond.

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New Alabama Budget Will Require Releasing 3000 Non-Violent Prison Inmates – State May Try Justifying Releases With “Sentencing Reform”

March 30, 2011

ALABAMA – The state finance director says 3,000 non-violent Alabama prison inmates will have to be released if the Legislature adopts the General Fund budget proposed by Gov. Robert Bentley.

Finance Director David Perry told a joint meeting of the House and Senate judiciary committees that the cuts required in the governor’s budget will force a reduction in the number of prison inmates.

Perry made the dire pronouncement Wednesday as members of the two judiciary committees were discussing a package of bills supported by Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb that are aimed at reforming Alabama’s sentencing procedures and reducing the number of prison inmates.

Perry told committee members that releasing prisoners because of sentencing reform would be “more responsible” than letting them go because of budget cuts.

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Russellville Alabama Police Officer Sgt. Jeremy Shane Hall Arrested, Charged With 3 Counts Of Custodial Sexual Abuse

March 26, 2011

RUSSELLVILLE, ALABAMA – The Alabama Bureau of Investigation arrested a Russellville police sergeant today on three counts of custodial sexual abuse.

Jeremy Shane Hall, 33, was taken into custody at about 2:30 p.m. at the ABI’s offices in the Quad Cities, said Trooper Curtis Sommerville, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Public Safety.

Sommerville said Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett requested the investigation, which was based on allegations and information received by the police chief’s office. Hall was placed in the Franklin County Jail.

The case is still being investigated by the ABI, and no additional information about the accusations is available for release at this time, Sommerville said.

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Russellville Alabama Police Officer Jeremy Shane Hall Arrested On Custodial Sex Abuse Charge

March 25, 2011

RUSSELLVILLE, ALABAMA - The Alabama Bureau of Investigation arrested a Russellville police sergeant today on three counts of custodial sexual abuse.

Jeremy Shane Hall, 33, was taken into custody at about 2:30 p.m. at the ABI’s offices in the Quad Cities, said Trooper Curtis Sommerville, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Public Safety.

Sommerville said Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett requested the investigation, which was based on allegations and information received by the police chief’s office. Hall was placed in the Franklin County Jail.

The case is still being investigated by the ABI, and no additional information about the accusations is available for release at this time, Sommerville said.

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Trussville Alabama Police Officer Gets His Butt Kicked And Loses His Patrol Car

March 25, 2011

TRUSSVILLE, ALABAMA – Birmingham Police Sgt. Johnny Williams Jr. talks about the assault on a Trussville Police officer. Lawmen are searching the North Birmingham area for a man who injured a Trussville police officer and stole his patrol car today. The extent of the officer’s injuries wasn’t immediately known. According to police radio reports, he has at least one broken bone. The officer reportedly went to investigate a suspicious person call on Smith Sims Road in Trussville about 10:30 a.m. A confrontation erupted, and the suspect fled in the police cruiser. Trussville police were able to track the stolen vehicle through the GPS system in the car, authorities said. Birmingham police spokesman Sgt. Johnny Williams Jr. said Trussville contacted them to let them know the vehicle appeared to be at 20th Place and 14th Avenue North. Witnesses said they saw a man in a white T-shirt get out of the police car and flee on foot. Officers from several agencies are on the scene.

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Woman Sentenced By Mobile Alabama Judge To Just 6 Months In Jail For Killing Infant While Driving Stoned

March 24, 2011

MOBILE, ALABAMA - A 23-year-old woman pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and was sentenced to six months in jail in Mobile for a highway accident that killed her 7-month-old daughter.

Prosecutors say Amber Peoples smoked marijuana before she crashed her car on Interstate 10 last year.

Investigators said the car crossed the median and struck two other vehicles, injuring four people in those cars. The infant, Messiyah Peoples, was taken to University of South Alabama Hospital, where she died.

Under the sentence issued on Wednesday, Peoples will receive credit for 86 days already spent in jail and will be on probation for three years following her jail time.

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DeKalb County Alabama Sheriff’s Department Corrections Officer Jesse Aaron House Arrested, Charged With Stealing Inmate’s Property

March 18, 2011

DEKALB COUNTY, ALABAMA – A DeKalb County Sheriff’s corrections officer resigned after being caught allegedly stealing property from an inmate.

Jesse Aaron House, 19 of Fort Payne, is charged with third-degree theft of property.

Sheriff Jimmy Harris said it was reported Thursday that some of an inmate’s property had gone missing. Harris said the inmate, who was not named, had already been sent to begin serving a prison sentence with the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Harris said Chief Jail Administrator Mitchell Dendy began an investigation and several people were interviewed throughout the day Thursday. He said it was eventually determined the missing property, valued at $175, was taken by a corrections officer.

