The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

3 days ago

Alabama psychologist admits to $1.5 million in Medicaid fraud

(S. Waltz/Facebook, YHN)

A Birmingham psychologist has admitted to trying to defraud Medicaid by billing for counseling services that were never provided, state and federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Sharon Waltz has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud Medicaid of at least $1.5 million, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town announced.

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Waltz also agreed to pay restitution to Medicaid in the amount of $1.5 million, they said.

Waltz billed the Alabama Medicaid Agency for counseling services to at-risk youth that her company did not actually perform, according to a prosecution filing in federal court.

“The greed of this defendant deprived mental health care to many at-risk young people in Alabama, with the focus on profit rather than the efficacy of care,” Town said in a statement.

The state Medicaid Agency started the investigation after an audit showed that Waltz’s billings jumped from $99,000 to more than $2.2 million over two years.

Alabama Attorney General Marshall said in a statement that it was “a callous abuse of this trust and a fraud of staggering proportions.”

Court filings did not indicate if Waltz has an attorney. A federal judge has scheduled an arraignment for next week.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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4 days ago

15 states oppose Alabama’s effort to count only US citizens in Census

(YHN, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services/Facebook)

A coalition of 15 states and several major cities is opposing a lawsuit by the state of Alabama that would have the U.S. Census count only U.S. citizens and other legal residents in totals that play a key role in congressional representation and the distribution of federal funding.

New York, California, Virginia, other states, the District of Columbia and some other cities have asked to intervene in Alabama’s federal lawsuit against the U.S. Census Bureau.

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The states and cities want to defend the longstanding practice of counting all U.S. residents regardless of immigration status, and oppose Alabama’s effort to have it declared illegal.

Alabama’s 2018 lawsuit continues a battle over immigration status and the U.S. Census after President Donald Trump abandoned an effort to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement that the coalition will fight to ensure all people are counted in the census “despite the Trump Administration’s previous racist and xenophobic attempts to tip the balance of power in the nation and Alabama’s endeavor to continue down that path.”

“No individual ceases to be a person because they lack documentation.

The United States Constitution is crystal clear that every person residing in this country at the time of the decennial census — regardless of legal status — must be counted, and no matter what President Trump says, or Alabama does, that fact will never change,” James said.

The cities and states argued in a Monday court filing that the Constitution requires an actual enumeration of the population, which means all people regardless of their citizenship or legal status.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Huntsville filed the 2018 lawsuit that says counting all residents, regardless of immigration status, was not intended by the Constitution’s writers and the practice unfairly shifts political power and electoral votes from “states with low numbers of illegal aliens to states with high numbers of illegal aliens.”

Alabama argued in the lawsuit that “illegal aliens have not been admitted to the political community and thus are not entitled to representation in Congress or the Electoral College.”

Alabama has said it could lose a congressional seat as a result of the 2020 Census.

Attorneys for the intervening states argued they too have a “significant stake in the outcome of this litigation” because it will affect their political representation in Congress and their eligibility for federal funds.

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court in a similar case ruled against two Texas residents who argued their votes were diluted by the practice of using the “whole population” to draw legislative district lines.

The Department of Justice is defending the Census Bureau in the lawsuit. However, the cities and states seeking to intervene in the case questioned the Trump’s administration commitment to defending the practice.

U.S. District Judge David Proctor in December allowed others to intervene in the case, noting the federal government’s “rather halfhearted” argument to dismiss the lawsuit.

The latest motion to intervene noted that Trump Attorney General William Barr had noted the “current dispute over whether illegal aliens can be included for apportionment purposes.”

The states seeking to intervene in the lawsuit are: New York, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

The United States Conference of Mayors, the District of Columbia and nine other cities and counties, including Seattle and New York City, are also asking to join the lawsuit. The city of Atlanta also asked to intervene in a separate court filing.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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4 days ago

Mexican man gets 99 years in crash that killed Alabama woman

(Prattville PD/Contributed, Pixabay,YHN)

A Mexican national who was convicted of reckless murder and possession of alcohol as a minor has been sentenced to 99 years and three months in an Alabama prison.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports Jorge Ruiz was sentenced Wednesday to the maximum penalty in the October death of 29-year-old Marlena Hayes.

