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OCTOBER 22, 2003


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Homecoming Romp

Wilder, Commerce Run Wild In Rout Of Athens Academy
Dennis Wilder was tired. But it was a good tired.

Expect a heck of a game Friday at Memorial Stadium
Make no mistake about it, Friday’s game against Social Circle is the biggest to date this season for the Jefferson football squad. As far as measuring sticks go, this one is huge.

From here on out it’s survive and advance
Lady Panthers to meet Marist on Fri. in Class AAAA North Sectional
In the eyes of Jackson County head coach Mark Mahoney, there’s not much left to work on during practice this week as his team prepares for Friday’s game in the first round of the Class AAAA North Sectional in Marietta. At this point, much of the preparation has already taken place.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Trying to preserve history
Gillsville plans community organization for history preservation
Residents of Gillsville will have the opportunity to help preserve town history by joining an organization still in the planning stages.

Banks DFACS investigates 57 cases of child abuse
During September, case workers at the Banks County Department of Family and Children Services proceeded with 57 investigations of child abuse, said director Renota Free at a recent board meeting.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Shopping center in the works for Highway 98?
Planners give thumbs up; BOC to consider plans Mon.
A new shopping center near Madico Industrial Park got the go ahead from the county’s planning and zoning commission at Tuesday night’s zoning public hearings, despite the standing room only crowd that showed up to back a petition against the development.

County student dropout rate nearly 40 percent
MCHS council says community-wide ‘Stay-in-School’ effort is needed
The Madison County High School Council is seeking new programs to address the county’s poor school completion rate, according to a report to the Board of Education Tuesday.

Our Time and Place:
A History of
Jackson County, Ga

A complete history of Jackson County, Georgia from 1796 to the present. Written in narrative style for easy reading. Includes material not found in other books about Jackson County.

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AT PUMPKIN PATCH

McEver Dugan, 4, and Reilly Dugan, 2, are shown at the pumpkin patch sponsored by the youth of the First United Methodist Church of Jefferson. Pumpkins of all sizes are available and the Dugans checked them out as their mother worked at the booth. McEver and Reilly are the children of Bob and Mary Dugan, Jefferson.

UPDATE 10/23/03
Guilty verdicts given in armed robbery
A Jackson County jury found four young men and one woman guilty of the armed robbery of Zales Jewelry store after more than three hours of deliberations Wednesday night.
The jury began deliberating at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 22, and came back with a verdict at 8:30 p.m. Judge David Motes then sentenced the five armed robbers and court ended at 9:15 p.m.
The five suspects, Andre Demond Traylor, 26, and Chad Neal Harper, 20, both of Riverdale; Kelvin Williams, 24, and Deon Reed, 19, both of Chicago, Ill.; and Erin Monet Jordan, 20, Union City, were all charged with armed robbery, kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated assault and criminal damage to property.
"This was an extremely serious armed robbery," Judge David Motes said before sentencing the five. "There are several different kinds of defendants. There are defendants I see who make me angry. These are not that kind of defendant. These are defendants who make me afraid for the good citizens of Jackson County, for the merchants of Jackson County, for all of those in Jackson County who want to live law-abiding lives. I can imagine nothing more fearful than having a gun pointed at my head and hearing noises I thought were gunshots."
Traylor was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the armed robbery charge. He was given this mandatory sentence because it was his second armed robbery conviction. Traylor was also given a life sentence for the kidnapping charge and three 20-year sentences for the three aggravated assault charges.
Williams received life sentences for both the armed robbery and kidnapping charge and 20 year sentences each for the three aggravated assault charges. He was given two life sentences because he has a prior firearm possession conviction. His life sentences come with eligibility for parole.
Reed and Harper were given 20 year sentences for the armed robbery and life sentences for the kidnapping. They also received three 20 year sentences for the aggravated assault charges. Their life sentence comes with the eligibility for parole.
Jordan was given a 15-year sentence for the armed robbery. The jury found her not guilty of the kidnapping charge and one of the aggravated assault charges. She was found guilty of two of the aggravated assault charges and given two 15-year sentences.
Jordan is the only defendant who spoke to the judge during the sentencing. She apologized for what happened and told the judge she especially regretted what the treatment of the victims. Her mother also spoke to the judge and pled for leniency. She said her daughter had attended college for two years and returned home for one semester. She said she got involved with a bad crowd.
"She's been horrified throughout these proceedings," her attorney, Leslie Roche, told the judge. "Please have mercy on her and sentence her to the minimum."
District attorney Tim Madison had asked for the maximum sentence of 20 years and Roche had asked for 10.
"The jury has decided she is less culpable than the other defendants, however, it seems Miss Jordan didn't think of the possible consequences of her actions by providing the get-away car," Motes said. "She undoubtedly knew the defendants were armed. She undoubtedly knew they went there to take the jewelry...While she is less culpable on some of the charges, she is no less guilty of armed robbery."