Harris said House was interviewed and charged and has since been released after posting a $500 bond. He said House was “allowed to resign” from his position. He said House returned the alleged stolen items and those would be returned to the family of the rightful owner.

“It is really unfortunate for this to have happened at our facility with one of our employees and I am extremely disappointed,” Harris said. “The corrections officer involved will no longer be employed by the sheriff’s office.

“When someone breaks the law they must face the consequences, and we don’t tolerate this kind of behavior from our employees.”

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Frisco City Alabama Police Chief Ronald Marshall Arrested, Charged With Raping Woman Who Tried To File Theft Report

March 18, 2011

FRISCO CITY, ALABAMA – Frisco City Police Chief Ronald Marshall is accused of raping a woman who called his office to file a police report.

Agents with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation arrested Marshall Thursday on one count of rape and one count of ethics violation.

Tommy Chapman, the District Attorney for Conecuh and Monroe counties, tells News 5 the 38-year-old victim went to the police station Wednesday to report someone stole her computer. According to Chapman, the chief told her they had to go to City Hall and fill out some paperwork, but they never made it there. Instead, the woman says Marshall drove her to a secluded area outside town and raped her in his patrol car.

Marshall made his first appearance in court Friday morning where a judge set his bond at $105,000.

When asked by News 5 whether his office plans to handle the case, Chapman said “Absolutely. I’m not going to run away from a bad police officer in my jurisdiction. If they put on a gun and a badge and abuse the power they got, they out to be ratted out.”

Last week, a grand jury indicted Billy Hilton Jr., a former part-time officer in nearby Excel, on sex abuse charges. Published report say Hilton is accused of forcing a woman to have sex with him while he was on duty.

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Former Alabama Prosecutor Steve Giardinin Specialized In Child Sex Cases – Used Information From At Least One In Effort To Obtain Sex From A 15 Year Old Girl For Sex

March 10, 2011

MOBILE, ALABAMA – Court documents drop a new bombshell in the Steve Giardinin child sex crimes case.

Giardini specialized in the prosecution of sex crimes against children before he resigned from the Child Advocacy Center in April 2009. He was arrested in August 2010 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Giardini is accused of trying to solicit what he thought was a 15-year old girl for sex. But the person on the other end of the computer was actually an agent with the FBI’s Internet Crimes Against Children division.

Three new documents pertaining to the case were filed by the Attorney General’s office Wednesday.

In one of the motions, the Attorney General’s Office notified Giardini and his attorney Dennis Knizley that the State intends to introduce “evidence of the Defendant’s other crimes, wrongs or acts.” The motion also says Giardini learned to “groom his victims” from a high profile child sex abuse case he prosecuted.

Giardini prosecuted Brother Victor Bendillo in 2003 for numerous sexual offenses against children. Bendillo, a teacher and guidance counselor at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a student in the early 1990s and received the maximum sentence.

The Attorney General’s Office says Giardini “was familiar with Bendillos plan, design, or scheme to groom victims or engage in sexual acts” and that his “grooming process parallels Bendillo’s substantially.”

The other two motions objected to the Knizely’s motion to dismiss the case and Knizely’s motion to allow jury questionnaire.

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Lawsuit Filed After Fayette County Alabama Sheriff Rodney Ingle Bars ACLU Attorneys Access To Inmates

March 9, 2011

FAYETTE COUNTY, ALABAMA – The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama filed a lawsuit Wednesday, March 7 against Fayette County Sheriff Rodney Ingle after they say they were repeatedly denied the right to meet with inmates inside Fayette County Jail.

The ACLU says their lawyers were “unconstitutionally deprived of their right to consult with inmates” after hearing reports of conditions that could violate the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

Complaints about poor medical care, malnutrition, use of excessive force, inadequate monitoring of inmates with mental health issues and indifference to medical conditions, including pregnancy, have reached the ears of the ACLU via letters from inmates inside Fayette County Jail and messages from their family members who are allowed to visit, according to Jared Shepherd, ACLU of Alabama Law Fellow.

He says a few letters from inmates reached the ACLU last summer, but direct contact between inmates and ACLU lawyers seems to have been cut down in recent months.

“We’re under the impression that some of the complaints are not reaching us. We’ve heard this from family members who have spoken to inmates who say they’ve repeatedly tried to contact us, but we’ve never received anything,” Shepherd said. “We know that things do not sound good. We just want to get in there and meet with [the inmates].”

