Throwback Thursday: Billy Graham Preaches In Alabama On Easter Sunday 1964[Video]

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Nearly 35,000 people, black and white, sat shoulder-to-shoulder in Birmingham’s Legion Field, a gathering said to be the largest integrated audience in Alabama history.

As Billy Graham took the stage that Easter Sunday, the Birmingham Campaign that brought demonstrators and fire hoses to the streets of the Magic City and TV sets across the nation only a year earlier was still fresh on the minds of city residents. Only six months had passed since four little girls died in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.

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Students, Teachers Undergo 1st Round Of TB Tests At Birmingham High School

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Students and staff members at Homewood High School underwent testing for tuberculosis on Wednesday after a freshman at the school was diagnosed with the disease.

Officials with the Jefferson County Department of Health administered the tests, which has two parts.

First, each patient is given a shot of protein derivative in the forearm. That will cause a small bump that looks like a mosquito bite to appear.

Part two comes when the patient returns 48 to 72 hours later. If the bump has gone away, the patient is negative. However, if the injection site has become red and raised, and if it measures more than 10 millimeters, it’s considered a positive case and that person could have tuberculosis.

From there, the patient is given a chest X-ray. If that’s normal, then the process is over.

If that x-ray is abnormal, then the patient is given a physical exam, a TB questionnaire and begins treatment, which is given by the health department.

It is possible to be exposed to TB and not develop an active case. But if you do get it, it’s treatable and curable with a medication regimen that lasts six to nine months.

“If you have TB, it will always be in your body. But there is medication therapy that can decrease your chances of it ever coming back or getting any worse,” said Jenna Hammer, an RN at the UAB Student and Wellness Clinic.

Students and staff at Homewood High School will be given the second part of this test on Friday. It’s a crucial time because students will be on spring break next week.

Parents met with Dr. Edward Khan of the Jefferson County Department of Health at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Khan said 85 percent of students and about 170 employees were tested.

Mary Binkley has a daughter at the school. She said her daughter wasn’t worried about the situation but as a mother, she certainly is.

“I worry about the kids. I’m a parent and I’m a teacher at the middle school. I was just curious about what tuberculosis is and how it will affect the school. And I guess my main concern is…I want to know what strain this is. Is it the antibiotic resistant strain and what are they going to do as for protecting our children,” she said.

Khan answered parents’ questions for about an hour and one parent appreciated the information.

“I think we know the path ahead of us and I think they have a plan so we’ll go back to school and on Friday they will come back and read all of the skin test and we will proceed from there,” said Kathryn Ely.

Another parent commended school leaders for their response.

“I think the school board did an excellent job getting the information out. They texted us, they called us, they sent home written information so I think there response was good,” said Melissa Wilson.

A second TB test will be administered to students in eight months.

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Jesse Jackson Jr. Leaves Alabama Federal Prison For Halfway House

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Former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., leaves federal court in Washington after being sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for misusing $750,000 in campaign funds, Aug. 14, 2013. Jackson Jr. will be released from a federal prison on Thursday, March 26, 2015, and will serve out the remainder of his term in a Washington, D.C., halfway house, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy told The Associated Press after visiting Jackson behind bars. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

 

Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. left an Alabama federal prison early Thursday bound for a halfway house, where he begins his transition back into society two years after pleading guilty to spending $750,000 in campaign money on personal items.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking by phone shortly after picking up his 50-year-old son, described his release from the minimum security federal prison camp at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, as a “joyous reunion.” He added that the younger Jackson was doing “very well.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if Jackson, Illinois Democrat and Inmate No. 32451-016, would live at a halfway house to serve the remainder of his 2 1/2-year term. Another possibility, according to U.S. Bureau of Prison policy, is that he serve out his sentence under home confinement.

A Bureau of Prisons spokesman in Washington, D.C., also later confirmed that Jackson had left the Alabama lockup. But Edmond Ross declined to provide any detail about the next step for Jackson, including which halfway house he might be heading for.

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who visited Jackson on Monday, said Jackson would go to a facility in Washington, D.C.

Jackson began his sentence on Nov. 1, 2013, and his release date is Sept. 20, 2015. After that, Jackson must also spend three years on supervised release under jurisdiction of the U.S. Probation Office and complete 500 hours of community service.

Sandra Jackson, a former Chicago alderman, was sentenced to a year in prison for filing false joint federal income tax returns that knowingly understated the income the couple received. In a concession to the couple’s two children, a U.S. judge allowed the Jacksons to stagger their sentences, with the husband going first.

Jackson served in Congress from 1995 until he resigned in November 2012. In June of 2012 he took medical leave for treatment of bipolar disorder and other issues.

The Jacksons spent campaign money on fur capes, mounted elk heads, a $43,350, gold-plated men’s Rolex watch and Bruce Lee memorabilia, as well as $9,587.64 on children’s furniture, according to court filings.

During sentencing, the judge scolded Jackson for using campaign funds as a “piggy bank.”

Jackson’s resignation ended a once-promising political career that was tarnished by unproven allegations that he was involved in discussions to raise campaign funds for imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for an appointment to President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. Jackson has denied the allegations.

Speaking generally about prison policy, Ross said home confinement — even within hours or days of release from prison — is a possibility for some inmates, especially those who have stable home environments to which they can return.

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TSA Finds Gun In Carry-On At Mobile Regional Airport

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TSA officials at Mobile Regional Airport found a loaded weapon in a passenger’s carry-on bag Wednesday, according to regional spokesman Mark Howell.

TSA alerted police upon finding a loaded Glock .45 caliber handgun in a passenger’s carry-on bag.

Howell said in a statement that guns are allowed in checked baggage provided they are declared, unloaded and stored in a carrying case.

“Passengers are responsible for the contents of bags they bring to the checkpoint,” said Howell. “Our advice is to look through bags thoroughly before coming to the airport to make sure there are no illegal or prohibited items.”

The Glock marks the second weapon found this year at Mobile Regional Airport. There were five instances last year.

The penalty for having a loaded weapon in a carry-on can range from $3,500 to $7,500 in fines and a criminal referral.

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Hundreds Turn Out For Dueling Marriage Rallies In Dothan

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Hundreds of people came together Sunday afternoon in Dothan to express their views about marriage in two separate but related rallies.

Kristy Boney, of Ashford, attended the “I support Biblical Marriage” rally with her husband, Michael, and their 11-year-old son, London Boney.

“Some of our church members wanted to make a stand on our view for Biblical marriage,” said Boney, who attends Wayside Baptist Church. “I have a son and I wanted to him know that according to the Bible and God’s word there’s only supposed to be marriage between a man and a woman.”

Boney joined hundreds of other people who attended the “I support Biblical Marriage” rally held at Ridgecrest Baptist Church Sunday afternoon.

Charles Lewis spoke about Biblical marriage at the rally.

“Marriage is God’s idea. It is God’s institution, and because it is his he has the right to define it,” Lewis said. “God defines marriage from the beginning as one man and one woman becoming one. They become one flesh.”

Lewis, the senior pastor for Dothan Community Church, spoke from the book of Genesis in the Bible and how God created man and woman, namely Adam and Eve.

“God created Eve for Adam, not Steve. It was Eve and Adam, not Eve and Madam,” Lewis said, which resulted in a round of applause by the standing room crowd at the church. “Perhaps we need to be a little more faithful in evangelism. Perhaps we need to be a little more faithful in loving our neighbor, and reaching out to the lost.”

Bob Sanders, a pastor at Ridgecrest Baptist Church, estimated between 1,700 and 1,800 people attended the rally Sunday.

“This rally is not a stance against something. It’s a stance for something, and that something is Biblical marriage,” Sanders said. “It’s people from all different denominations coming together in support of Biblical marriage.”

John Eidsmoe, an Alabama resident who frequently speaks to church and civic groups, spoke at the rally about the tension between federal and state governments and their differing rulings on same sex marriage. Eidsmoe also spoke of the decision by Alabama Chief Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore to not allow same sex marriages.

“The people of Alabama elected the Alabama Supreme Court to defend our Alabama Constitution,” Eidsmoe said to a standing ovation by the crowd. “If he (Moore) were to resign today he would betray the trust given to him by the people of Alabama.”

As speakers led the rally inside the church demonstrators could be heard outside as they chanted sayings such as “Love is love” and “No more hate.”

Some of the demonstrators such as Angie Rodriguez Mena, of Dothan, and her 11-year-old daughter Zoe Fletcher carried signs, which read “Let the one without sin cast the first stone. John 8:7” and “My moms are gay and I love them,” which was by Fletcher.

Mena said she attended the rally to show support for equality.

“She was born from a lesbian relationship and that’s all she’s known,” Mena said. “I’m her biological mother, and she also has her Maddy.”

Mena said her daughter knows her biological father, but he doesn’t have an active role in her life.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal she has no male figure at home,” Mena said. “Marriage is love. It doesn’t matter what gender.”