Water authority says ‘needs assessment’ out of line
Another tug-of-war between the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and the county water authority is heating up over a move to “study” the authority’s operations.
Last week, the authority again nixed a proposal by member Wanda David to do a “needs assessment study” of the authority’s operations. David is the former girlfriend of authority manager Jerry Waddell and her proposal to “study” operations is widely seen as an effort to undermine Waddell and open the door for the BOC to take control of the authority. David was recently appointed to the authority by the BOC.
But Thursday night, David’s plan was again shot down with a 3-2 vote by the authority.
“It is totally out of line,” declared vice chairman Warren Walker, who with Chairman Elton Collins and Dean Stringer voted against the proposal. David and authority member Clay Dale voted in favor of the idea.
Walker called the proposal a means “of getting their (the BOC’s) consultant to run our water and sewerage system” and said that the BOC had used a Freedom of Information request to get five years worth of records that, he felt, would be sufficient to conduct an analysis.
BOC PRESS ISSUE
Monday night, the BOC again pressed the “assessment study” idea at its meeting, voting to spend $22,000 to do a study even without the authority’s cooperation. Commissioner Stacey Britt, a vocal critic of the authority, made the motion for the BOC to do its own study.
“I don’t understand why they won’t open their records,” he said.
Commissioner Emil Beshara, a vocal critic of Waddell, added that he is “ashamed” public officials aren’t open to a study.’


Jefferson tax rate to be set Thurs. night
Probably won’t be as high as was advertised
City of Jefferson leaders said this week that the town’s millage rate won’t increase as much as previously advertised.
The Jefferson City Council will take final action on the town’s budget and tax rate Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. That action will be preceeded by a 6 p.m. final budget hearing.
Although the city advertised a 53 percent tax hike two weeks ago, officials said that was based on a 2004 budget which included every departments’ “wish list.” Because of the legal timeline for advertising, city leaders decided to advertise the higher rate just to cover all possibilities.
At a public hearing last week on the city budget and tax rate, city manager David Clabo said that the tax rate would have to go up to cover city expenses.
“People are asking for more,” he said. “That’s something we can address....For the city to have the money it needs to do its job, my personal opinion is that our taxes will have to go up. But they won’t go up that 53 percent. Hopefully we’ll be able to trim that down.”
“We’ve modified the millage rate tremendously and it will be further modified,”Clabo added. “It won’t be 8.6 mills.”
Only one citizen showed up for the budget hearings last week.
“I thought that 53 percent (increase) would fill this place up,” said council member Bosie Griffith at the first budget hearing held last week.