Shepherd said the sheriff’s office told the ACLU they were not allowed inside the jail because only criminal defense attorneys were allowed, and the inmates would have to see “any other types of lawyers” on their own time.

“What ‘their own time’ means when they’re in the jail 24/7 is what? Who knows?” Shepherd questioned.

Twice, the ACLU has attempted to schedule an interview with Ingle to clarify his attorney-client policy, but the sheriff never responded to those messages, the most recent one sent on Jan.18, Shepherd said.

“By denying the ACLU of Alabama and its staff the right to speak with prisoners in his facility, Sheriff Ingle acts in blatant violation of the Constitution,” said Shepherd in a press release issued March 7.

The lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in the Jasper division. Shepherd said Ingles’ lawyers should have been notified with a courtesy copy of the lawsuit, ACLU of Alabama v. Ingle, which can be viewed online at: http://www.aclualabama.org/News/PressReleases/Highlights/2011-03-09PlaintiffsComplaintsigned.pdf

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Crazed Elberta Alabama Police Chief Mickey L. Pledger Arrested For Firing His Gun Into His Office, Lying, And Bogus Evidence

March 5, 2011

ELBERTA, ALABAMA - Chief Mickey L. Pledger of the Elberta Police Department has been arrested on charges of firing a gun into an occupied building, filing a false police report and tampering with evidence, Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack announced in a media statement this evening.

The arrest came following the investigation of an incident that took place last month.

According to the sheriff’s office news release: Pledger agreed to take a polygraph test but failed it. During a subsequent interview with Pledger he admitted that on Feb. 13 he fired his backup .38 caliber weapon into his office window while an Elberta Police Officer was inside the building. Pledger then admitted that he fired his duty .40 caliber Sig Sauer weapon into the ground and told responding law enforcement officers that he pursued and returned fire at the perpetrator.

Three days after the incident, according to the release, Pledger called investigators with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office and advise them the he had located a bullet casing across the street from the police station that he believed was the casing of the shot fired in his direction. But Pledger later admitted that he planted the shell casing in order to bolster his previous story, the release states.

Pledger, 56, was transported to the Baldwin County Correction Center. He is being held on $12,000 bail.

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Montgomery Alabama Police Officer Will Owens Jr. Arrested On Child Sexual Abuse Charges

March 3, 2011

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — A Montgomery police officer was taken into custody by Alabama Bureau of Investigation authorities Wednesday evening on sexual abuse charges, reports WSFA today.

The arrested officer, 34-year old Montgomery Police Officer Will Owens Jr., is charged with second-degree sexual abuse and enticing a child to enter a vehicle/house for immoral purposes.

Owens, who worked in the patrol division since October 2008, resigned Wednesday evening, says the Montgomery Advertiser.

He was released on bond from the Montgomery County Detention Facility Thursday morning.

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Montgomery Alabama Police Officer Will Owens Arrested, Quits, Charged With Sexual Encounter With A Child

March 3, 2011

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – A Montgomery police officer is accused of having a sexual encounter with a minor while acting in an official capacity, the Montgomery Public Safety Department announced Thursday.

Will Owens Jr., 34, was arrested about 7:30 p.m. Thursday night. He is charged with second-degree sexual abuse and enticing a child to enter a vehicle, house, etc., for immoral purposes.

Owens also resigned Wednesday night, although it was unclear whether it was before or after his arrest. He since has been released on bond from the Montgomery County Detention Facility.

The sexual abuse charge is a Class A misdemeanor, and the enticing a child charge is a Class C felony.

The Montgomery Police Department received allegations against Owens in early February and asked the Alabama Department of Investigation to investigate, Montgomery Public Safety Director Christopher Murphy said.

The Police Department hired Owens in October 2008 and assigned him to the patrol division.

Murphy said he could not provide further details about what Owens is accused of, citing the ABI investigation.

State Department of Public Safety officials could not immediately provide additional information.

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Alabama Legislators To Save Money By Reducing Time In Prison For Offenders – 4th Highest Imprisonment Rate In U.S. – On Of The Most Crowded Prison Systems In The Country

March 2, 2011

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – Alabama prisoners could receive a break on jail time. Legislators are making plans to reduce time from the crime to save money.

Alabama’s state prison system is one of the most crowded in the nation. That is because the rate of repeat offenders is increasing rather than decreasing. This has Alabama lawmakers proposing a plan to save the state money by cutting down jail time for non-violent offenders.

Last year Alabama spent 573 million dollars on its prison system and there are no signs of that price tag dropping any time soon. Lawmakers said that action must be taken now.

“It’s about us doing a better job,” Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb said. “Keeping people straight and putting them in a path for success to make people in Alabama safer.”