Mena called the Biblical marriage signs across the city of Dothan offensive.

“I feel like gays are the modern day blacks because we’re having to fight for equality,” she said. “We’re not asking for special treatment. We just want equal treatment.”

Chris Countryman, who organized what he referred to as a demonstration by the Equality of the Wiregrass group, said he was excited about the turnout Sunday afternoon. Between 100 to 150 people participated in the Equality of the Wiregrass demonstration, which started at the Dothan Civic Center and then moved to the sidewalk in front of Ridgecrest Baptist Church.

Countryman said the group plans to start having “pride” events a couple of times a year to help bring together the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ) community.

“We wanted to demonstrate to the county we’re for equality,” Countryman said. “We want to let the church know we have a voice and an opinion.”

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Gregg Marshall Reportedly Top Target For Alabama Coaching Position

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Now entering the second week without a head basketball coach, reports are starting to emerge with a top target for Alabama.

Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall is reportedly the coach Alabama will offer once his season ends, CBSSports.com reported Monday afternoon. The school would be prepared to offer $3 million a year to one of the hottest coaches in the sport.

Anthony Grant made $1.9 million a year before Alabama fired him March 15 after six seasons.

Marshall has a 398-158 record in 17 years as a head coach with the last eight at Wichita State. He’s led the Shockers to their second Sweet 16 appearance in three years with Sunday’s 78-65 win over No. 2 seeded Kansas. Last season, Wichita State went undefeated in the regular season after reaching the Final Four in 2013.

The Shockers (30-4) play Notre Dame on Thursday in Cleveland.

Marshall has been a popular target for big-name schools seeking new coaches, but he’s been loyal to Wichita State. His 2013 contract extension plays him $1.75 million a year, according to USA Today.

This wouldn’t be the first time a major-conference school was interesting in Marshall. He was reportedly pursued by UCLA two years ago. Last spring, his agent told the Kansas City Star he had been contacted by several schools, but did not reveal any names.

“He’s turned down some very good basketball jobs that have offered a great opportunity, but it just wasn’t the right fit or time for him and his family,” agent Myles Solomon told The Star.

At Wichita State, Marshall is the top coach in the school’s marquee athletics program. Football was eliminated by the school in 1986.

Marshall was asked by ESPN last year what it would take to lure him away from Wichita State.

“I don’t know,” Marshall told ESPN.com. “But I’m very happy here. It would take something really big.”

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Widow of ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle, Coming To Montgomery In May

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Taya Kyle, widow of Navy Seal Chris Kyle, will be the keynote speaker during the 2015 Jimmy Rane Charity Golf Tournament Banquet on May 14 in Montgomery.

Chris Kyle, whose autobiography was the basis for the Academy Award-nominated film “American Sniper,” served four tours of duty in the Iraq War, was shot twice, survived four separate IED explosions and was awarded numerous commendations for acts of heroism and meritorious service in combat.

During this year’s banquet, which will take place at Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa, Kyle will speak about her late husband as well as her upcoming book, “American Wife,” set to be published in May.

“I believe in paying it forward,” Kyle said.  “The ripple effect is a powerful thing.  One small act of kindness can mean the world to someone.  Jimmy Rane Foundation scholarships have created a very large ripple in the lives of 250 families, and I am pleased to be a part of this year’s event.”

Founded in 2000, the Jimmy Rane Foundation has awarded 250 college scholarships to outstanding and deserving students. Previous events have featured guest speakers such as Lone Survivor Marcus Luttrell, NFL legend Terry Bradshaw, Peyton Manning, and Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula.

For more information, visit the foundation website.

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Alabama Man Sentenced After Picking Up Meth From Post Office

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Federal prosecutors say a Montgomery man who was arrested after picking up a package of meth from a post office has been sentenced to 10 years.

Authorities say homeowners told postal workers they didn’t want 49-year-old Joseph Irwin Westerlund’s mail to be delivered to them because he didn’t live at their address. Prosecutors said Westerlund called the post office the same day to ask about a package that was supposed to be delivered to him.

Postal inspectors got a warrant to search the package and found more than an ounce of methamphetamine inside.

Prosecutors say post office workers called Westerlund to tell him he could pick up the package and he was arrested after signing for it and leaving the building. Investigators also found a gun in his car.

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Headlines Across America & The World[Week In Review]

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Secret Service Wants A Fake White House To Help Protect The Real One

Dutch Entrepreneurs Create Disco Supermarket

Turkish Male Belly Dancers Are The Rage These Days

New Orleans Airport Attacker Dies From Gunshot Wounds

Ted Cruz Set to Become First Republican to Announce Presidential Bid on Monday

Bill Maher Compares Fraternities To ISIS

Naked Spring Breaker Identifies Herself To Authorities

Baseball Player Kicked Off Team For Calling Mo’Ne Davis A Slut On Twitter

Ohio Man Wrongly Jailed For 39 Years To Receive 1.38 Million Dollar Settlement

Alaska Officers Search Marijuana Club Owned By Former Reporter That Quit On Air

63rd Annual Arts & Crafts Festival In Fairhope

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More than 230 exhibitors from throughout the nation will bring their best works to show and sell at this prestigious juried show. Live entertainment will be going on throughout the three-day event, and unique cuisine will be served in the food court. BRATS offers a shuttle for $2 each way from the shopping center parking lots at the intersection of Fairhope Avenue and Greeno Road. Call 251-928-6387 or 621-8222 for more information.

Location and directions:
Downtown Fairhope, Alabama For more information visit:

Alabama’s VA Whistle-Blowers Say They’re Being Punished

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Richard Tremaine, central Alabama’s Veterans Affairs assistant director is one of two whistle-blowers in the Montgomery-based system who says he’s been frozen out of meetings and decision-making since he alerted officials about problems.(Photo: Albert Cesare, The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser)

 

Two whistle-blowers say not only are they under attack for alerting the public about long wait times covered up in central Alabama’s VA health-care system, but those wait times are getting longer.

Hundreds of leaked documents sent to The Montgomery Advertiser in a seven-month period revealed patient abuse, inadequate care and unethical practices from the director and other staff at the Montgomery and Tuskegee hospitals.

Read Full Story Here.

President Obama To Speak On Economy In Alabama Next Week

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President Barack Obama will travel to Alabama next week to give a speech about the economy. It’s his second visit to the state this month.

Obama will be in Birmingham on Thursday afternoon. The White House hasn’t released any other details about the trip.

Earlier in March, Obama traveled to Selma, Alabama, to mark the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” Obama led a symbolic march across the bridge where throngs who protested their lack of voting rights were beaten by police.

Obama has visited 48 of the 50 states since becoming president. Still awaiting presidential visits are South Dakota and Utah.

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Houston County Deputy Found Not Guilty On Domestic Violence Charge

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A Houston County sheriff’s deputy recently arrested on a domestic violence charge was acquitted Thursday for hitting his stepson. A Dothan city judge found James Leck Killingsworth not guilty after hearing testimony including that of family members according to defense attorney John C. White.

White said the victim’s testimony during the trial was inconsistent and disputed by his sister and mother. “My client was not guilty of the charge and we expected to outcome we got,” said White. He was arrested by Dothan police.

Killingsworth was placed on administrative leave as a matter of sheriff’s office policy. White said he expects his client to return to duty next week. “He’s a good officer and has a distinguished career,” White said.

Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza was among those who testified on Killingsworth’s behalf.

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Hank Williams Jr. Gives Boost To Alabama Deer Hunting Bill

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Hank Williams Jr. speaks to an Alabama Senate committee and audience at the Alabama State House on March 18, 2015. (Mike Cason/mcason@al.com)

 

A bill to repeal the state law restricting the use of corn or other bait as an aid in deer hunting passed a Senate committee today with an endorsement from country music legend Hank Williams Jr.

Williams, an avid hunter known for singing about the outdoors and rural life, said there are times when it’s good to have the option to use bait, such as when a hunter takes along a child, a disabled person or an injured veteran and wants to make sure they have a chance to kill a deer.

Williams said many other states have no restrictions on hunting with bait and that Alabama has more deer than it ever has.

He also said he has seen the current rule, which says the hunter must be more than 100 yards away and out of line of sight of any bait, is not always fairly enforced.

Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, the bill’s sponsor, said deer cause millions of dollars in damage in vehicle accidents every year.

Whatley said it’s the fifth year he has tried to get the legislation passed.

The bill would also remove restrictions on using bait to hunt feral swine. But it would not affect restrictions on using bait to hunt turkey.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is not taking a position on the legislation.

The bill passed the Agriculture Conservation and Forestry Committee by a 9-2 vote. It goes to the Senate.

Sens. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville and Larry Stutts, R-Sheffield, voted against it.

“This country boy doesn’t need the bait,” Sanford said.

Williams said he didn’t need to use bait, either.

Williams talked about learning to love hunting from his family. He said his father loved squirrel hunting.

Williams closed his remarks to the committee with a reference to one of his father’s most famous songs.

