2016
02.13

LaFayette is finally getting serious about trashy yards and abandoned lots.

Ben Bradford & Neighborhood Cleanup / Walker County Messenger Josh OBryant

During Monday’s council meeting, city leaders discussed 100 properties identified as troubled. Councilman Bradford said they’ve contacted 20 property owners and 16 have agreed to begin cleaning them up, while four others may have to be dragged into court before anything is done.

20 troubled sites being dealt with now are on “main thoroughfares” where they’re the most visible. At the current pace, the city will get around to enforcing codes and cleaning up Linwood around 2024.   Tiny Facebook

Clara Edwards’ murder trial continued through the week in Catoosa County. Prosecutors are accusing Edwards of killing Saharah Weatherspoon, a 23-month-old foster child in her care who died after being hospitalized in late 2013.

Sahara Weatherspoon

In court Wednesday, witnesses said little Saharah was often sad, withdrawn, and never happy to see her foster mother Clara. But in a foster care situation that’s not always unusual. Others said the child was always neat, clean and well dressed.

More damning, witnesses also shared about many unexplained (or poorly excused) injuries the child was seen with at church and in daycare. One who attended church with Edwards said she referred to the child as a demon. Daycare AND church workers reported the child’s condition to Catoosa DFCS, with no apparent action taken.

    Times Free Press, 02/11/16: “Members of the day care center reported concerns about Edwards to the Division of Family and Children Services in September. Members of Destiny Restoration Church, meanwhile, reported similar concerns to DFCS in October. Saharah remained in Edwards’ home, though.”>

Clara EdwardsThursday Catoosa detectives (including Walker County resident / 2012 Sheriff candidate Freddie Roden) and a GBI agent detailed the last days of infant Saharah Weatherspoon’s life. The jury then watched a video of Edwards discussing Sahara and how she was injured multiple times.

In the video Clara Edwards described the child as “a faller-downer” who probably needed a helmet but wasn’t provided one by the private foster care agency she worked for. She described herself as a “nurturer.”

Then Friday the jury saw more video of Edwards explaining how the child who died in her care fell.

A medical examiner who autopsied the baby said she couldn’t possibly have been hurt in the fall described, and a multitude of injuries indicate more than just a few accidents leading to her death.

Court will resume Monday afternoon, barring bad weather.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Under pressure (and with assistance from) the FBI, GA Department of Corrections and GBI continue cracking down on prison smuggling. This week 45 or 46 current and former prison employees were charged with corruption, including bribery and drug smuggling.

Prison Officer Arrest Collage / 11 Alive

Twenty of those charged were currently employed by GDC or a private-prison contractor, GEO Group, and all were fired. Two charged were “civilians” and one an inmate. The rest are former employees.

    GPB, 02/11/16: “A majority of those charged were Georgia Department of Corrections officers accused of agreeing to protect a person they believed was a high-level drug trafficker. The indictments say the officers agreed to wear their uniforms during the drug transports to deter law enforcement interference.
    “The officers charged worked at nine different prisons.”

Five corrections officers arrested are from the state’s Cobra unit, considered best of the best for prison security. (Cobra officers were deployed to Hays Prison in Trion when things there got bad a few years back, with mixed results.)

Outside of the COBRA team that works all over Georgia, none of those charged live or worked in this part of the state. Those arrested worked at only nine of the state’s 33 prisons, meaning this is likely just a drop in the bucket of prison corruption in GA. (Hays, for example, is still lousy with this stuff.) Arrests will surely continue.

Inmate Observation at Hays

Long-term, what’s being done to keep these problems from continuing behind bars?

Arrests and investigations like this one are a good step that will HOPEFULLY make make other corrections workers think twice before engaging in future illegal activity. Governor Deal has said he wants to start paying prison officers more so they’re less tempted to engage in illegal activity for a profit, which might also help – but even someone well-paid can fall into temptation if they lack strong character or face pressure to cooperate.

GA Department of Corrections admits perhaps it hasn’t been screening its workers very well – fixing THAT process would go a long way to address this in the future.

The biggest improvement of all – installing mobile phone signal blockers inside every state prison – is still prohibited at the federal level by the FCC.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Convicted felon picked up for acting suspicious and lying to cops at Walmart early Sunday morning.

    WQCH Radio, 02/11/16: “ONE MAN WAS ARRESTED, AND HE AND HIS BUDDY WERE BANNED FROM WALMART, AFTER AN INCIDENT THERE, EARLY SUNDAY MORNING.
    Nicholas Curtis Mugshot“JUST PAST 5 AM, POLICE GOT A REPORT THAT TWO MEN WERE PARKED AT THE STORE LOT, AND ONE WAS SEEN ‘LOOKING UNDER EMPLOYEE VEHICLES’ ON THE LOT. THE DRIVER TOLD OFFICERS HE WAS ‘WAITING FOR HIS GIRLFRIEND TO GET OFF WORK’. NO ONE WITH THE NAME HE GAVE, WORKS THERE.
    “THE PASSENGER, WHO WAS HOLDING A FLASHLIGHT, GAVE POLICE A FALSE NAME. HE WAS LATER IDENTIFIED AS 26 YEAR OLD NICHOLAS ALAN CURTIS OF LAFAYETTE, WHO WAS WANTED ON A FELONY PROBATION VIOLATION. CURTIS WAS ALSO CHARGED WITH LOITERING AND GIVING A FALSE NAME TO LAW OFFICERS.
    “THE STORE MANAGER INFORMED POLICE THAT BOTH MEN WERE BANNED FROM THE PREMISES.”