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Ruiz, now 20, was speeding in his Ford pickup when he veered into oncoming traffic striking Hayes’ Honda. Hayes died from blunt force trauma.

Multiple open and unopened cans of beer were in and around Ruiz’s vehicle when authorities arrived.

Ruiz’s blood alcohol level wasn’t over the limit for minors.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement records say Ruiz entered the county illegally.

Ruiz initially posted bond and was being held by ICE for deportation until an “emergency motion” revoked his bond.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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4 days ago

Tyson Foods blames contractor for Alabama fish kill

(Black Warrior Riverkeeper/Facebook, YHN)

Tyson Foods is blaming temporary piping installed by a contractor for pollution that killed tens of thousands of fish in a north Alabama river.

An open letter posted by an arm of the agricultural company says about 220,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater was released from a River Valley Ingredients plant at Hanceville on June 6.

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The company says a contractor had installed temporary piping that failed.

It says waste reached the Black Warrior River’s Mulberry Fork, where an estimated 175,000 fish were killed.

The company says fish died because of low oxygen levels in the water, not chemicals.

The company says oxygen levels are now normal and fish are returning.

State conservation officials say it could take years for the river to recover, and area residents have filed suit.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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5 days ago

Former Alabama legislator wounded in shooting

(AL Legislature/Contributed, PIxabay, YHN)

A former Alabama state representative was shot several times inside his car but didn’t report the shooting.

WSFA-TV reports former Rep. James Thomas was wounded last week on Aug. 5 and has since recovered.

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Selma Interim Police Chief Robert Green says Wilcox County Sheriff’s Office asked the department to check on Thomas.

Police discovered Thomas’ vehicle laced with bullet holes and blood on a seat.

Thomas says someone fired at his vehicle near the George Washington Carver Homes.

Green says Thomas didn’t report the shooting but police are now investigating.

Thomas was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1982.

AL.com says Thomas was sentenced in 2012 to one year in jail for having sexual contact with a female student while he was the principal at a high school.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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7 days ago

Alabama getting $6.3 million to fight opioids

(AF Medical Service, Pixabay)

The state of Alabama is getting $6.3 million in federal funding to help fight opioid addiction.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced grants last week to help fund community health centers and rural groups combatting the sometimes-deadly painkillers.

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The money will also be used for schools that are working to expand and improve access to substance abuse treatment and mental health services.

Federal health authorities have reported there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017, for a rate of 21.7 per 100,000 people.

Statistics show the death rate is even higher in some Alabama counties, and the state had more than 5,100 overdoses from 2006 through 2014.

The grants are part of a nationwide program to fight what the government calls a crisis.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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1 week ago

Birmingham man accused of selling guns illegally to buyers in US and Mexico

(Jefferson County Sheriff's Office/Contributed)

Prosecutors are charging an Alabama man with illegal gun sales in a case that involves weapons advertised online at Armslist.com and shipped to buyers in Mexico, New York and California, court records show.

In a newly unsealed affidavit, a federal agent says Arkeuntrez Kenyez Lareco Washington told him that he’s sold guns to out-of-state buyers since 2016 after watching a documentary film about firearms trafficking.

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Washington admitted to using FedEx, with phony names and no return addresses, to ship packages to California and New York, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent wrote in the sworn affidavit.

The investigation began last month, when a federal agent reviewed “firearms multiple sales” reports associated with Washington.

Such a report is generated when someone purchases two or more firearms within a five-day period from a federally licensed gun dealer.

From there, authorities found that he’d purchased many of the weapons from Hoover Tactical Firearms and Academy Sports and Outdoors stores in the Alabama cities of Hoover and Birmingham, court records show.

Federal agents say they’re aware of at least 15 firearms Washington purchased since November 2018 in Alabama, including nine “AR-type” pistols.

Court records don’t specify how many of the guns are suspected of being illegally sold to others.

