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Zell Miller-a Southern gentleman
A Southern Gentleman now occupies the seat of senator from the
state of Georgia. When Democrat Zell Miller assumed the seat
vacated by Republican Paul Coverdale, he promised to serve in
Is the Super Bowl about football?
I've come to believe that the Super Bowl is not really about
football. It's about commercials.
Lady Raiders look for consistency after erratic weekend
A team described by their coach as inconsistent this season couldn't
have experienced a more erratic weekend.
BOC finalizes contract for ambulance billing
The Banks County Board of Commissioners finalized a contract
Friday morning with Alpha and Omega to provide ambulance billing
services to the county.
Stolen vehicles found in Banks
Two stolen vehicles were found in Banks County last week, according
to incident reports filed at the Banks County Sheriff's Office.
New housing permits, property sales soar
For the first time ever, the total of new housing units permitted
in Jackson County climbed above the 1,000 mark for a one-year
Airport expansion on hold
The Jackson County Airport expansion will have to wait until
the airport authority and the board of commissioners can figure
out how to get $2.3 million to close on 78 acres of land.
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Aiyana Hunter was named Madison County's "Miss Raider"
Friday night. She is pictured with her escort Preston Fortson.
Change of venue
sought in Fortson case
The attorney for accused murderer Tracy Lea Fortson filed a motion
Jan. 15 to have the high-profile case moved out of Madison County.
Attorney Thomas A. Camp of Athens has asked that the case be
moved "beyond a radius of 150 miles from Danielsville."
No ruling on this matter had been filed as of Monday.
Fortson pled not guilty in November to malice murder, felony
murder, two counts of aggravated assault and attempted arson.
She is accused of killing her ex-boyfriend, 38-year-old Doug
Benton of Colbert, and leaving his body encased in cement in
a wooded area in Oglethorpe County, before attempting to burn
down Benton's house to destroy evidence.
Camp said the media coverage in the area has "severely prejudiced
prospective jurors" against Fortson, who was transferred
from the Jackson County to the Franklin County jail Jan. 19.
The accused is being held on a $500,000 bond.
Other motions filed by the attorney show how Fortson's defense
is taking shape. Included in the Jan. 15 defense actions was
a motion for dismissal. Camp said Fortson was never "afforded
the opportunity to have a preliminary hearing" prior to
her indictment on Oct. 18.
"(T)o deny defendant her right to a preliminary hearing
in this matter, with all the safeguards guaranteed her under
the law, would be to deny her a valuable right at a critical
stage of the criminal processes, and as such would constitute
a denial of due process and equal protection," wrote Camp
in his motion for dismissal.
Camp also filed a motion to suppress evidence collected at Fortson's
house on Smithonia Road in Winterville "on or about June
21, 2000." The house was searched by the Oglethorpe County
sheriff's office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).
Camp said the application for a search warrant of the home submitted
by GBI agent Ben Williams to Oglethorpe Magistrate Judge Gail
Smith "did not provide probable cause for the issuance of
"Furthermore, the warrant contained incorrect and false
information, was based upon uncorroborated hearsay, and is otherwise
wholly deficient," Camp wrote, adding that the magistrate
receiving the application for the warrant was not "informed
as to the credibility of any of the individuals providing information
to the affiant personally or through others."
"This omission is fatal to the affidavit," Camp wrote.
The attorney also wants to suppress evidence taken from Fortson's
Ford F150 truck.
Camp voiced the same objections to the search of the truck as
for the house, claiming that the warrant for the search was illegally
"(T)here was no legitimate reason, much less probable cause,
to seize the defendant's vehicle," Camp wrote. "Furthermore,
the vehicle was pre-searched prior to the warrant being obtained."
Camp has also asked for all medical, psychiatric, psychological
and mental health records pertaining to Benton, who was born
Christmas day, 1961.