Lawmakers said they believe the cost to keep up with the continued growth is something the state can not afford. According to a report from the Alabama Public Safety and Sentencing Coalition, the state will have to spend an additional 151 million dollars over the next five years to build another prison to house an additional 1,500 inmates.

“We’re not trying to help criminals, we’re trying to help the public by making them safer and getting more appropriate sentences for those individuals that are breaking the law,” Cobb said.

But some believe that lawmakers should be very cautious when making changes to these guidelines. The Victims of Crime and Leniency, also known as V.O.C.A.L., said changes should be made for reasons other than saving money.

“I think that they need to create programs and have them in place first before they change the law to say that these are not going to prison,” Pat Jones, a board member of V.O.C.A.L. said.

Most non-violent crimes in Alabama are related to drug and alcohol abuse. Pat Jones’ elderly mother was murdered after some men broke into her home to steal money for drugs.

Representatives of V.O.C.A.L. want to know that after those criminals serve time for their crimes that they will be released with proper rehabilitation to prevent repeat offenses, and in some cases escalated crimes.

The proposal is still in the beginning stages, but Cobb said she hopes that this will be signed and put into action by this May.

Alabama has the fourth highest imprisonment rate in the nation, trailing only Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

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Montgomery Alabama Police Officer Phillip T. Moultrie Pleads Guilty After Robbing Motorists

February 24, 2011

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – A former Montgomery Police Officer pleaded guilty to crimes he committed while behind the steering wheel of his patrol car.

28-year-old Phillip T. Moultrie was arrested back in April for pulling over Hispanic males at traffic stops and robbing them. He was alleged to have committed the crimes at least four time between March 16 and April 28, when he was arrested.

Moultrie pleaded guilty to four counts of theft of property from a person in the first degree. Each count carries a penalty of 2 to 20 years in prison.

The first complaint came on March 16, the last at 4:20am Wednesday. Within hours of the last complaint, Moultrie found himself in handcuffs.

A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

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Selma Alabama Police Officer Christopher Harris Arrested And Charged With Raping A Child

January 12, 2011

SELMA, ALABAMA – A Selma Police Department officer faces charges of raping a child less than 16 years old but older than 12, according to a WSFA 12 News Montgomery report.

Christopher Harris was arrested by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and taken to the Dallas County Jail, where he remains under a $50,000 bond, WSFA reports.

The Grand Jury will take the case later this month, the report says.

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Foley Alabama Police Officer James Andrew Klein Arrested On Domestic Violence Charges

October 26, 2010

FOLEY, Alabama — A Foley police officer is on paid administrative leave after he and his girlfriend were arrested on domestic violence charges, officials said today.

Officer James Andrew Klein, 26, of Foley and Victoria Michelle Broadus, 22, of Summerdale were arrested after Foley police were called to Klein’s home at about 11:30 p.m. Monday.

When officers arrived on scene, they observed scratches and red marks on both Klein and Broadus, Lt. David White, Foley chief investigator, said.

Klein and Broadus were charged with third-degree domestic violence. When informed that an officer was a domestic violence suspect, Chief David Wilson asked the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the incident, according to a police statement.

White said that because the incident is under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office, he did not have additional details. Sheriff’s investigators could not be reached for comment late this afternoon.

Both suspects were booked in the Baldwin County Corrections Center and released on $2,500 bail, according to jail records.

Wilson ordered an internal investigation of the incident. He also put Klein on paid leave until the internal investigation is complete, according to the statement.

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Birmingham Alabama Police Officers David Wayne Doran And Barett G. Dewitt Finally Charged After Beating Unconscious Man In 2008

October 4, 2010

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – A federal grand jury has indicted two former Birmingham police officers in connection with the 2008 beating of an already-unconscious suspect that was captured on videotape.

David Wayne Doran and Barrett G. Dewitt are charged with using unreasonable force, according to the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance. According to the indictment, they violated the victim’s civil rights by depriving him of his Fourth Amendment constitutional right to be free of unreasonable seizures, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by someone acting under the color of law.

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Hueytown Alabama Police Officers Chase Teen Motorcyclist To His Death

October 4, 2010

HUEYTOWN, ALABAMA – Hueytown police confirmed they were chasing a 19-year-old motorcyclist who died in a wreck in Bessemer this afternoon.

Police Chief Chuck Hagler said police received a call about someone driving a motorcycle recklessly and at a high rate of speed. When police spotted him around 27th Avenue and 19th Street, he was driving recklessly and had no tag, Hagler said.

Police chased him briefly but called off the pursuit in the area of U.S. Pipe and Foundry Co., Hagler said. That’s about a mile away from where the man wrecked and died.