In an interview with the federal agents, Washington said he offered the weapons for sale at Armslist.com, and used a “burner” phone to respond to inquiries from potential buyers, the affidavit states.

Such phones are commonly used by drug and weapons dealers to thwart investigators, the agent wrote in the documents.

Washington said that after the federal agents contacted him, he threw the phone in a Birmingham dumpster and shredded his shipping records and other documents.

Court records don’t list a lawyer who could speak on Washington’s behalf.

Messages sent to Armslist.com were not immediately returned Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the online site was singled out by Everytown for Gun Safety’s “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” campaign when it issued a news release in response to Sunday’s mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio.

“A recent report showed that in 2018 alone, there were as many as 127,524 ads on Armslist.com offering guns for sale in Ohio with no background check required,” the group said in its news release.

Current federal law allows gun sales through such online sites without requiring background checks, the group said.

The group has said the internet “has emerged as a massive, unregulated marketplace” for guns sales.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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2 weeks ago

Sears closing in Alabama’s largest mall

(Sears Birmingham Alabama/Facebook)

Sears is closing its last full-size store in Alabama.

The company announced Tuesday it will shut down 26 full-size Sears stores and Kmart locations nationwide in late October.

That includes the Sears at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, which is Alabama’s largest shopping mall.

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Traditional retailers are being battered by online sellers, and Sears says it has to reduce the number of its largest stores.

Sears will still have smaller locations it calls “hometown stores” in eight cities statewide.

Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last fall.

The company has closed hundreds of stores in recent years.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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2 weeks ago

Tennessee Valley Authority ups nuclear output, cuts carbon

(TVA)

The Tennessee Valley Authority says it’s completed a $475 million upgrade at its oldest nuclear power plant in a move that helped boost the amount of electricity it produces without carbon emissions.

The Times Free Press reports modifications to reactors at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama added power and expanded service to almost 300,000 more homes.

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CEO Jeff Lyash said the upgrades, coupled with increased use of solar power, will help TVA reduce carbon emissions by 70% of 2005 levels by 2030.

The newspaper reports solar energy is a small part of TVA’s overall generation.

Although nuclear power is expected to produce about 40% of TVA’s electricity, its plan for the next 20 years shows about 15% of power will still come from coal and 20% from natural gas.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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2 weeks ago

150 Alabama daycares now licensed under new state requirement

(Pixabay)

More than 150 previously unlicensed daycares in Alabama have gotten licensed by the state in order to continue receiving childcare subsidies.

A 2018 state law required centers to get licensed by Aug. 1 to continue receiving the payments that help low and moderate-income families pay for childcare.

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Alabama’s Department of Human Resources said there had been 206 unlicensed daycare centers receiving the state subsidies.

Of the 206 centers, 170 obtained a state license as required by the new law.

Alabama exempts faith-based daycares from the requirement to get a state license.

The facilities are not necessarily affiliated with a standing church, but can get the exemption by claiming a religious affiliation.

The number of exempt daycares once hovered at about 1,000 but has dropped to 587.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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2 weeks ago

Vaping regulations in Alabama enter first full week of implementation

(S. Johnson/Flickr)

Tobacco shops in Alabama are no longer being able to advertise vaping as a healthy alternative to smoking.

A wide-ranging law regulating vaping that passed the legislature earlier this year went into effect Thursday.

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It also prohibits opening vape shops within 1,000 feet of a school, church or childcare facility and limits advertising on billboards to include only three vaping flavors. That includes tobacco, mint and menthol.

Critics say fruit-flavored vaping liquids attract younger users.

One of the law’s sponsors, Democrat Rep. Barbara Drummond, told WBRC-TV she was shocked to see a 12-year-old in her Sunday school class with a vape, which she initially thought was a flash drive.

Alabama was one of three states that previously did not regulate vaping.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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2 weeks ago

Yellowhammer Multimedia taps Sean Ross to serve as editor of Yellowhammer News

(YHN)

Yellowhammer Multimedia announced today that the company has promoted Sean Ross to the position of editor for the company’s flagship site. Ross previously served as a staff writer.