Mr. Curtis has a long list of past convictions for theft, forgery, illegal use of credit cards, and entering a vehicle.

He last got out of state prison in June after doing a ten month stretch. He had a previous jail term lasting almost two years.

Also: Local arrests, February 4-10.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Teens racing down a rural mountain road on 4-wheelers on a snow day.

Lookout Mtn Racing ATVs

Teens racing down a rural mountain road on 4-wheelers in bad weather.It's illegal, loud, dangerous, and dumb, but should it be prosecuted? So far local law enforcement hasn't been especially interested in doing anything.This video was made on Tuesday by a neighbor on Mt. Olive Road atop Lookout.

Posted by The LaFayette Underground on Thursday, February 11, 2016

It’s illegal, loud, dangerous, and dumb, but should it be prosecuted? So far local law enforcement hasn’t been especially interested in doing anything.

This video was made on Tuesday by a neighbor on Mt. Olive Road atop Lookout.   Tiny Facebook

Hector Velasquez41-year-old Rossville man, Hector Velasquez, arrested for human trafficking and promoting prostitution after he advertised the.. services.. of a 17-year-old girl online.

After arrest in Chattanooga he was found to be a registered Florida sex offender with an active warrant in that state.

Florida’s Sex Offender registry says Velasquez committed his initial crime in Hartford, Connecticut in 1996. So far LU hasn’t found anything indicating what he did there.

A former Rossville business owner says the sex offender has lived in the area and worked hard-labor jobs under various names for several years, apparently without the knowledge of local law enforcement.   Tiny Facebook

Sheriff Sisk of Catoosa County joined Steve Wilson in Atlanta this week, telling the General Assembly why they shouldn’t approve a law legalizing cannabis oil production for medication in Georgia.

Catoosa Sheriff Gary Sisk

According to Sisk, marijuana oil would become a problem like prescription drugs if the state permitted its growth. He added that he’s never met a drug addict who didn’t get started with pot.

Supporters of the law said it wouldn’t make sense for drug users to go through the steps of obtaining legal cannabis oil when other illegal drugs are still easier to get on the street.   Tiny Facebook

Summerville woman who drove in a ditch off Harrisburg Road Sunday told a Chattooga deputy she was trying to find somewhere to watch the Superbowl because her cable was out.

Deborah Hawkins admitted to drinking before taking the wheel and was arrested for DUI.

(During the Superbowl she and Cam Newton BOTH ended up in a ditch.)   Tiny Facebook

Business as usual?

Mountain Cove Farms Alcohol License / 2016

Now that Mountain Cove Farms techically belongs to the unelected, unaccountable tax-funded Development Authority, its alcohol license has been transferred to the same.

What kind of “research and development” are they doing? Impact of alcohol abuse on sole commissioner government? Community tolerance for government financial shenanigans?   Tiny Facebook

Local card game/board game retailer Stronghold Gaming is relocating… to downtown.

Stronghold Gaming Downtown Location

Business intends to reopen on the high-profile corner of Villanow and Main sometime next week.

This seems like a good fit for them. High profile, in a location where people go when they’re interested in buying something a little different. And it’ll be good for downtown, especially if they stay open late.   Tiny Facebook

Georgia Representative Jon Burns

Georgia’s new State House Majority Leader Jon Burns has neglected to file reports, required by state law, that detail some $120,000 in payments his businesses have done with the state.

Burns, who sits on a committee supervising Georgia Department of Natural Resources, has gotten at least $10,000 a year FROM the DNR through his businesses almost every year for the last half decade.

He’s championed increased government transparency while doing nothing to strengthen transparency laws and not following the laws that exist now.

Similarly, William Jackson has been a state legislator for 24 years and he’s also having trouble with HIS legally required reports. His personal financial statements, demanded by state law, are often late – sometimes being filed after the election is done.

But the state doesn’t do anything about the violations. Political ethics in Georgia.

Political Ethics / Pig Party

So are OUR local legislators working to improve ethics laws?

Steve Tarvin and John Deffenbaugh have both signed off on HB 370, a bill that requires the state ethics committee to waive past fines and fees for any elected leader who requests a waiver. It STARTS by saying nobody can run for office if they have unpaid fines, then turns into a backdoor way for nobody who has fines to ever pay them. It also gives some special forgiveness to Governor Deal for past ethical failures he’s been “punished” for and never paid up.

No doubt Senator Mullis will also sign off on it when it comes by him.   Tiny Facebook

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