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August 23, 2012 Issue

Durden and McGraw elected
Lights, camera
Mistrial declared in Swan case
Wadley names new city judge

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Durden and McGraw elected

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

After the July 31 general primary, two runoff elections were needed in Jefferson County for the seats of clerk of superior court and tax commissioner, both on the democratic ballot. The two candidates, who received the most votes, but not more than half, were on the ballot.

Both seats were decided on Tuesday, Aug. 21, in a special election held in the county at all eight precincts, Avera, Bartow, Louisville, Matthews, Stapleton, Stapleton Crossroads, Wadley and Wrens.

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The unofficial results have Anne Durden winning the clerk of superior court race with 1,536 votes or 60.24 percent, while Amy Wilcher Howard had 1,014 votes or 39.76 percent. Nancy W. McGraw took the tax commissioner race with 1,562 votes or 60.45 percent, and John Brent Dye received 1,022 votes or 39.55 percent.

The unofficial results also have 9,461 registered voters in Jefferson County, while 2,605 came to the polls to cast their ballots on Tuesday and in advance voting.

In the clerk of superior court race on July 31, Anne Durden received 1,985 votes or 47.07 percent, followed by Amy Wilcher Howard with 1,352 votes or 32.06 percent. Also originally in the clerk of superior court race was Richard “Ricky” Sapp.

In the tax commissioner race on July 31, Nancy W. McGraw received 2,144 votes or 48.69 percent followed by John Brent Dye with 1,337 votes or 30.37 percent. Also originally in the race was Albert Young.




Lights, camera

By Oraleethia L. Morgan
Apprentice

A Jefferson County High School student chases his dreams as he gets involved with career-building forums, workshops and a variety of trainings. He takes innovative measures in making his desire to become a broadcast-journalist a reality.

Quinton Cummings was not only the president of his junior class, but a motivated young man. He is a member of the video-broadcasting class at JCHS, a news anchor for and producer of the school’s news show, Warrior Nation News (WNN), and a member of the Student Leadership Team. Cummings also helps with various other activities around the school. He is the manager for the Warrior Football team.


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Cummings said he attended the CNN unplugged program at Georgia Technical College in June 2011.

JCHS teacher and executive producer of the school’s WNN Anna Lush said, in an email, that she recommended Cummings for the program.

Lush said he had to go through an application and interview process. She said the camp prepared him by developing his leadership and communication skills.

“Quinton came back from the experience with a new attitude and a better respect for what is required of journalists,” said Lush.

Tammy Hodges, work-based learning coordinator at JCHS, said Cummings is what most people mean by the term, “go-getter.”

“Quinton is always looking for opportunities to better himself as a student and community member,” she said.

“He was very dedicated to improving himself before the interview with CNN executives,” Hodges said. “He listened and took advice from adults as well as peers on how to prepare himself for the experience.”

He attended a Fall Rally Day in October 2011 sponsored by Georgia Power, the Society of Human Resources Managers (SHRM) of Atlanta, Coca-Cola and CNN. The camp was a one-day camp where he and 80 students from across Georgia met with sponsor representatives and attended various workshops. The three Cummings attended were, “The Next Level,” “Just Lead It,” and “21st Century Leaders.”

He said his experience with 21st Century Leaders was awesome and the organization is great for anyone looking to enter the broadcast-journalism field.

Cummings contacted WJBF News Channel 6 News Anchor Archith Seshadri via Facebook in October.

“He sent me an email after hearing about the CNN camp,” said Cummings.

Cummings said Seshadri, a member of the Asian American Journalism Association, told him about a camp sponsored by the AAJA.

The forum gave Cummings hands-on experience in broadcasting and working with scripts. He said he learned different social media as a reporter.

“He seems motivated,” said Seshadri in an email.

Lush said the camps, workshops, programs and forums Cummings attended has impacted his drive and production and has made him a leader in the classroom.

Lush said Cummings would often stay after school to finish projects associated with the school’s news show, which she said is a product of CNN leadership camp. She said Cummings completes tasks no matter how long it takes.

“I am glad I have been able to be involved in helping him advance his skills,” said the teacher. “I can teach a lot, but to find someone that comes to you with such a great work ethic is rare.”

Hodges said Cummings’ communication skills are superb for a high school student.

“During a time when we are warning most students about the impact social media can have on the career search, Quinton is to be applauded for utilizing it to promote himself, his school and the community in a positive way,” she said.

Hodges said Cummings is a vital part of JCHS’ school news program.

“He serves as a mentor to other students in the class due to his level of expertise,” she said.

“Doing a combination of all these camps is great,” said Cummings. He plans to major in broadcast-journalism/mass communications.

“I really enjoy what I do,” he said.

Quinton said he was selected by JCHS Principal Dr. Alan Long to attend a summer program in California.

In an interview Friday, July 27, Long said he heard about the conference in March when he attended the National Principals Conference in Tampa.