Yellowhammer Multimedia owner Tim Howe believes Ross’ skill set will allow Yellowhammer to continue elevating its position in the market.

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“Sean is an exceptional talent with a keen sense of what consumers of news and information are seeking in this rapidly changing landscape,” he said. “During his time with Yellowhammer, Sean has earned the trust of our readers. In his new position, he will be able to guide our site’s content with that same focused approach. His firm grasp of our mission at Yellowhammer makes him a valuable asset.”

Yellowhammer Multimedia is an Alabama-based company delivering news and information across a variety of platforms, including YellowhammerNews.com, the Yellowhammer Podcast Network and the Yellowhammer News Network, which is heard on 35 radio stations across the state.

Sean Ross takes over a position previously held by Howe. Howe will continue his work with Yellowhammer in a full-time capacity concentrating on platform expansion and special projects.

1 month ago

SEC media days kicks off in Hoover

(SEC/Facebook, YHN)

Southeastern Conference media days begins at the event’s longtime home.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey kicks the four-day event off Monday with his annual media address about the state of the league and college football.

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Media days returns to the Birmingham suburb of Hoover, Alabama after one year in Atlanta.

The spotlight will be on LSU coach Ed Orgeron on Day 1, with Florida’s Dan Mullen and Missouri’s Barry Odom also taking the podium.

Some things have not changed: Alabama and Georgia remain the division favorites.

The Crimson Tide’s Nick Saban speaks Wednesday, a day after Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart has his turn.

All 14 teams will make the rounds, including star quarterbacks like Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia’s Jake Fromm.

Every SEC head coach returns this season for the first time since 2006.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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1 month ago

Alabama cotton farmers may be affected by new virus

(Pixabay)

Alabama cotton farmers will face threats to their crops this year in the form of a new virus with no known cure.

WSFA-TV reports cotton leafroll dwarf virus is a new strain of cotton blue disease.

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The Alabama Cooperative Extension System says the virus is transmitted by aphids and diminishes blooms and bolls in the upper canopy, resulting in lower yields, mainly in late-planted cotton.

The new strain was discovered in Alabama in 2017 but has been observed in Brazil in 2006. It has since been confirmed in Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.

The virus reduced cotton yields by nearly 50,000 bales in 2018.

Alabama Farmers Federation’s Carla Hornady symptoms include red leaf veins, cupped leaves and sterility.

Hornady says it will likely take years to develop new resistant cotton cultivars.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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1 month ago

Federal loans to help Alabama businesses hit by Hurricane Michael

(NOAA NWS/Facebook, PIxabay)

The federal government is offering assistance to businesses in southeast Alabama that were affected by Hurricane Michael last October.

A statement by the Small Business Administration says disaster loans are available to small businesses, agricultural cooperatives, aquaculture businesses and nonprofits that were hit by the Category 5 storm.

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Low-interest loans of as much as $2 million are available in seven counties in all.

Those include Barbour, Coffee, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Pike counties.

The loans can be used for needs including paying fixed debts, payroll and bills.

The storm made landfall on the Florida Panhandle on Oct. 10, but its winds and rain created problems as far north as Alabama and Georgia.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 month ago

Defense attorney says deaths of Auburn broadcaster, wife not a crime

(Auburn PD/Contributed)

An attorney for a teenager charged in the traffic deaths of Auburn University’s sports announcer and his wife denied that any crime occurred, calling the crash a “terrible tragedy” instead.

Tommy Spina, a lawyer for 16-year-old Johnston Edward Taylor, told AL.com his client simply fell asleep at the wheel and was not impaired before the wreck which killed broadcaster Rod Bramblett and his wife Paula.

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Spina said there was no way to express the “remorse and contrition” felt by Taylor and his family, Spina said.

“We trust that in time there can be healing for parties directly affected by this terrible tragedy,” said Spina.

Taylor is charged with manslaughter in the wreck, which happened May 25 in Auburn.

Authorities allege Taylor was driving about 90 mph and had traces of the psychoactive part of marijuana in his system when he rear-ended an SUV carrying the couple.