Witnesses said the motorcyclist ran a red light and collided with a sport-utility vehicle at 18th Street North and Eighth Avenue North in Bessemer. He was thrown from the motorcycle and died on the scene.

His identity has not been released, pending notification of family.

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Handfull Of Alabama State Senators And Casino Owner Arrested After Federal Indictments In Gambling Probe

October 4, 2010

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – FBI agents swept across Alabama this morning arresting state lawmakers and lobbyists as part of a federal probe into efforts to pass gambling legislation last spring.

The biggest name arrested so far has been VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, who was arrested at his Montgomery home this morning.

Also arrested today have been state senators Jim Preuitt, R-Talladega, Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, Larry Means, D-Attalla, Harri Anne Smith, I — Slocomb and Montgomery lobbyist Jerrod Massey.

McGregor lawyer Joe Espy of Montgomery said he knows of no evidence of wrong doing on McGregor’s part.

“We plan to defend vigorously,” Espy said.

Federal prosecutors had subpoenaed multiple legislators to come before the grand jury.

The Department of Justice in July began notifying various politicians, reporters, lobbyists and others that their conversations may have been picked up during wire taps. The phone taps occurred during a 38-day period this spring when the Alabama Legislature was considering a gambling bill.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and FBI Assistant Director Kevin Perkins are holding a press conference at 10 am central time at Department of Justice headquarters in downtown Washington D.C., where details are expected about the public corruption investigation in Alabama.

Also speaking will be Timothy Fuhrman, special agent in charge of the FBI, Mobile division.

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Wetback Crashes Into Two Madison County Sheriff’s Department Patrol Cars

September 15, 2010

HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA – An illegal immigrant faces DUI charges after investigators say he crashed into two Madison County sheriff’s patrol cars.

The accident happened overnight on Highway 231 near Winchester road.

Deputies say they had stopped a vehicle on an open warrant and were waiting for Huntsville Police to arrest the man when 51-year-old Hernandez Donaciano rear-ended a patrol car.

The force of that crashed knocked the deputy’s car into a second patrol car.

Investigator Chad Brooks says no one was hurt, but the vehicle is likely a total loss.

“The loss of a patrol car is huge in a small department. As stretched thin financially as we all are, this is a loss we simply cannot afford. It is in the several thousands of dollars in the purchase of the vehicle, electronics and the things that are put in place to make it a functional Madison County patrol vehicle…the loss of that is significant,” said Brooks.

Deputies arrested Donaciano charged with DUI, reckless endangerment, open container law, driving without a license, no vehicle insurance, and violation of the mover over law.

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Decatur Alabama City Hall Evacuated And Haz-Mat Called After Baby Formula, Container, And Dirty Diaper Were Found In Women’s Bathroom And Trash Can

September 14, 2010

DECATUR, AL — Police said a substance found inside Decatur City Hall Monday was baby formula and not a hazardous material.

Shortly before 3 p.m., the cleaning crew found a white, powdery substance in a women’s restroom on the first floor and called police. A hazardous materials unit was called, along with Huntsville’s Haz-Mat unit, to test the substance, police said.

As a precaution, Decatur police evacuated the building and postponed Monday night’s scheduled City Council meeting.

The substance found was determined to be baby formula, police said. Emergency personnel also found a diaper and an Enfamil wrapper in a trash can near the bathroom, along with two women carrying a diaper bag in surveillance photos, police said.

Decatur police said policy and procedure was followed in investigating the substance after it was discovered by the cleaning crew.

The City Council meeting has been rescheduled for tonight at 5 p.m.

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Dogs Kill Mobile Alabama Police Department’s Mini Ponies – Tax Dollars Funding Tiny Ponies???

August 31, 2010

MOBILE, ALAMABA - Two miniature ponies owned by the Mobile Police Department were mauled and killed by dogs, police said today.

Around 1:50 a.m. Tuesday morning, an officer on patrol heard dogs yelping and found at least six dogs attacking the ponies, Woggie and Little Joe, at the department’s stable at 1251 Virginia Street, according to spokesman Christopher Levy.

The ponies were taken to a veterinarian’s office, where they later died, Levy said. Police caught three of the dogs, and set traps to catch the others.

Levy said the dogs had killed at least eight cats at the stable in recent months, and officers who worked there regularly tried to keep the dogs away from the stable.

Police believe that someone owns the dogs, but the owners, who could face criminal charges, had not yet been traced.

“These dogs have been running around for a long time,” Levy said. “It’s unacceptable that absolutely no effort was made to keep up these dogs.”

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