“I made an application for him to the World Leadership Conference just to see if he could get an interview,” said Long. “Quinton had made a name for himself at the WTBS State Leadership conference in Atlanta so when I saw this I thought ‘What a great opportunity.’

“Quinton displays excellent leadership qualities and has been recognized at several leadership events he attends and I thought this could broaden his perspectives, be challenging for him and showcase his abilities.”

The principal said he spoke with conference representatives about Cummings. Long said after that, Cummings had several telephone interviews. After the interviews, Cummings applied to the conference.

"I did not realize at the time how prestigious it was and how difficult it was to get accepted but it worked out well for him,” said Long.

“Once he was accepted, I did a grant to the Tony Robbins Foundation to cover the costs,” said the principal.

Long said the conference took place in San Diego with about 60 high school students from 25 countries attending.

“Quinton, like many of our students, has talents in certain areas that are superior to most,” said Long. “We only did for Quinton what we need to do for all of our students: find their passions and strengths and help them pursue them on a global scale and see how they can compete worldwide.

“This will help Quinton to build a great resume and continue to pursue his career goals.”




Mistrial declared in Swan case

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

After two days of trial, the jury deliberated for about seven hours over two days and could not reach a verdict.

Superior Court Judge Bobby Reeves declared a mistrial Aug. 15.

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The trial against Andrew Newton Swan Sr., 59, of Wrens stemmed from Swan’s actions on Saturday, June 27, 2009, when he heard sirens and saw a man, Brian Santana Lane, 27, of Louisville running. Swan, on an ATV, pursued Lane and fired several shots from a .38 snub nosed pistol. During his trial last week, Swan called them warning shots. One shot struck Lane in the back of the neck.

Swan was arrested and charged with one count of aggravated assault and one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of aggravated assault.

Swan was charged, law enforcement officers said at the time, because it was not a self-defense issue.

“Swan didn’t know if (Lane) was wanted for traffic offenses or if he was wanted for something else. He didn’t know,” Lt. Robert Chalker said at the time of the arrest. Chalker is an investigator with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and made the arrest.

During the trial, previous convictions of the victim were limited to questions about only felonies. Reeves allowed testimony from David Bell, an attorney who represents the victim in a civil case against Swan.

In opening statements, Assistant District Attorney Kelly Jenkins told the jury, “The defendant shot a total stranger who was running away from him.”

She said Lane was driving along Highway 1 when he crossed a double yellow line and was seen by a deputy. The deputy fell in behind Lane.

“Brian will tell you he was on parole. He stole a car when he was a teenager,” she said, adding when he saw the deputy, he panicked.

“He didn’t want to go back to prison,” she said.

Jenkins said the car stopped and Lane got out. Two women in a red car were passing the area where Lane was and witnessed the incident.

“The women see the defendant pull a gun out and start shooting,” Jenkins said. Swan had been following Lane on an ATV.

“The defendant gets back on his golf cart,” Jenkins said. “There’s another shot and (Lane) is shot from the back of the neck and a projectile comes out of his face.”

The ADA said Swan notices the car with the two witnesses, goes to the car and talks to 9-1-1.

“He tells the officers that he thought Brian Lane had robbed somebody … thought he was going to enter his neighbor’s house.”

In his opening statement, Travis Saul, Swan’s defense attorney, said his client was trying to help law enforcement and protect his neighbor, who had just had heart surgery and couldn’t defend himself.

“He wasn’t just fleeing,” he said of Lane. “He was going 120 mph, endangering everyone in this community. You heard he’d stolen a car. In fact, he’d stolen about seven cars.”

Saul also told the jury that the car Lane was driving the day of the shooting didn’t stop.

“He didn’t stop. He wrecked it,” Saul said. “He took his T-shirt off. He had more than one T-shirt on, now he has on a different T-shirt so law enforcement can’t ID him.”

Saul said Swan acted in defense of his neighbor and fired only warning shots. The last shot Swan fired, Saul said Swan was aiming at the ground.

“Roughly 90 feet away, goes to Mr. Lane, looks for wounds on his feet, then sees the blood on the face, runs to the red car, asks them to call 9-1-1,” Saul said.

The attorney also said Swan thought he heard Lane say, “Kill you.”

Jenkins called Lane to the stand as her first witness.

Lane said he was running from the law, that he did not hear Swan shout for him to stop and when he heard the shots, he ran faster.

He also said he did not tell Swan he was going to kill him.

Lane said he saw the neighbor’s house but was running to the woods. “But there weren’t no woods around,” he said.

Jefferson County District Attorney Hayward Altman said Wednesday, Aug. 15, the judge declared a mistrial about 2:45 p.m. that day.

Altman said he will have a meeting with the victim.

“We will also go back and review the facts and make a determination if we should retry the case or not,” he said.

“The charge will be the same. We just have to make a determination as to if it is in the best interest of justice to continue to prosecute the case or if we feel like it’s best at this point to dismiss it.