Rod Bramblett, 52, was driving and died of a head injury. Paula Bramblett, 53, died of multiple internal injuries.

There was no indication the teen tried to stop before the wreck, authorities said.

Spina said Johnston had spent the day at Lake Martin with his girlfriend’s family and “had been without sleep for a period of time.”

“He did not drink at the lake and he did not partake of marijuana while at the lake. This is undisputed,” Spina said.

Experts say that marijuana can stay in someone’s system for as long as 30 days or more, Spina said, and the teen has consistently told authorities he fell asleep while driving.

Authorities previously said there was not any indication that alcohol or cellphone use played a role in the wreck, in which Johnston was not seriously injured.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 month ago

Alabama aims to combat teacher-student sexual relationships

(Pixabay, YHN)

Alabama education officials are trying to combat what they say is a growing problem of sexual relationships between teachers and students.

The state Department of Education has released a training program that officials in Montgomery are urging local school systems to use in teaching educators about avoiding inappropriate encounters.

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The program also encourages teachers to report colleagues they suspect of having inappropriate relations with students.

The training material quotes reports that say Alabama is among the worst states in the nation for sexual relationships between school workers and students, and it depicts the problem as getting worse.

“There are just more educators doing bad things with students and I think a big part of that, to me at least, is the advent of social media,” said Barry Matson, executive director of the Alabama District Attorneys Association, in a video included with the program.

After Alabama criminalized teacher-student sex, 45 such cases were reported in 2017, the curriculum states, and Alabama leads the nation in inappropriate student-teacher relationships on a per capita basis.

More than 200 educators have been arrested on sex charges involving students since 2010, and social media and texting are fueling the problem, it says.

“This is a topic people don’t want to talk about, but there is no choice,” Alabama School Superintendent Eric Mackey said in a program video.

The curriculum was developed with the state prosecutors’ association, colleges and universities.

It is not mandatory, but Mackey is asking city and county systems to use the material.

The Alabama Education Association has agreed to help with the training, Mackey told local officials in a letter last month after the training curriculum was posted online.

It includes videos depicting the problem of inappropriate relationships.

The executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards, Sally Smith, told AL.com the organization will encourage board members across the state to offer the training to school employees.

“The videos provide a great vehicle to have conversations about these very difficult issues,” she said.

Alabama used material from a similar program in Texas in developing the training.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 month ago

No prosecution for Alabama woman who started fight, lost unborn baby

(Birmingham PD)

An Alabama district attorney said Wednesday she is dropping the manslaughter charge against a woman who lost her fetus when she was shot during a fight.

Marshae Jones was arrested last week after a grand jury concluded she intentionally caused the death of her fetus by initiating a fight, knowing she was pregnant.

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Jones was five months pregnant when 23-year-old Ebony Jemison shot her in the stomach during a December argument over the fetus’ father, authorities said.

Jemison was initially charged with manslaughter, but a Jefferson County grand jury declined to indict her after police said an investigation determined Jones started the fight, and Jemison ultimately fired in self-defense.

Jones, 28, was indicted by the same grand jury and arrested.

But Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynneice O. Washington said Wednesday that she would not pursue the case.

“After reviewing the facts of this case and the applicable state law, I have determined that it is not in the best interest of justice to pursue prosecution of Ms. Jones,” Washington said, flanked by her chief assistant and local church leaders. “There are no winners, only losers, in this sad ordeal.”

The prosecutor did not take questions or explain the process that led to grand jurors returning the indictment to begin with.

Lawyers representing Jones said they were pleased with Washington’s decision and urged Jones’ supporters to direct their energy to “ensuring that what happened to Marshae won’t ever happen again.”

Jones’ lawyers filed a motion to dismiss Monday morning, arguing that in issuing the charges, the state used a “flawed and twisted rationale” that “ignores the law and ignores reason.”

The idea that Jones intentionally caused the death of her fetus by initiating the fight is a “tortured,” ”irrational” theory which “defies the most basic logic and analysis,” the filing asserts.