Robbery trial held this week
A Jackson County jury heard testimony for three days this week in the trial for five suspects in the March 31, 2003, armed robbery of Zales Jewelry at Tanger Outlet Center at Banks Crossing.
District attorney Tim Madison and assistant district attorney Brad Smith called 15 witnesses in the trial that began Monday afternoon with the jurors hearing more than nine hours of testimony. Madison rested his case Wednesday morning. The defense didn’t present any witnesses and the suspects chose not to testify.
Closing statements were scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. As the verdict was not available at press time, check our website at www.mainstreetnews. com for the final results.
The five suspects, Andre Demond Traylor, 26, and Chad Neal Harper, 20, both of Riverdale; Kelvin Williams, 24, and Deon Reed, 19, both of Chicago, Ill.; and Erin Monet Jordan, 20, Union City, were all charged with armed robbery, kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated assault and criminal damage to property. The suspects are facing at least two life sentences on these charges.
The five suspects were tried together and they all had a different attorney representing them. It took all of Monday morning for the nine woman, five man jury to be selected.
During Madison’s opening remarks Monday afternoon, he said four masked men robbed the store in two minutes and got thousands of dollars worth of jewelry. One man had a gun, two had hammers and the fourth had a crowbar, he added.
Madison said witnesses would say that the suspects left the Zales in a gray Buick that had been parked in front of the store and left running. Madison said they drove the stolen car to Yarborough-Ridgeway Road where the fifth suspect, Jordan, picked them up in a dark green Camry that she owns.
A Jackson County deputy, Tim Keith, passed the Camry on Yarborough-Ridgeway Road and noticed it because the driver was speeding and ran a stop sign. He didn’t stop because he was looking for the gray Buick that was involved in the armed robbery. The deputy testified that he spotted the Buick a few minutes later. It had been abandoned and was still running. Jewelry and a mask were among the items found in or near the car.
Meanwhile, two other deputies, Edmund Dempsey and Chris Poe, had spotted the Camry on I-85 and began pursuit of it. A third deputy, Charlie Timms, joined the chase and they did a “rolling roadblock,” which eventually stopped the car. One of the suspects, later identified as Harper, ran from the car and the other four were apprehended. Timms and another deputy chased Harper and apprehended him in a nearby pasture.
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office chief investigator David Cochran also spotted the car on I-85 and was at the scene when the suspects were taken into custody. He said that after a search of the Camry, officers found a gun, masks, gloves and a large amount of jewelry. Jeff Allen, who handles loss recovery for 160 Zales locations in the southeast, said the jewelry was later identified as that which was stolen from the Banks Crossing store. He added that 400 pieces of jewelry valued at almost $400,000 was taken during the robbery.
While the chase was under way on I-85, deputy Chuck Ledford went to the Buick on Ridgeway-Church Road. He testified about the items he saw outside the car, including a black ski mask, gloves and a black jewelry case.
Investigator Rich Lott went to Zales during this time. He testified about the hammer found on the counter of the store.
Lott also went through the five plastic boxes containing clothes worn by the suspects when they were arrested. The five attorneys objected to this and said that since he wasn’t present when the clothes were taken off and stored, he shouldn’t be allowed to testify. Lott said that a jailer had been present when the clothes were stored and he got them from the evidence room, where they were stored according to the inmate’s identification number.
Attorney Kevin Christopher called for a mistrial late Tuesday afternoon because Lott was allowed to testify about the clothes. Judge David Motes didn’t rule on the at that time, but said the district attorney would be allowed to give the foundation for this on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Madison again called Cochran to the stand and questioned him about the clothing the suspects were wearing when he saw them on I-85. Cochran, who oversees operations of the sheriff’s office and jail, outlined the procedure for placing clothing in the evidence boxes. He also testified that he saw the witnesses when they were apprehended on I-85 and that the clothing they had on is the clothing in the boxes.
Judge Motes denied the motion for a mistrial based on the testimony about the clothes.
“Any deficiencies in the chain of command for the clothes will go to the weight the jury will give this evidence not it admissibility,” he said. “...The clothing can be seen on the video...The court believes a sufficient foundation has been laid and denies your mistrial.”
VICTIMS OF THE CRIME
When the armed robbery occurred, there was three employees and two shoppers in the store. They all fell to the floor face down after seeing someone with a gun rush into the store and order them to do so. None of them saw the faces of the robbers, but they heard loud, angry voices yelling profanity at them.
Fania Glenn, a sales clerk, was the first to testify. Glenn suffered a torn bicep and other injuries in the armed robbery and has already undergone one surgery. She is still in physical therapy and was emotional during her testimony.
Two of the suspects dragged Glenn to a safe that had the overstock jewelry in and ordered her to open it. She said they kicked her and she heard a voice yelling, “Kill her.” One of the men had a gun pointed at her head and she could feel it shaking.
Glenn said she heard loud noises that she thought were gunshots and she thought that the other people in the store had been killed. All of the people in the store told similar stories of thinking that everyone else had been shot and that they were about to be killed. The noise was actually the suspects breaking the glass jewelry cases.
Lee Booth, the other sales associate in the store at the time of the robbery, also testified. Booth said he saw four people wearing ski masks and gloves enter the store. He yelled for the manager, Ward Doreing, to hit the panic button to alert security. He said someone also pointed a gun at him and ordered him to get on the floor.
Doreing said he saw four men come in the store and that he fell to the floor after hitting the panic button. He also said he thought he was going to be killed and it seemed like the robbers were in the store “between one minute and five days.” He said he didn’t know what kind of weapon was pointed at him, but that to him it was the “biggest, baddest” gun he had ever seen.
Doreing said the suspects “knew what they were doing” because they only took the diamonds and more expensive jewelry.
During his testimony, the surveillance tape from the store was shown to the jurors. It showed four suspects in the store.
Deloris Cochran and Charlene Smith, both of Nicholson, were the two shoppers in the store. Both testified about the fear they were in during the robbery.
Cochran, who has two grown children and seven grandchildren, said the robbery was an “assault of the senses.” She also thought that everyone in the store had been killed and that she was next.
Cochran said the only thing going through her mind was a song she had sung the night before at New Harmony Church about seeing Heaven.
“I always heard your life flashes before your eyes,” she said. “...The only thing that went through my head is how precious Heaven is...and that I would be seeing Jesus.”
She was not injured, but had glass all over her and cut her hand when she got up. She said she was afraid to get up but her sister, Patricia Medley, who was in the parking lot in her truck when the robbery occurred, helped her get up after the suspects left the store.
Smith also testified and said one of the suspects pointed a gun at her and told her to get on the floor. She was also covered with glass and cut on the hand. Smith said she didn’t’ see anyone’s face and didn’t know how many robbers were in the store.
Mrs. Medley testified about what she saw while sitting in her truck in the parking lot. She didn’t see anyone going into the store, but she did see several people run out of the store wearing masks. She saw them leave in a car parked on the curb in front of the store and ran in to see about her sister. She saw Mrs. Cochran on the floor and first thought she was dead.
Several witnesses who were outside the store also testified. Karen Martin was in her van in the parking lot and she said she noticed the Buick when it pulled into the parking lot because she thought it looked suspicious. She said she noticed someone in it with a hood pulled up around his face and someone else lying down in the back seat. She later saw the car leaving the parking lot at a high rate of speed with a green Camry close behind it. She said that it was clear to her that the two cars were together.
Another witness, Timothy Cameron, said he was in a store beside of Zales and heard a loud noise. He went outside and saw three or four people running out of the jewelry store. He said one of the people pointed a gun at him and told him to turn around. He said they all had on masks and he didn’t see their faces.
A third witness, Joshua McIntyre, said he and his girlfriend had just left Zales when they saw the men going into the store. He saw they had masks on and went to his truck to call 911. He also saw two cars speed away from the parking lot.
ATTORNEYS SPEAK
During opening remarks on Monday, attorney Leslie Roche said her client, Erin Jordan, should not be charged with the same crime as the four men because she wasn’t in the store when the robbery occurred.
“Four men committed awful crimes in that jewelry store,” she said. “Erin Jordan had nothing to do with it.”
On Wednesday, she asked Judge Motes for a direct verdict of not guilty for her client. This motion was denied. Motes said it would be up to the jury to determine if Jordan “intentionally helped in the commission of a crime.”
Chad Harper’s attorney, Ken Dious, said during his opening remarks that his client was forced to participate in the robbery. He said that Harper admits that he was in the store, but says he was taken at gun point by one of the suspects that he owed money to. He said that suspect picked up Harper the morning of the crime and ordered him to participate in the robbery to pay back his debt.
Dious apparently based his opening remarks on Harper’s intention to testify, however, his client changed his mind and decided not to speak. On Wednesday, Harper at first told the judge that he would testify. Five minutes later, he had changed his mind and said he would not testify after all.
“He changed his mind after you told him what his constitutional rights are,” Dious said.
The other four attorneys called for a mistrial because Dious had implied in his opening statement that Harper would testify that he was forced to participate in the crime. The judge denied this motion and said he would tell the jury that opening statements are not considered as evidence.
Attorney Kevin Christopher said there is no evidence that his client, Deon Reed, was in the store. He added that Reed didn’t have any jewelry on him when he was arrested.
Attorney Don Hudson, who represented Kelvin Williams, added that the district attorney only had a “guess” about what happened and that there was no “evidence.” Attorney Barry King represented Andrew Traylor and added that there is no evidence linking his client to the robbery.
One charge that was filed against all five suspects, theft by receiving stolen property, was dismissed by the judge after Hudson and King spoke on the issue. Both attorneys said there had been no evidence that the Buick was stolen. The judge said he dismissed this charge after King pointed out that cars in similar condition to the Buick can be found at local car lots.
The judge also dismissed a fleeing and attempting to elude police officers charged filed against the four male suspects. King pointed out that Jordan is the only suspect charged with driving the get-away car. Madison later agreed to also dismiss this charge against Jordan.
Security was heavy throughout the trial, which was held in the State Courtroom in the Administrative Building in Jefferson, with as many as 15 deputies in the courtroom at one time. All those who entered the courtroom also had to go through a metal detector.