He said long ago, an American Indian armed with a bow and arrow might have used corn to attract a deer.

That Indian might have been named Kowaliga, Williams said.

After the committee meeting, Williams spent time posing for pictures with lawmakers, lobbyists, pages, legislative staffers and others at the State House.

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Missing Teenage Girl Found Beaten To Death, Partially Nude In Blount County

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The body of a 17-year-old missing Birmingham girl was found in Blount County Thursday, face down and partially nude in an area off of Tucker Mountain Road in Remlap.

Alexis Marie Garcia was last seen March 1 and reported missing by her mother several days later. Now, authorities say, Garcia was the victim of a brutal beating death at the hands of one of her best friends and her friend’s 39-year-old boyfriend.

Samantha Wright, 18, of Helena, and Shannon Yager of Locust Fork, are charged with capital murder, Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey announced this morning. The capital charge stems from Garcia being killed in the course of a robbery and kidnapping.

Court records detail Garcia’s disappearance and the murder investigation that followed. Garcia’s mother filed a missing persons report with the Birmingham Police Department on March 5.

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Samantha Jo Wright and Shannon Bee Yager are charged with capital murder.Blount County Jail.

 

On Monday, March 9, Blount County sheriff’s investigator Scott Kanaday got a call from Wright’s father, saying she had called him and said she woke up in a room and was covered in blood. Wright told her father she didn’t know where she was because she had blacked out, according an affidavit.

Wright went on to tell her father that she and her boyfriend, Yager, along with Garcia had been walking through the woods and she believed something bad had happened to Garcia, and that she no longer knew the whereabouts of Garcia or Yager. She hung up the phone, and her father told investigators he was no longer able to reach her.

Sometime after that, Garcia’s mother called sheriff’s investigators and told them there were some juveniles in Blount County with information about the case. On March 15, Deputy Mark Moon went to a Locust Fork home and again was told that two juveniles had information about Garcia’s disappearance.

Those two teens, ages 14 and 13, told Moon that Wright told them she had done something she was possibly going to regret – that she had possibly killed someone, according to the affidavit. Wright told them Garcia had gotten naked in the back of her car and was making advances toward Yager. Wright said she got mad and beat Garcia unconscious, records show.

Wright said she and Yager then took Garcia into the woods at the Vulcan Material sign on Tucker Mountain Road. Wright threatened to kill the teens if they told anyone.

On Monday, investigators received information that Yager and Wright were in St. Clair County. Yager had two outstanding warrants out of Blount County and was taken into custody. Wright went voluntarily with Yager to the county jail.

When investigators interviewed Wright, she told them she, Garcia and Yager had used multiple drugs that night, including meth and heroin. They went to Tucker Mountain Road in Wright’s Honda Accord and Wright told detectives she then passed out. She said when she woke up, Garcia was taking off her clothes and making advances on Yager. The affidavit says Wright gave multiple accounts of what happened after that.

During the interview with lawmen, Wright admitted that she was wearing Garcia’s jeans and shoes. Garcia’s jeans, shoes and underwear were missing when authorities found her body.

Yager was also interviewed. He, too, gave differing accounts of what happened but said that there was an altercation between Garcia and Wright when Garcia began to take off her clothes. He said the last time he saw Garcia, she was near the car on Tucker Mountain Road. Sheriff’s deputies found Wright’s Accord and towed it for evidence.

Garcia’s body was discovered about 10 a.m. Thursday. Casey obtained formal capital murder warrants against Wright and Yager on Thursday afternoon, and Garcia’s mother was notified of her death.

Casey thanked the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, particularly Kanaday and investigator Jeff Kirkland, along with the Jacksonville State University Center for Applied Forensics and the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles probation officers who helped with the search for Garcia’s body. “Investigators Kanaday and Kirkland worked tirelessly on this case,” Casey said.

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Ozark High School Won’t Allow Military Dad To Be Daughter’s Prom Date

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The Brady family (Source: WSFA 12 News)

 

It’s almost time for the prom, one of the biggest milestones for many teenagers, but for one south Alabama student it’s proving to be more difficult than she had hoped. Now, she’s asking for an exception to a rule that says parents are not allowed to attend the prom.

Carroll High School Senior Mia Brady has been preparing for prom for months and had even landed her dream date, an active duty member of the military. But less than a week before prom that dream has been shattered.

Mia has lived the life of a typical military child having her father miss out on many first in her life due to deployment. Now that her father is stationed closer to home at Ft. Rucker, she was looking forward to making memories with him as her date at prom.

When she went to purchase her ticket to the class event, she was notified that her unique date would not be allowed. Ozark City Schools Superintendent Rick McInturf says the school did receive Brady’s request and it was denied.

Carroll High School’s prom policy will allow Mia’s father to escort her during the senior walk out, but concluding the ceremony he would have to leave like every other parent.

“School staff is charged with the responsibility of safety and security of the students,” McInturf said. “So we maintain a high level of control over who comes and goes. So that is why that rule is in place. It is just the students, just the high school staff that are just involved in the high school prom,” he added.

“It’s just like he is out fighting so we can actually have prom and be able to go out with our friends and family,” Mia explained. “If I think he is being denied that, I’m just really not ok with that.”

The school system says the Brady request is the first of this nature they have ever received. Still, the father and daughter are holding out hope that the school system will change its policy.

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Georgia Man Convicted Under ‘Alabama Digital Crime Act’

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A Georgia man this week was convicted for a felony related to attempts to access confidential informational systems maintained by the state of Alabama.

Thomas Jack Hixon, 20, of Chickamauga, Ga., pleaded guilty on Monday in Calhoun County Circuit Court to attempted computer tampering, a class C felony, according to a release from the state attorney general’s office. It is the first case prosecuted by the attorney general’s office under the new “Alabama Digital Crime Act,” passed by the Legislature in 2012.

Hix was sentenced to five years and with a $1,000 fine, plus court costs and a $50 fee to the Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Commission, according to a release from the attorney general’s office.

“The Alabama Digital Crime Act is an important law to protect our state and to maintain the security of confidential law enforcement records,” Attorney General Luther Strange said. “I am proud of the work by my Special Prosecutions Division in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”

Strange’s Special Prosecutions Division presented evidence to a Calhoun County grand jury, resulting in Hixon’s indictment in 2013. The conviction arises from a call Hixon made to the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office in which he claimed to be an employee of the Weaver Police Department.

Using spoofing software, Hixon further concealed his identity by manipulating the caller ID to show him as calling from the Weaver Police Department. Hixon attempted to obtain a user name and password for access to computerized confidential law enforcement records contained in the National Crime Information Center database.

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Lone Alabama Billionaire,Marguerite Jones Harbert Dies At 91

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Marguerite “Wita” Harbert, once noted by Forbes magazine as Alabama’s only billionaire, died on Tuesday at her home in Mountain Brook. She was 91.

Her husband, John Harbert III, formed Harbert Corp. in 1949. The company built Birmingham landmarks such as the Riverchase Galleria, the Red Mountain Expressway and the AmSouth-Harbert Plaza and also had construction projects worldwide. He died in 1995, leaving his widow a fortune estimated at more than $1 billion.

Mrs. Harbert was a civic leader and philanthropist in Birmingham, known in younger days for her athletic ability.

“She was a woman ahead of her time,” said retired Birmingham-Southern College President Neal Berte. Harbert attended BSC, where she played golf, tennis, softball, basketball and was a swimmer. “She was an outstanding leader on campus, particularly in women’s sports, especially when that wasn’t popular,” Berte said. She was voted the top intramural female athlete all four years of college and was inducted into the Birmingham-Southern College Sports Hall of Fame in 2006. She later became a major donor for the college. “She was a strong supporter of a lot of good causes,” Berte said. “I enjoyed working with her to support the Birmingham Museum of Art.”

One of the closest causes to her heart was children with disabilities, since the oldest of her three children, Jay, now 61, was born with William’s Syndrome, a genetic birth disorder.

“The greatest thing mama did in her life was she was an independent thinker,” said her youngest child, daughter Margie Gray. “Jay was born in a time when there was not mainstreaming and programs for children with disabilities. She mainstreamed him. She fought tirelessly. That to me is her greatest achievement. She gave us this brother who is so enriched. It’s affected my children and made them better people. He really has been a gift. He makes you slow down and appreciate what you need to appreciate.”

Mrs. Harbert’s family tree included several founders of Birmingham, and she was always civic-minded. “She taught us to volunteer,” Gray said. “She was always involved in the community.”

Although Harbert Construction became one of Alabama’s most successful businesses, her parents were never driven by money, Gray said. “We didn’t get cars when we were 16,” she said. “Mom wasn’t bejeweled, she wasn’t about fancy clothes, or plastic surgery. She did go to the hairdresser once a week. She had the same pair of loafers from the time I can remember. They traveled extensively to family vacation places. It wasn’t about money. For mama, it was more simple than that. She raised us that that wasn’t important. She taught us to have personalities, to grow and have character. I was raised to serve my mother. She gave us chores. She made us pick up and be respectful. It was about respecting people.”