Alabama is one of dozens of states that have fetal homicide laws allowing criminal charges when fetuses are killed in violent acts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Jones’ arrest sparked outrage across the country, with advocates for women’s rights calling it another attempt to charge women for crimes related to their pregnancies.

Legal scholars said the arrest raised questions about what other scenarios — such as driving a car or swimming in a pool — could constitute putting a fetus in danger.

In an emailed statement, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director Jeffery Robinson said Washington’s decision “represents precisely what we want to see in these critical moments: a prosecutor who is not afraid to use prosecutorial discretion and power to refuse to prosecute when the law and justice demands that charges should be dropped.”

Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said she is pleased to see the case dismissed but noted it would be a mistake to see it as an outlier.

“We hope there are no more cases like this in the future, but our experience in 40 years of cases suggests that we will see many more such misuses of the law in the name of fetal personhood in the future,” Paltrow said.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 months ago

Police say boy died in hot car in Dothan as drugged parents slept

(Dothan PD/Contributed)

Alabama police said the parents of a two-year-old boy were under the influence of marijuana when the toddler left the house, got trapped inside a hot vehicle and died.

News outlets report Melinda and Robert King were arrested Tuesday on charges of manslaughter and first-degree marijuana possession.

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Dothan Police Capt Will Benny says Castiel King slipped out of the home Friday while both parents were asleep under the influence of marijuana.

The toddler managed to get himself into the car but could not get out.

The temperature in Dothan Friday was about 94 degrees, making it about 116 degrees in the vehicle.

Benny said there were other children in the house as well.

It is unclear whether the Kings have lawyers.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 months ago

Lawyers: Former Auburn star, coach Chuck Person was broke in NCAA scandal

(Auburn Tigers)

Lawyers for former Auburn University assistant basketball coach Chuck Person said Tuesday the 13-year NBA veteran was broke and financially desperate when he joined a bribery conspiracy that cheated young athletes by steering them toward bribe-paying advisers and managers.

They asked a judge in papers filed in Manhattan federal court to spare him from prison in the scandal that touched some of the biggest schools in college basketball.

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“Chuck recognizes that his failure to manage his money responsibly led him to make the worst decision of his entire life,” the lawyers said. “He grew up poor and suddenly came into millions of dollars without a clue how to manage it. Chuck spent too freely, gave to anyone who asked, made dreadful investment decisions, and turned to high interest loans as his financial circumstances deteriorated.”

Prosecutors say Person, scheduled to be sentenced next Tuesday, accepted $91,500 in bribes to steer top players to a government cooperator posing as a financial adviser.

Sentencing guidelines call for two years in prison though three other coaches who pleaded guilty to the same charge have received leniency.

Person’s March guilty plea to a bribery conspiracy charge came nearly two decades after he was a regular presence on NBA courts, known as “The Rifleman” for lighting up scoreboards with his long-range shooting skills.

After he was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 1986, he went on to play for five NBA teams over 13 seasons.

In 2010, he earned a championship ring as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Lawyers wrote that Person’s financial troubles intensified almost as soon as his NBA career ended when he was paying $30,000 monthly to his ex-wife while he was earning $18,000 annually in his first non-playing role with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Chuck’s singular focus on basketball, his failure to plan for his financial future, and his unbounded generosity ultimately had catastrophic consequences,” they wrote.

The lawyers said he knew he was violating NCAA rules and was betraying his players and their families and Auburn University.

By 2016, when he was an assistant coach at Auburn, where he set a record as the school’s all-time leading scorer in the 1980s, he was deeply in debt with bank loans, including one to finance a community center in his hometown, and several private loans, the lawyers said.

One financial institution had obtained a default judgment, which garnished 25 percent of his wages at Auburn, they added.

“Creditors were growing impatient and Chuck was becoming desperate. Chuck could have turned to his many friends for help, but he was embarrassed and ashamed,” they said.

Instead, the man who overcame racism and extreme poverty growing up in rural Alabama, got swept up in the college basketball scandal when his search for a new loan earned him an introduction to the government cooperator, the lawyers said.