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Kicked Out
Mac Barber Disqualified From
Running For Mayor Nov. 4
Commerce mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. will be unopposed on the Nov. 4 ballot after all.
City Clerk Shirley Willis ruled in a brief hearing last Thursday morning that former one-term mayor and former public service commissioner Mac Barber is ineligible to run.
His name will be struck through on the ballots, which have already been printed and votes beside his name will not be counted, Willis said.
Barber did not attend the hearing, during which Willis found that Barber did not meet the statutory requirement that he be a qualified elector at the time he qualified, and because he failed to meet the requirement that he be a citizen of Commerce for the 12 months immediately preceding the election.
Barber has 10 days to appeal the matter to the Superior Court of Jackson County, but according to John Stell, city attorney, the judge would only review the evidence and make a ruling.
"He cannot take any new evidence," said Stell.
Barber did not present any evidence when the hearing began Tuesday, Oct. 14, and was not present when it was reconvened Oct. 16. The hearing was scheduled to begin at 10:00, but when Barber failed to appear, Willis and Stell waited 17 minutes to reconvene the hearing.
Willis entered several pieces of evidence. They included:
•the state election code, highlighting the requirement that a candidate be a resident of the jurisdiction in which he or she seeks office for the 12 months immediately preceding the election.
•the Jackson County voter list for the election, which does not include Barber's name.
•the notice of Barber's candidacy and the affidavit certifying that he was both a qualified elector of Commerce and met the residency requirement.
•a copy of Barber's voter registration affidavit showing he registered April 25, 2002, to vote in Banks County with a residence of 181 Trout Lane.
•certification from Banks County that Barber voted in Banks County in the Nov. 5, 2002, election. Since one must be a resident to vote legally in an election, Willis interpreted Barber's voting in 2002 as proof he resided in Banks County at that time. The upcoming Commerce election is Nov. 4, which puts Barber outside the 12-months prior to the election residency requirement.
•a copy of Barber's voter registration form from Jackson County, dated Oct. 6. Qualifying closed Sept. 12, which demonstrated that Barber was not a qualified elector of Commerce at the time he registered to vote.
•a copy of Barber's Nov. 4, 2002, application for an absentee ballot in Banks County.
Stell read from the state election code the definition of the word "elector," which is a person who is both a resident and who is registered to vote.
Falsification of the election affidavit is a criminal offense, according to Stell, but Willis said Barber, who called later Thursday afternoon, told her it had never been his intent to break the law.