Her personality was an inspiration, Gray said.

“Both our parents taught us to give back,” Gray said. “She valued manners, being the best you can be, education. She was fun, she was funny, she loved the outdoors. I was born when she was 38. I never felt like either of my parents were old. They were younger in spirit. She had a great sense of fun about her. She took us on picnics. She gave people nicknames. She had a great sense of fun, a great funny edge to her. They had done the Depression, World War II, then lived in a time when there were great business opportunities. They came upon a time when it was good for them. There was this side that loved to have fun, great parties. They were a great presence, they were part of that generation you’ll never see again. They had such a sense of style.”

Mrs. Harbert was a longtime member of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, where she had attended as a child. She went to Mountain Brook Elementary and graduated from Phillips High School. After college, she worked at the American Red Cross, heading up the safety service division and supervising all the teaching programs in Jefferson County.

She was known to friends and family all her life as “Wita,” since her sister Alice couldn’t pronounce Marguerite. “It came out ‘Wita,'” Gray said.

Her civic involvement included Junior League of Birmingham, Advent Day School, All-Saints School, Children’s Hospital, Center for Developmental Learning Disabilities, Spain Rehabilitation, Birmingham Art Association, Birmingham Ballet League, American Heart Association and Linly Heflin Unit. She also served on several boards: Cancer Comprehensive, Birmingham-Southern College, the Birmingham Museum of Art, and following her husband’s death, the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents.

For more details on her life, see the obituary here.

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State Troopers Are Needed Statewide

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A recent University of Alabama study suggests that there are far less than half the numbers of State Troopers needed.

“People ask why do we have such a shortage of troopers? Well, we’ve been in a hiring freeze because of the budget and it’s a budget struggle each and every year that goes by.” said Trooper Kevin Cook.

Despite budget crunches, more officers are needed on rural roadways.

“On January the 1st, the Secretary of Law Enforcement was able to re-assign 46 additional troopers and that brought our numbers up to 431 troopers.” said Cook.

But, almost 700 more or needed. So, now there are jobs available for those who want a career in law enforcement.

“The main reason to increase our numbers up is we so we can provide the the service to the citizens of Alabama that they deserve.” concluded Cook.

And what they deserve is good law enforcement, with more troopers that will be possible.

To apply for the position you can visit: http://www.state.al.us

You will need a clean criminal background and the ability to pass physical tests.

If selected, you’ll receive state employee benefits including a lucrative retIrement plan.

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Throwback Thursday: The Blind Boys Of Alabama[Brief History][Video]

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The Blind Boys of Alabama are a gospel group from Alabama that first formed at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939. The three main vocalists of the group and their drummer/percussionist are all blind.

As of 2008, they continue to tour nationally and internationally, led by the soulful Jimmy Lee Carter singing lead vocals. In 2006, Clarence Fountain, the group’s former long-time lead vocalist and founding member limited his touring for health reasons. Another founding member, George Scott, died on March 9, 2005 at the age of 75.

Releases by the group in recent years have been favorites at the Grammy Awards—they won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album every year between 2002 to 2005. The Blind Boys of Alabama were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2007.  Their rendition of Tom Waits’ “Way Down in the Hole” was used as the theme song of the HBO series The Wire in its first season.

Their cover of Ben Harper’s “I Shall Not Walk Alone” was featured in the first season of ABC’s Lost, in the episode “Confidence Man”.  The Blind Boys were featured on the Imus in the Morning radio and TV show on November 30, 2006, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on December 20, 2006 and March 11, 2008, and on Late Night With Conan O’Brien on February 1, 2008.

They have collaborated with numerous artists, including Ben Harper, Aaron Neville and Mavis Staples. They have joined Tom Petty and Peter Gabriel on tour, and will tour with Taj Mahal in 2008.

In a surprise to both the band and the audience, the Blind Boys were joined by Prince on stage in a March 7th, 2008 show at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood, California.

Former Birmingham VA Union Hospital Official Arrested

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Stephanie Hicks. Source: LinkedIn

 

A former president of the federal employees union at Birmingham’s Veterans Affairs Hospital is under arrest.

Stephanie Hicks, 43, is accused of embezzling more than $132,000 from the local chapter. She was indicted on bank fraud, forgery and aggravated identity theft charges.

An indictment says for five years Hicks schemed to defraud the banks, using her position to conduct unauthorized transactions.

“Union members elect officials to represent them and protect their interests,” U.S. attorney Joyce White Vance said. “A labor union official who chooses, instead, to live the high life by stealing from local members has committed a crime and should prepare to go to prison.”

Hicks was president of the Local 2207 chapter from July 2007 until July 2013, and represented 440 members.

If convicted, she could face 30 years in prison and a $250,000 for the bank fraud charge, 10 years for the forged securities charge and two years for aggravated identity theft.

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Dothan Tattoo Artist Charged With Secretly Recording Female Customers

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Christopher Francis Basile

 

Dothan police recently arrested a former employee of a local tattoo parlor on multiple criminal charges alleging he moved a security camera inside the business in an effort to film women as they had their bodies pierced.

Dothan Police Sgt. Clark Allums confirmed police investigators recently arrested Christopher Francis Basile, 28, of Shamrock Road, and charged him with three misdemeanor counts of aggravated criminal surveillance. Allums said each charged is a class A misdemeanor crime.

Basile was released from custody the same day as his arrest after posting bail totaling $1,500.

Allums said the charges were the result of an investigation by Dothan police, which was launched after they received an anonymous tip reporting that a security camera had been moved at a local tattoo parlor, and they wanted to report it to police.

Allums said the criminal surveillance offenses filed against Basile occurred during a one-week period in January.

“He moved the camera so it would record a private booth inside the business in which body piercings were done of sensitive areas of the body without the customers’ permission or consent,” Allums said.

Allums also confirmed the victims for each of the three charges are women. He said the investigation remains ongoing with the possibility of more people being charged.

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Alabama Takes Down Illinois 79-58 In NIT 1st Round

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Levi Randolph had 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists to help Alabama rout Illinois 79-58 on Tuesday in the first round of the NIT.

Alabama (19-14) played its first game without head coach Anthony Grant, who was fired Sunday afternoon and replaced by interim coach John Brannen.

“We were playing for more than just ourselves tonight,” Brannen said. “This is coach Grant’s program as I’ve mentioned many times. He’s asked us to carry it on in terms of going forward and we’re going to do that to the best of our abilities.”

Alabama shot 59.6 percent from the field overall, including 8 of 15 from 3-point range. Rodney Cooper added 19 points.

Malcolm Hill led Illinois (19-14) with 22 points and six assists. The Fighting Illini shot 32.3 percent from the field, including just 7 of 24 from beyond the arc, and were nearly run out of the building early.

Alabama went on a 20-0 run in the first half, holding Illinois scoreless for eight minutes. Alabama shot 63 percent from the field in the first half, knocking in 17 of 27. The Tide shot 50 percent from 3-point range on the way to a 46-22 halftime lead and they stretched the lead to as many as 30 points in the second half.

“We use the term and we used it with coach here that we just want to keep punching and eventually your opponent will eventually wear down,” Brannen said. “Every timeout that came, I said, ‘Guys, they ain’t wearing down yet so we need to continue.'”

Illinois shot 31.3 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes and 16.7 percent from beyond the arc. Coach John Groce had publicly worried about the motivation of his team this week a year after playing in the NIT and just a few days after a slow start cost them dearly in a 73-55 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament.

The Illini had no answers for Alabama and lost for the sixth time in eight games.

“I thought they were inspired today,” Groce said. “I thought that they had a cause today, and I thought they came out with a chip on their shoulder today. I thought their effort level, their energy level, in particular the majority of the first half, but I think the first eight minutes was outstanding so give them a lot of credit.”

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Alabama’s First Lady Announce Domestic Violence Prevention Legislation

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First Lady Dianne Bentley is backing legislation aimed at helping to prevent domestic violence. The measure would modernize domestic violence laws, provide more funding for victims assistance and strengthen victim protection.

“Domestic violence is a pressing issue in our state, and I will continue to use my platform as an advocate for victims and their children,” she said. “Though there is help available in Alabama, Alabama laws need to be strengthened and funding for victim services needs to be increased.”

Domestic violence prevention is part of the First Lady’s platform. She’s created partnerships with community outreach organizations. She’s also help collect more than 15,000 cell phones for HopeLine from Verizon to give to victims of abuse.

The legislation will create a clear line of communication between law enforcement, domestic violence groups and victims. The victims will be given contact information for local domestic violence centers, as will as information about their rights to pursue charges against the abuser. Police reports will be shared with local domestic violence centers. It also calls for harsher punishment for people who violate protective orders.

Her legislation relies on $2 million for certified domestic violence shelters. The governor has included that allotment in the General Fund budget.