His lawyers’ submission included letters from Charles Sonny Smith, who coached at Auburn for 11 seasons through the 1980s, and Sam Perkins, another former NBA player who met Person when both competed to be on the U.S. Olympic team in 1984.

Smith called Person “my favorite player ever.”

Perkins said Person was “still a good friend.”
 (Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 months ago

Judge rules former sheriff can’t pocket jail food money

(C. Abel/Facebook, C. Sims/Contributed)

A north Alabama judge says a current sheriff should get disputed jail food funds, not his predecessor.

WHNT-TV reports Marshall County Circuit Judge Chris Abel ruled that current Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims should get the nearly $24,000.

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Former sheriff Scott Walls argued he should be allowed to pocket the money, a practice allowed until recently.

The judge ruled for the new sheriff, saying Sims should get the money in his capacity as sheriff, and not as an individual.

The ruling does not affect Walls’ separate lawsuit against the state comptroller challenging Gov. Kay Ivey’s edict that sheriffs could no longer pocket food money.

The two sheriffs have also clashed over purchases Walls made after losing the election, including 20,000 rolls of toilet paper and 55-gallon (208-liter) drums of dishwashing soap.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 months ago

Mobile to study fares, ridership if Amtrak returns to city

(Pixabay)

The Mobile City Council is delaying a proposal that endorsed the return of passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast through Mobile.

City officials recently delayed a resolution that would have asked Gov. Kay Ivey to commit state funds necessary to return Amtrak service to the region, AL.com reported.

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Ivey had said earlier this month that she needs more information before the state commits funding to help restore Amtrak service.

In Mobile, council members say they want more time to consider information about fares, ridership and logistical issues.

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson expressed concern about passenger trains potentially blocking access to the city’s cruise-ship terminal.

Councilman Joel Daves also questioned Amtrak ridership interest in Mobile.

“I want to be absolutely clear, I am not opposed to the return of passenger rail service,” Daves said. “I think it’s too early to move ahead with respect to this resolution asking the governor to move forward. There are too many unanswered questions.”

Amtrak suspended service east of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina caused heavy damage in 2005.

The potential return of passenger trains has been in various stages of discussion on the Gulf Coast for more than five years, AL.com reported.

The overall costs to restore the service are estimated at $65.9 million.

Mississippi ($15 million) and Louisiana ($10 million) have already dedicated their portions for the project. Alabama, at around $2.7 million or less, remains uncommitted, the news site reported.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 months ago

Northeastern electrical company to shut down facility, transfer jobs to Alabama

(Hubbell Power Systems/Facebook)

A Connecticut-based electrical and electronic product manufacturer is closing two plants resulting in the loss of nearly 200 jobs.

The Hartford Courant reports that Hubbell Inc. will shut down plants in Newtown and Bethel by the end of the year as it shifts work to factories in other parts of the country.

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Work at the Newtown facility will move to Puerto Rico and work in Bethel is transferring to Alabama.

The company says in a statement that this decision is part of “an ongoing operational efficiency initiative.”

About 140 employees will lose their jobs in Newtown.

Hubbell said it will continue to retain more than 650 jobs in the state and maintain its Shelton headquarters.

The company posted revenue of $4.5 billion in 2018.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 months ago

Owner of ‘attack squirrel’ nabbed by north Alabama police

(M. Paulk/Facebook)

An Alabama man who denied feeding methamphetamine to a so-called “attack squirrel” he considered a pet has been arrested.

The Limestone County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter that 35-year-old Mickey Paulk was caught Thursday night following a chase in which he rammed an investigator’s vehicle.

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Authorities had been seeking Paulk on multiple felony warrants unrelated to the squirrel named “Deeznutz,” made infamous after police said they were warned about a meth-fueled, trained attack squirrel.

Paulk told The Associated Press last week that he was working on a plan for turning himself in to authorities.

But authorities said he was booked into the Lauderdale County Jail after fleeing a motel on a stolen motorcycle.

It is unclear whether he has a lawyer.

Deeznutz could not be tested for meth and has been released.

 (Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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