The attorney filed a motion "to inspect, examine and test
physical evidence" related to the crime. He filed a "motion
for disclosure of Brady materials, specifically felony record
of state's witnesses." He seeks permission for an "in-depth
juror questionnaire." And he has asked that prospective
jurors be questioned individually, with other potential jurors
out of the courtroom.
The case is expected to go to trial sometime in the next several
months, perhaps in May, though no trial date was available from
the District Attorney's office as of press time.
BOC approves raises
for county zoning board
Madison County planners will receive $50 more per month thanks
to action taken by county commissioners Monday.
The board of commissioners agreed to raise the pay of representatives
on the zoning board from $100 to $150 per month. The planning
commission chairman's pay will go up from $200 to $250 per month.
The raises were recommended by District 4 commissioner Melvin
Drake, who said zoning board members put in a lot of time researching
"They (the planning commission members) do a tremendous
job," said Drake. "These people need something else
to help them out, to show our appreciation from the county."
In other business, the board heard from zoning board chairman
Pat Mahoney, who informed the commissioners of the planning commission's
proposed changes to the zoning ordinance concerning cell towers.
The most notable amendment requires that a cell tower must be
set back from the nearest property line at a distance equal to
or greater than the height of the tower. The board agreed to
have the new county attorney consider the issue.
The BOC approved by a 3-2 vote a request by Ben Rhodes for owner
Timothy W. Rhodes to rezone 4.3 acres on Parham Town Road from
A-2 to R-R. Bill Taylor and Johnny Fitzpatrick voted to deny
the request, while Melvin Drake, Youngblood and Bruce Scogin
voted in favor of the measure. Two people spoke against the action,
saying the rezoning could leave the area overcrowded and that
the new zoning would create a "spot zoning" situation.
Fitzpatrick said the board "could be opening a can of worms"
by approving the rezoning. He said the area is mostly zoned agricultural.
Taylor agreed. But Scogin said the area already includes small
properties and that the rezoning would only be "spot zoning"
if it were "in the middle of large tracts."
NAMED TO POSTS
The commissioners approved Donny Evans and Mike Hudmon to the
citizens' committee assisting commissioners in determining the
feasibility of a county drug counseling program.
The board approved Robert W. Trevena to the planning commission
and Doug Epps to the recreation department advisory board.
The BOC reappointed Victor Johnson and John Dunleavy as the county's
representatives on the Oconee River Resource Conservation and
For the rest of this story, see this week's Madison County
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County jail completion
set for November
Completion of the new Madison County jail is expected for late
Madison County Board of Commissioners chairman Wesley Nash said
that construction on the jail will start sometime next week and
the project is expected to take 308 days.
The commissioners approved a contract Monday with Boatwright
Construction Company for $3.15 million to build the jail.
The new jail will be located off Hwy. 98 across from the county
recreation department. It will be a 60-bed facility with room
for expansion, which officials say will likely be needed in years
The current Madison County jail has an official capacity of seven
and consistently ranks as the most overcrowded county detainment
facility in the state. The old prison also has no facilities
Madison County currently loses thousands of dollars every year
housing out prisoners due to lack of bed space. The new jail
is expected to end that problem.
The county will pay for the project with the $2.3 million in
sales tax money approved by county voters in 1998 and with borrowed
New county attorney
Michael Pruett of Athens is Madison County's new attorney.
The Madison County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved
Pruett as their legal representative after a brief closed session
An attorney for the past 10 years, Pruett is a 1991 graduate
of the University of Georgia Law School. He also received his
bachelor's degree from UGA.
Pruett has never served as a county or city attorney, but he
has worked with county governments as part of McLeod, Benton,
Begnaud and Marshall, which represents Clarke, Oconee and Walton
County school districts.
Pruett has worked for the Athens law firm since January of 1996.
His experience with the company includes handling a Madison County
zoning case for former county attorney Rick Brittain.
"I'm very happy that the board of commissioners appointed
me," said Pruett, who grew up in Bethlehem in Barrow County.
The new attorney replaces John McArthur, who resigned recently,
saying his caseload outside of the county was too heavy to handle