The legislation will be sponsored by State Senator Clay Scofield, (R) Guntersville, and Representative Mike Jones, (R) Andalusia.

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Cottonwood Man Killed When Hit By Police Cruiser

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A Cottonwood truck driver was killed early Tuesday when he was struck by a state police SUV while walking along a rural roadway in Louisiana. The man was identified the man as 47-year old David P. Watford.

A press release said Watford was walking along U.S. 65 about six miles north of Tallulah when he was hit by the police vehicle. An officer was responding to a call regarding a disabled tractor-trailer when the accident occurred.

The release said Watford was wearing dark jeans and a camouflage shirt in a dimly lit area.

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Inmate Dies On Death Row

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An inmate on death row at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore died Sunday, March 15.

According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, David Eugene Davis was 56-years-old when he died of apparent natural causes. Davis had been transferred to the facility’s infirmary when he died at around 3 a.m. Sunday morning. His body was turned over to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.

Davis was on death row after being convicted in 1997 for the murders of Kenneth Douglas and John Fikes in 1996.

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Man Reunited With UAB Nurse Who Made An Impact On Him 40 Years Ago

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Gary Bentley, left, found the nurse, Kathy Henricks, who took care of him when he was recovering from open-heart surgery. “We are in the process of working on writing Gary’s life story and we would love the chance to talk with her and I think the hubby would love to thank her for being so sweet to him!” Gary’s wife Gwen Bentley said on Facebook. (Gary Bentley)

 

Gary Bentley brought a handful of things with him to Vulcan Park Sunday afternoon.

Gary had his family with him – including his wife, Gwen, who helped him search for the nurse who took care of him after open-heart surgery 40 years ago. He had a bouquet of flowers, too, and a framed photo of himself and the nurse, the only real piece of information he had to identify her.

Gary also carried a tattered, worn family memories book. On one page, there was a blank space where the original photo had once been glued. According to Gary, the memories book survived several foster homes and a house fire. He pointed out where water from firefighters’ hoses had stained one of the pages.

“I am nervous,” Gary said. “It’s hard not to cry. The tears, I have to hold them back. I’m just excited.”

When the nurse, Kathy Henricks, arrived at Vulcan Park around 3:30 this afternoon, they both welled up and embraced for what seemed like minutes.

Gary gave Kathy the flowers and the framed photo of the two of them together, and tried to thank her for showing him kindness when he needed it the most.

“I’ve never forgotten,” he told her as they embraced.

Gary had the heart surgery at UAB Hospital in 1973, after the state took him and his six siblings from their alcoholic, abusive father, and put them in foster homes. Doctors discovered that a hole in Gary’s heart that was supposed to have healed had not. He was 10 years old at the time.

“She was so sweet to me at a time in my life when I really needed someone to show me that there were good people out there that cared and wanted to help,” Gary told AL.com.

Kathy said she was in her early 20s at the time. She was six months from graduating, working part time as a nurse’s aide to put herself through school.

She made a huge impact on Gary in his recovery, but she says she “absolutely” had no idea at the time.

“I wish I would have known,” she said. “I wish that I would have known more. I wish I could have done more.”

“She went way beyond the duty of a nurse, with her smile,” Gary said. “I looked forward to it every day. Like I said before, I cried when they took me off her floor, and I tried to go back down to her floor to see her, but they wouldn’t let me.”

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After over 40 years Gary Bentley and his nurse Kathy Henricks are reunited at Vulcan Park in Birmingham. Gary was a patient at UAB and Kathy was a nurse that showed him love and kindness. (Joe Songer/jsonger@al.com).

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“The fact that anybody would go to the depths that he did to try to locate me, to thank me, it was just incredible,” Kathy said. “I just can’t imagine.”

Kathy – who is still a nurse and works in the cardiac unit at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika – said Gary was giving her too much credit. Nursing, she said, is “a lot of compassion.”

“It’s a lot of medicine, but it’s a lot of compassion,” she said. “If you don’t have that part of it, then I think something has to be missing.”

Kathy found out Gary was looking to tell her thank you when a story about Gary’s search for his nurse went up on AL.com on Thursday. He had only a possible first name, date, location, and the photo, but that was enough. Kathy’s college roommate, Gwen Harlan, saw the photo and alerted Kathy. Kathy’s daughters helped, and helped organize the reunion Sunday.

Had it not been for them, Kathy – who was with several members of her family Sunday, as well – might have never known, especially since she gave up Facebook for Lent.

She was stunned to find out that the story of Gary’s search had become very popular on Facebook and on AL.com. “I had no clue,” she said.

“We’re both very excited that it has touched so many people,” Gary, who now runs a turtle farm in Killen, Ala., and bills himself as the Alabama Turtle Farmer, said.

“That really is the amazing thing,” Kathy said. “I read some of the comments – that this story has brought tears to people’s eyes – and I was just, that blew me away. I totally feel that it’s not warranted. I don’t feel that I did anything special.”

“We never really know the potential that we have to make some kind of special impact,” she said.

Asked what they hoped readers would glean from the story of their reunion, Kathy said: “Kindness is probably one of the best things that we can freely give away. It doesn’t cost us anything.”

“I want everybody to know that this sweet lady is what kind of person who built this great country,” Gary said. “Somebody who goes beyond the call of duty to befriend, to smile, to help someone who has nothing to return.”

“Thank you so much,” he told Kathy.

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Pell City Officer Dies In The Line Of Duty

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Pell City Police Lieutenant Richard Woods has died.

A police department spokesman tells ABC 33/40 the 48-year-old died as the result of a heart attack suffered while in the line of duty.

Lt. Woods, commander of the Pell City Police Department’s Special Operations Division, was assisting a victim involved in a traffic accident.

Paramedics from the Pell City Fire and Rescue Service and RPS ambulance immediately began treatment. Lt. Woods was taken to the Emergency Room of St. Vincent’s St. Clair where treatment continued, but he did not recover.

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Three Killed In Murder Suicide In Dothan

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Christopher Joyner, 45, of Cottonwood, was charged with violation of a protection order

 

The man identified as the shooter in a murder-suicide near Cottonwood late Sunday night, which left three people dead and another wounded, was being actively sought by authorities prior to the shooting after he allegedly called police last week and threatened to harm one of the people who he ended up killing.

Sheriff Donald Valenza said 45-year-old Chris Joyner broke into a house and killed two people and shot another person before turning the gun on himself and taking his own life.

Houston County Coroner Robert Byrd said he pronounced Joyner and his wife, 43-year-old Mary Alice Joyner, dead at the home on Zachary Road around 6:30 a.m. Monday. Byrd said he found both Christopher and Mary Joyner in the bedroom of the home.

Byrd said Mary Joyner worked as the director of the Ozark/Dale County Family Service Center.

Valenza said Chris Joyner also fatally shot 33-year-old Cottonwood resident Jeffery Brett Swisher. He said the only survivor of the shooting was 74-year-old Alice Carole Swisher, who was listed in guarded condition at a local hospital.

Valenza said deputies first received a 911 emergency call with a report of a man being disorderly at a home on Zachary Road. He said the caller then told authorities the man was breaking into the home. He said the 74-year-old Swisher made the 911 call while hiding inside a closet in the home.

Authorities had been looking for Joyner prior to the shooting after his bail was revoked for allegedly violating a protection order brought against him by one of the shooting victims.

Valenza said the shooting happened at a home on Zachary Road, a dirt road off Houston County Road 33 between the Hodgesville community and Cottonwood.

Valenza said authorities had been looking for Joyner for most of the weekend after a bail revocation on a pending criminal charge was filed on Friday.

Court records show Joyner was wanted by local authorities as a fugitive from justice in connection to the violation of a protection order. Deputies with the Houston County Sheriff’s Office arrested Joyner on March 7 for violation of a protection order.

Last Friday, District Court Judge Benjamin Lewis issued an alias warrant for Joyner’s arrest, granting a request by prosecutors to revoke Joyner’s bail on the protection order violation.

“The revocation was taken out Friday and they were trying to find him during the weekend,” Valenza said. “He’d been hiding out and running.”

Joyner was released from custody at the Houston County Jail on March 7 after posting the $500 bail for the violation of the protection order.

Records show prosecutors filed to request to revoke Joyner’s bail last Thursday based on his alleged continued harassing, threatening and stalking of the victim of the protection order. ‘

The revocation request said Joyner apparently called the Cottonwood Police Department on Thursday, telling them he was across the street from the victim’s house in a field, and he threatened to inflict serious bodily injury to either himself or both himself and the victim.

Court records show Joyner to be a five-time convicted felon.

Records show Houston County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Joyner in 2005 and charged him with two felony counts first-degree burglary. He pleaded guilty to reduced charges of two felony counts of second-degree burglary in 2006. Records show Joyner received a split 20-year sentence with three years to serve in prison followed by three years of probation.