“By prosecuting the case we met our professional, ethical and moral obligations to the citizens of Jefferson County and then we have to consider the practical cost and effects of a retrial. Whether we can get a decision or not. We never want to be in a position of prosecuting just for the sake of prosecuting, of wasting the taxpayers’ money and the citizens’ time when the outcome may never change,” he said.

Altman said he is taking about 10 to 14 days before making a decision whether or not to retry the case or not.




Wadley names new city judge

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In its monthly meeting Monday, Aug. 13, Wadley City Council voted to change the city’s municipal judge from Angela McElroy Magruder, an Augusta attorney, to Betty Williams-Kirby.

“Really, she’s serving illegally,” Councilman Albert Samples said of Magruder. “She’s not from this judiciary district.”

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“I’ve mentioned that before,” Wadley’s city attorney, John Murphy, said.

“Yes, you did,” Samples responded.

Councilman John Maye asked what the procedure is for dismissing Magruder.

“You don’t have to have a reason,” Murphy said, adding someone should call her and tell her her services are no longer needed.

Samples made a motion that Betty Williams-Kirby be the new municipal judge.

“Does the one being appointed have to have the training first?” Wadley Police Chief Wesley Lewis asked.

Murphy said he was not sure.

Samples asked Murphy to check on it.

The council approved a beer and wine license for Bookings Game Room.

Under discussion first was Bookings’ background check.

“I thought everything was OK,” Lewis said.

“He’s got a lot of pages,” Murphy said.

"He has a lot of charges but no convictions,” Lewis said.

“He had this felony conviction back in 1997,” Murphy said. “A charge in 2009 hasn’t been adjudicated yet, as far as I can tell.”

There was some discussion about this; and, Murphy said, “I guess I’m saying you had some standard.

“If you granted this man a beer and wine license, I don’t know that you could refuse anyone else in the future.”

“If he acts up, we can take his license,” said Councilman Izell Mack. “That’s our standard.”

The chief said he couldn’t be convicted of a felony within the past five or six years. Murphy said that was correct.

“A beer and wine license is a privilege, not a right,” Murphy said.

Mack made a motion to give Bookings a license. Samples seconded the motion.

Maye and Councilwoman Beth Moore began a discussion.

“No one else voted; so, it passed,” Samples said.

“I was trying to get something in the motion,” Maye said. “If we’ve got something in place, we should go by that.”

In other news, the council heard a report from Lewis during the Public Safety Committee report.

Lewis introduced two new officers, Jessica Brown and Michael Gaiter.

Brown is from Augusta and will be part-time. Gaiter will be full-time and is from Claxton.

“We went to Atlanta last week and got some more equipment. It didn’t cost us nothing,” Lewis said. The new equipment includes gas masks for the officers.

Lewis said his department also bought six assault rifles out of the drug fund.

The court clerk went to training on her own to be certified and will be able to relieve other officers to eliminate overtime, Lewis said.

Councilwoman Dorothy Strowbridge, the committee chair over Streets and Lanes, said there are several streets that need work.

“I’m not going to mention them, we have so many of them,” she said, adding she planned to meet with the staff the next day regarding this issue.

“I don’t want to put no blame on them; but, they are not being held accountable,” she said. “We need to come up with a better plan.”

Strowbridge suggested a checklist so workers will know what is expected and will be able to check off the items as they are performed.

“Ms. Sallie, what is the status of the bush hog?” Maye asked the city clerk, Sallie Adams.

"Working on it,” she said.

“We need a mechanic,” Strowbridge said. “We can’t do without a mechanic.”

“That piece of equipment is still under warranty; so, a mechanic wouldn’t have helped,” Maye said.

“I understand the city doesn’t have personnel. We got something free that we’re not using. All these probationers. They might not be able to operate equipment; but, they can pick up a piece of paper,” a citizen said.

“The problem is the judge usually doesn’t assess community service,” the chief said.

Another citizen asked what the status of paving or repairing her street is now that the T-SPLOST referendum passed.

Mayor Herman Baker said the city doesn’t have the equipment and the T-SPLOST doesn’t start until January.

The citizen said she had been told her street would be paved by July 22; but, it hasn’t been.

“Why can’t we scrape it?” she asked.

Samples said her street was paved only part of the way because some of the residents refused to give a right-of-way to DOT.

Maye said, “We don’t have the money.”

Samples said, “We don’t have the equipment.”

There was some discussion about what could be done to improve the condition of the road.

The citizen said she is one of the people who wouldn’t give her right-of-way, adding she doesn’t want them to bring the road up to her door.

Samples explained the right-of-way is 30 feet from the center line on both sides.

Strowbridge asked if it would make a difference if they made the road a lane.

“It doesn’t make a difference to DOT,” Murphy said.

After further discussion, it was decided someone would talk to a local DOT representative to see if anything could be done.







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