Records show Joyner had three prior felony convictions, which included felony first-degree theft of property in Houston County and two more in Geneva County, which included possession of a short barreled shotgun and first-degree possession of marijuana.

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Former Gym Teacher Testifies For Defense In Running Death Case

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A retired physical education teacher says an Alabama girl liked to run and was trying to win an award before her grandmother allegedly ran her to death three years ago.

Former teacher Vicki Sanders testified for the defense Monday in the capital murder trial of 49-year-old Joyce Hardin Garrard.

Authorities say the woman forced 9-year-old Savannah Hardin to run as punishment for a lie until she collapsed. The child died three days later.

The defense called Sanders to bolster claims that the girl liked to run and was trying to win a running award at school.

Garrard’s sister and nephew testified that they didn’t see the child running that day.

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Alabama Fires Basketball Coach Anthony Grant After 6 Seasons

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Alabama has fired men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant, who led the Crimson Tide to just one NCAA Tournament berth in six seasons amid growing discontent among fans.

Athletic director Bill Battle said in a statement that he informed Grant of his decision on Sunday, three days after the Tide’s loss to Florida in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

”This has been a very difficult decision, as I have the highest respect for Anthony as a coach, as a molder of young men, and as a person,” Battle said. ”Anthony is a man of impeccable character who has been an excellent representative of our program. He has made tremendous contributions to our program and we always will be grateful for his efforts.

”In this business we are ultimately judged by wins and losses on the court and, for a variety of reasons, we haven’t made satisfactory progress in that area.”

Alabama finished 18-14 and struggled to an 8-10 record in SEC games a year after Grant’s first losing season as a head coach. Battle gave him a reprieve after a 13-19 record in 2013-14, saying he felt it wasn’t a program adrift and predicting ”better things ahead.”

But once again, the Tide’s best postseason hope was an NIT bid. Alabama will host a first-round game with Illinois Tuesday night, and it is unclear who will coach the team.

Grant was making $1.9 million annually through 2019 with a buyout of some $4 million, which would be reduced if he lands another job.

He led Alabama into the NCAA field in 2012, ending a six-year absence since the Tide’s string of berths from 2002-06. Alabama ended the season without two injured starters, Shannon Hale and Ricky Tarrant

As the losses piled up the past two seasons, the Tide struggled to fill Coleman Coliseum, officially averaging 10,612 fans per game this season. That’s nearly 5,000 below capacity and a number of crowds appeared much smaller.

”Today’s decision is part of a larger evaluation of every facet of our basketball program that is intended to improve every aspect of our basketball program,” Battle said.” A key component in that effort is to get all of our fans pulling in the same direction, and to make Coleman Coliseum the best home court advantage in the SEC.”

Battle said he would not comment further on the decision to fire Grant or the search for a replacement.

Former Alabama guard Andrew Steele praised Grant’s impact on his life.

”Hate to hear the news about Coach Grant,” Steele posted on his Twitter page. ”He’s the best coach I’ve ever played for and a big reason I’m the man I am today.”

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Dale And Coffee Counties Are Among Hot Spots For Aviation And Aerospace Employment

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Dale and Coffee counties, part of Alabama’s Wiregrass region, are among the state’s hot spots for aviation and aerospace. Fort Rucker, the home of Army Aviation, is the primary training facility for most of the military helicopter pilots in the free world. The facility provides hundreds of jobs in aerospace, helicopter training and simulation, military and civilian employment and related industries.

Both counties list Army Fleet Support, which performs aircraft maintenance and service, as their largest employer. This sector is growing, with the announcement that Arista Aviation Services will locate a helicopter repair and overhaul company at the Enterprise Municipal Airport. In Dale County, Bell Helicopter is one of the largest employers.

Dale County’s two largest cities — Ozark, which is the county seat, and Daleville — form two of the borders of Fort Rucker. In Dale County, the aircraft conversion and maintenance company Commercial Jet Inc. recently has located a $12 million facility at Dothan Regional Airport.

Adding to the aviation industry is Enterprise State Community College, with its Alabama Aviation Center. The center offers education and training in aviation and many other fields and turns out hundreds of graduates who are ready for careers or further education. AAC has other centers around the state, as well.

Other big sectors include agribusiness — Coffee County still ranks in the top five in total agricultural production in the state and is the largest agriculture producing county in south Alabama. However, agriculture also is getting more high-tech, so those being trained in technology skills also have opportunity for higher-paying jobs. Enterprise is the largest city, and the county seat is Elba. More recently, Coffee has attracted automotive suppliers, which have expanded.

The two counties, while celebrating this growth, also are looking at more diversity, including data centers, more automotive suppliers and other jobs to ensure an economy that offers good jobs for everyone.

These counties also boast of their family-friendly natures, with amenities such as well-equipped parks, youth sports, festivals and more. Many cities are building multi-purpose facilities to host events, downtowns are being rejuvenated and retail is growing to offer more opportunities to work and play close to home.

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Son Of Roy Moore Charged With Drug Possession

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Caleb E. Moore (Facebook, courtesy of Caleb Moore)

 

The son of Alabama’s chief justice – who has made national headlines recently for his efforts to block gay marriage in the state – has been arrested on drug charges.

Court records show 24-year-old Caleb Moore, the son of Chief Justice Roy Moore, was arrested Sunday in Troy and charged with felony possession of a controlled substance and misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

Police, responding to a complaint of a possible break-in, found Caleb Moore and four other men near a white pick-up truck. A police report says an officer smelled marijuana and searched the vehicle, where he found marijuana and Xanax pills on top of a wallet containing Caleb Moore’s passport.

Moore is perhaps best known for being removed from office after he refused to remove Ten Commandments monument from the state Supreme Court building.

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Headlines Across America & The World[Week In Review]

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Suspect Arrested In Shooting Of 2 Officers In Ferguson

Brooklyn Teen Falls To His Death By Trying To Jump Between Buildings

Dubai Luxury Police Cars

Atheist Makes Over $100,000 A Year Selling Bibles

San Francisco Police Raid Rap Music Video

Philippine Soldiers Receive Donuts From Mystery Man

Gun Loving Patriots Cook Bacon On Gun Barrels

Why Southern Accents Sound Southern

Infamous Murder Suspect Robert Durst Arrested On Eve Of HBO’s “The Jinx” Finale

7-Year-Old Nicknamed “Google” Is Real Life Encyclopedia

Alabama House Passes Contentious Marriage Bill After Four Hour Debate

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After nearly four hours of debate, the Alabama House on Thursday passed a bill that gives judges, ministers and other officiants the right to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies.

Many Democrat lawmakers called the bill discriminatory, unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer money.

Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody, said he sponsored the bill after receiving phone calls from judges and ministers concerned they would be required to perform marriages ceremonies they didn’t want to perform.

House Bill 56, the Freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act, passed 69-25. The bill now moves on to the Senate for consideration.

In session today, Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Livingston, asked Hill:  “Why all of a sudden has this become an issue?”

Hill replied: “I can’t answer that, sir.”

Tears came to the eyes of Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, as she spoke against the bill on the House floor. Todd, the only openly gay legislator in the state, said the bill was drafted to discriminate against gay couples who want to marry.

“This is very hurtful to me as an openly gay person,” she said.

Todd asked Hill, a former district and circuit judge, if he was ever forced to marry someone he didn’t want to. Hill replied no.

Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, was the only lawmaker to speak in support of Hill’s bill.

“I understand this is a hot-button issue,” he said. “I think a lot of the debate winds up being about something that isn’t in this bill.”

Opponents of the marriage bill outside the legislature are concerned the bill’s reach will prevent access for gay couples at religiously affiliated hospitals, schools and other social organizations.

The ACLU of Alabama, the Human Rights Campaign of Alabama, Equality Alabama and other groups have spoken out against HB56.

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, also spoke to those same concerns on the House floor and proposed an amendment to remove the word “recognition” from the entire piece of legislation. England argued removing that word would limit the legislation to solemnizing marriages.

The amendment was tabled and didn’t go to a vote.

Todd also proposed an amendment that would require ministers and judges who don’t want to perform same-sex marriages to put a sign on their door indicating they will not perform such ceremonies. The amendment was tabled.

Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, who serves as House minority leader, said it is a “travesty to justice” that lawmakers continue to bring morality bills before getting to bills that will address the state’s $700 million budget hole.

Several Democrat lawmakers questioned the need for the bill since judges and ministers already have the right to refuse to perform wedding ceremonies.

Hill repeatedly provided the same answer to the lawmaker questions. He said his bill is simply to clarify existing law that judges and ministers can’t be compelled to perform marriage ceremonies they don’t want to perform.

Democrats argued the bill is unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer money.

“This piece of legislation does nothing to change current law now,” said Rep. Merika Coleman-Evans, D-Birmingham, said. “We are wasting time and wasting taxpayers’ money.”

Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Prichard, said the bill is discriminatory.

“We know this legislation is going to be struck down in federal court,” he said.

Rep. Darrio Melton, D-Selma, a minister, said he has performed several marriage ceremonies over the years, and he has never been forced to perform any ceremonies.

He also agreed with other lawmakers that Hill’s bill is discriminatory.

“I am tired of being first in everything that is bad and last in everything that is right,” Melton, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said.

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State Official Says Harper Lee Wants Second Novel Published

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An Alabama agency has closed an investigation into whether Harper Lee, the 88-year-old author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was manipulated into the publication of a second novel after she made clear she wanted it in print, a state official said on Thursday.

The Alabama Securities Commission opened its investigation after an unspecified complaint of elder abuse, first reported by the New York Times, tied to the upcoming publication of “Go Set a Watchman.”

“We made a determination that Ms. Lee, based on our interview with her, was aware that her book was going to be published,” said Joseph Borg, who heads the commission. “She wanted it to be published. She made it quite clear she did.”

Borg said the commission looked into the case at the request of the Alabama Department of Human Resources, which is charged with protecting against elder abuse.

Lee’s attorney, Tonja Carter, has dismissed publicly aired concerns, including from actress Mia Farrow and writer Madeleine Davies, about whether Lee was pressured into agreeing to have the book published.

“She is alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions of ‘Watchman,'” Carter said in a statement.

“Go Set a Watchman” was written before “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which won a Pulitzer Prize after its 1960 publication, sold more than 30 million copies and was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film.

The new book, scheduled to be published on July 14, features lawyer Atticus Finch 20 years after the action of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” as his adult daughter, Scout, returns to visit him in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama.

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Toddler Dead After Drinking Babysitter’s Grape Soda Laced With Methadone

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A 2-year-old Bessemer boy is dead after authorities say he drank grape soda laced with methadone.

The ordeal began Friday night when Demonie Hendon was in the care of a babysitter. Bessemer police said 31-year-old Cassie Townsend had methadone in a soda bottle and realized it wasn’t where she had left it. She immediately guessed the toddler must have picked up the bottle and went to find him.

When she found him, she could tell he was sick. Townsend took Demonie to UAB West hospital, and then left with him again. They went to another home, and then to Children’s Hospital. He was unresponsive when they arrived there, said Bessemer police Sgt. Charlie Burton, and put on life support.

Townsend, of Birmingham, was keeping Demonie at a home in the 2300 block of Fifth Avenue North. Burton said police were notified of the incident about 1 a.m. Saturday. Methadone is an opioid medication that reduces withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin or other narcotic drugs without causing the “high” associated with the drug addiction. It is dispensed at a clinic, and police said it is not supposed to leave there.

Townsend was initially charged with chemical endangerment of a child. She was booked into the Jefferson County Jail Saturday, jail records show, and released Monday after posting $30,000 bond.

Jefferson County Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates said Demonie was pronounced dead at Children’s at 1:26 p.m. He said it would be a couple of weeks before toxicology tests results are in to confirm whether it was methadone in Townsend’s soda.

Bessemer police this morning upgraded the charges against Townsend to chemical endangerment exposure to a child resulting in death. She was taken into custody on the new charge at 5:08 p.m. She is in the county jail with bond set at $60,000.

Demonie would have turned three on Saturday. Efforts to reach his family for comment weren’t immediately successful.

The investigation is ongoing. “It’s horrible,” Burton said.

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Alabama Bank National Commerce Sets Terms For $31 Million IPO

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National Commerce, a commercial bank with 14 offices in Alabama and Florida and $1.1 billion in assets, announced terms for its IPO on Tuesday.

The Birmingham, AL-based company plans to raise $31 million by offering 1.6 million shares (4% insider) at a price range of $18.50 to $20.50. At the midpoint of the proposed range, National Commerce would command a fully diluted market value of $178 million.

National Commerce, which was founded in 2004 and booked $34 million in sales for the 12 months ended December 31, 2014, plans to list on the NASDAQ under the symbol NCOM. Keefe Bruyette Woods is the sole bookrunner on the deal. It is expected to price during the week of March 16, 2015.

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UA’s SGA Elects First Black SGA President In 40 Years

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University of Alabama SGA president-elect Elliot Spillers speaks to the crowd at an MLK Day celebration in Tuscaloosa. (Ben Flanagan/al.com)

 

The University of Alabama Tuesday elected their first black Student Government Association president in almost four decades.

Elliot Spillers, a junior from Pelham, is also considered to be the first non-Machine candidate to win the election since John Merrill (now Alabama’s Secretary of State) won in 1986.

This will be Spillers’ first elected position within the SGA, where he has served appointed positions, most recently as deputy director of engagement.

He is studying business management with a political science minor, and is a member of the Honors College.

Spillers said he was “shocked and thankful” after receiving the election results.

“This is my third time at this, and each time I’ve grown tremendously as a leader and a person,” Spillers said when reached by phone Tuesday evening. “I’ve never lost hope, hope for this university and what we’ll accomplish in the next year. The real work begins tomorrow. To all the students who voted for me, thank you. It’s because of you we have the opportunity to bring sustainable change here to Alabama.”

Spillers defeated Stephen Keller for the position, who is currently vice president of student affairs in the SGA.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Keller congratulated Spillers on an “excellent campaign” and thanked his supporters.

Student newspaper The Crimson White reported voter turnout was the highest it has been in at least six years. Spillers received 8,602 of the 14,931 votes cast.

Spillers’ campaign manager Mark Hammontree said Tuesday the campaign and student involvement felt more energized than any other SGA election he’s seen during his time at UA.

“Elliot has a quality that attracts people and energizes them and makes them believe change is actually possible,” Hammontree said. “What really set his campaign apart was his ability to make people from all parts of campus feel they have a place in his campaign. Therefore, potentially, if he won they would feel like they have a place in the SGA, and the SGA would be representative of all of campus, as it should be.”

As with elections of years past, the Spillers-Keller campaign was not without controversy.

Hammontree called certain Greek support for Spillers’ campaign “huge,” particularly the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity’s decision to hang a Spillers banner from the front of their house on campus.

Early Thursday morning, two unidentified men were caught on surveillance tape stealing the banner, according to The Crimson White.

Keller denied any involvement and denounced the theft.

“Our campaign is based on fairness and transparency, and we do not condone any action to harm my opponent or his campaign,” Keller wrote on his Facebook page. “I believe it is crucial in the spirit of civil discourse to remain cordial and friendly with my opponent so that we may continue good working relationships regardless of the results.”

Spillers will be the second black president in the SGA’s 100-year history, following Cleo Thomas’s election in 1976.

Thomas is thought to have recruited significant supporters within the sorority community, along with independent students, to buck the Machine, a secret group of traditionally white fraternities and sororities who are thought to have controlled campus institutions for decades.

In an investigative series on the Machine during the 2011-12 school year, student newspaper The Crimson White confirmed many details that are synonymous with Alabama lore students from years past have known — the Machine consists of upwards of two dozens Greek houses (in 2011, there were 28 member houses), each with a younger and an older representative who attend Machine meetings.

In their 2011 report, the CW confirmed each affiliated Greek house pay at least $850 a semester to fund the organizations, reps’ bar tabs and an annual beach vacation.

In return, the group secretly endorses candidates for SGA senate and SGA executive offices and controls an impressive voting bloc.

SGA elections are not just contentious for UA students. The university’s Faculty Senate frequently discussed the Machine and its influence during heated meetings in 2013 while dealing with the fall-out of possible Greek tampering with a local school board election and the lack of diversity in the sorority system.

News of the election results spread quickly Tuesday night, resonating widely with current students and alumni on social media.

Many are calling Spillers’ election a sign of progress for the University of Alabama, which has weathered several race-related scandals and upheavals in recent years.

“It can be really frustrating and you can become disillusioned, living in this state and going to this school,” Hammontree said, noting there have been times where Machine candidates have run unopposed in recent years. “It’s really easy to think things aren’t going to change. But tonight shows that we’re ready for it. We took a huge step forward tonight.”

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Toomer’s Tree Dedication Planned In Auburn

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Auburn University is going to officially dedicate its new oak trees on April 18th at 5:00 p.m. The University and the city of Auburn are teaming up to throw a block party at Toomer’s Corner. Auburn University, the cheerleaders and Aubie will be there. Also, Kesha, Nelly and Nick Jonas will be providing live entertainment under the new oaks. The event is free and open to everyone.

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White Hall Mayor Arrested By ALEA Troopers, Charged With DUI

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James Walker (Source: WSFA file photo)

 

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency arrested the mayor of White Hall on Sunday, and charged him with DUI after Alabama State Troopers responded to the scene of a two-vehicle wreck.

James Walker, 61, was arrested on Sunday at 2:15 a.m. after Troopers responded to the wreck on Lowndes County Road 17 near U.S. Highway 80.

Walker was arrested without incident and transported to the Lowndes County Jail.

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Nick Saban Pens Letter To NFL Scouts For QB Phillip Sims, Who Transferred In 2012

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Former Virginia QB Phillip Sims

 

Quarterback Phillip Sims may have transferred from Alabama in 2012, but he never lost the respect of coach Nick Saban.

Saban wrote a letter to NFL scouts, a letter that was obtained by Rivals site TideSports.com, which painted a glowing picture of Sims, who has been working out for NFL scouts as the draft approaches.

“I believe Phillip Sims has the mental acumen and physical tools to be an asset for a team in the National Football League,” Saban wrote. “He is hard-working, driven, tough and a coachable player.”

Sims, who was rated the No. 2 pro-style quarterback prospect in 2010, spent two seasons with the Tide before losing the starting quarterback race to AJ McCarron and opting to transfer.

Sims spent a year at Virginia, made four starts and threw for 1,263 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012 before being declared academically ineligible in May 2013.

Sims told AL.com that as he was weighing his options that summer, Saban opened the door for him to come back to Alabama. Alabama wasn’t offering a scholarship for the 2013 season he had to sit out, but Saban did say he’d have the opportunity to compete for the starting role in 2014.

Sims passed, took a scholarship at Division II Winston-Salem State, sat out the 2013 season, and went on to throw for 1,560 yards and 15 touchdowns with just four interceptions while splitting time this past season.

However, there were no sour feelings between Sims and Alabama, and after Sims exhausted his eligibility, he kept in contact. That contact as paid off.

Sims was not invited to the NFL combine last month, but did have a stellar pro day at Wake Forest and piqued the interest of many NFL scouts. There’s no doubt that Saban’s words will only help Sims’ cause.

“I found him to be a quick study who was always ready and eager to learn,” Saban wrote. “He is a special young man who always followed direction and did things the right way. He was a natural leader both in the classroom and on the field, won numerous Scout Team Player of the Week awards, and was well liked by his peers and coaches. Phillip also served as a member of our leadership team and won the Ozzie Newsome Award.

“I stand behind Phillip and wholeheartedly endorse him as a player and as a man.”

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Alabama Teacher Indicted On Charges Of Having Sexual Activity, Sexting With Students

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A Blount County grand jury has indicted a teacher accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with three high school boys last year.

Ashley Parkins Pruitt, 28, was arrested Nov. 13 when she turned herself into authorities. She was charged with three felonies and two misdemeanors, and was released the same day after posting $215,000 bond.

The grand jury issued the indictments against Pruitt Jan. 29, but the documents were just made available this morning.

She was indicted on five counts: two counts of providing pornography to a minor, two counts of sex act with a student, one count of sex contact with a student. Pruitt was placed on leave from her job at Appalachian High School during the investigation.

Authorities say the alleged incidents happened in August, September and October of 2014, according to court records. The allegations against the teacher range from having oral sex in a car to sending sexually-explicit photos of her breasts and vagina to the victims.

In October, authorities said, Pruitt sent pictures of her vagina and breasts to a student who is under the age of 18 via Snapchat. She carried on multiple conversations with the “Victim #1,” which included her desire to take the victim’s virginity, according to an affidavit filed in Blount County.

Also in October, Pruitt engaged in oral sex with “Victim #2” who is also a student and who is under the age of 19. The sex act took place in a vehicle in Oneonta, court records show. She also used Snapchat to set up the meeting and carried on conversations with the victim that were sexually explicit, according to the affidavit.

From August through September, Pruitt engaged in sexual contact with “Victim #3,” another student under the age of 19. That contact, authorities said, included “kissing” and “making out” and also took place in a car in Oneonta. Pruitt also used Snapchat to send “Victim #3” sexually explicit messages, according to court records.

Pruitt has pleaded not guilty to the charges. A trial date has not yet been set.

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KKK Fliers Left At Selma Homes On 50th Anniversary Of ‘Bloody Sunday’

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Ku Klux Klan fliers were left at Selma homes on the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.”

Robert Jones, the grand dragon of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK spoke with AL.com Sunday afternoon and said about 4,000 KKK fliers have been distributed throughout Selma and Montgomery in the last two weeks.

“We pretty much put out fliers, some against King and some against immigration,” Jones said. “It’s time for the American people to wake up to these falsehoods that they preach about MLK.”

Jones said bags containing a flier and a rock were thrown onto the doorsteps of people’s homes as KKK members drove by. He said the rock acted as a paperweight, and the homes that received fliers were random.

Jones said the KKK is not upset about the gathering in Selma over the weekend, saying “Everybody has a right to gather in this country, freedom of speech.” However, he expressed frustration about the support for Martin Luther King, Jr. and said people are “supporting a man they don’t know about.”

According to Jones, the fliers were also a way to try to attract new members and to remind the community the KKK still exists.

“The Klan is still out there and we are watching,” Jones said.

According to Ashley Thompson, reporter for CBS 8 Montgomery, residents on Selma Avenue alerted the news station about the fliers and said they called police.

Sunday thousands gathered in Selma to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge as the city commemorated the 50th anniversary of the clash between police and civil rights marchers that led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act signed by President Lyndon Johnson.

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Birmingham Designers Launch European-Styled Clothing Line For Children

10985666_922897904428833_1881412031550388578_n         GentilleAlouette, a Birmingham­-based designer of premium European-­inspired children’s clothing, debuts their inaugural Spring/Summer collection on March 21.The limited edition collection combines classic styles, elegant craftsmanship, and exceptional fabrics to bring fashion ­forward clothing directly to discerning customers.

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Comedian Mike Epps Visits Mobile, Showcases New Band To Fans

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Comedian Mike Epps dancing to a banjo-driven Dixieland jazz tune? Only in Mobile.

The comic and actor, whose credits include several stand-up specials plus roles in “Next Friday,” “Doctor Doolittle 2” and other films, performed Saturday at the Mobile Civic Center. He apparently spent some time Saturday afternoon on Dauphin Street, where he found the Bayou Rhythm Band playing on the sidewalk in front of the A&M Peanut Shop at 209 Dauphin St.

Epps apparently found the music irresistible. And he also found the moment memorable enough to post a clip on his Facebook page, with the message “Me and my new band.”

Bayou Rhythm banjo player Kent Murdick said the group plays for passersby most Saturdays outside the Peanut Shop. The ensemble’s specialty is “classic New Orleans style jazz from the 1920s and ’30s,” with a lineup that ranges from two or three players up to about 10. Regular members include Scott Carter on guitar, Francis Jellett  on valve trombone, Mel Leggett on slide trombone, Ben Massey and Dean Naritoku on sax, Leslie Naritoku on clarinet, Daniel Singleterry on tuba and Tom Thomas on bass. The ensemble was originally known as Bordello Rhythm, but changed the name to improve their bookings. “We weren’t getting any family gigs,” Murdick said.

Murdick said he didn’t recognize Epps, but some spectators obviously did because his dancing quickly drew a crowd.

“The interesting thing was, you just right away knew this guy was somebody different,” Murdick said. “We have a lot of people come and clown around. He was good at it.”

Murdick said Epps stuck around for a while, longer than is indicated in the brief clip, and then moved on down the street. For him to post the clip on his Facebook page, exposing the group to his huge fan base, came as a pleasant surprise, Murdick said.

Upcoming Bayou Rhythm shows include an appearance Friday, March 13, at the Cathedral Square Gallery during Art Walk, and a performance starting at noon Saturday, March 14, at The Hungry Owl in west Mobile. For updates on the band’s activities, visit its Facebook page.

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Headlines Across America & The World

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22 Arrested After Lynching Of Rape Suspect In India

Young Males Are Killing Themselves Four Times As Often As Females

The Secret Life of a Public Library Security Guard

Utah Toddler Rescued After Spending 14 Hours In Car That Plunged In River

Are Companies With Drug Tests Weeding Out Great Candidates?

Man Buys Girl Scout Cookies With Fake $100 Bill, Takes Change

Boko Haram Swears Formal Allegiance To ISIS

Ohio Prison Officials Want To Save Money By Releasing Inmates Needing 24/7 Care 

Jets RB Wounded In Fatal Drive-By In Orlando

Man Arrested For Refusing To Give Phone Passcode To Border Agents

Gov. Bentley Booed By Some Attendees At ‘Bloody Sunday’ Event

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Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley spoke at the Bloody Sunday 50th anniversary event and was greeted by scattered booing from a crowd gathered at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. (abc3340.com)

 

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley spoke at the Bloody Sunday 50th anniversary event and was greeted by scattered booing from a crowd gathered at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Bentley, a white Republican who often is critical of Obama administration policies, spoke ahead of President Barack Obama, Georgia Rep. John Lewis and Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell Saturday afternoon.

Bentley said the bridge represents the loss, strength and determination that came to define the civil rights movement. Bentley said the demonstrators who were attacked on the bridge as they marched for equal voting rights changed the state of Alabama and the country forever.

Bentley said he hopes the anniversary commemoration helps Alabama erase ugly images and heal wounds dating back generations.

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