Kroger deal expected to be finalized in early 2004

***Kroger location incorrect
Kroger is coming to Jefferson, but it will be located at the intersection of the Jefferson bypass and Old Pendergrass Road. An article in the October 22 issue incorrectly listed the site as off Old Swimming Pool Road. We regret this error.

Superstore, additional shops coming to JeffersonBy Jana A. Mitcham
It’s official. Kroger is coming to Jefferson.
A sign posted at the intersection of the Jefferson bypass and Old Swimming Pool Road within the city limits announces that the Kroger Company will be locating a store and shopping center at that site — Loggins Corner — to be developed by the Gipson Company of Atlanta.
And according to Beverly Guthrie, buyer’s agent for Gipson, the company and property owner Brad Loggins are hoping for a closing on the deal in early 2004.
The site, which spans more than 10 acres, will include the Kroger “Superstore,” gas aisles, additional shop spaces and some other outparcels, Guthrie said.
“This has been under contract for almost two years,” she added. “They’ve indicated that site work would start soon after (the closing).”
REZONED IN 2002
Back in July of 2002, the Jefferson City Council approved rezoning of 12.08 acres from R-3 to C-2 at the site for a shopping center to be “anchored” by Kroger, specifically, Jefferson Square at Loggins Corner.
At that time, Jay Gipson of the Gipson Company presented a drawing of a proposed 150,000-square-foot “neighborhood shopping center” which would include the grocery store, as well as a gas station and smaller stores and outlying buildings of the type suitable for restaurants, although not fast food, he added at that 2002 meeting.
While another development company, Maxwell Properties, had cited Kroger in January 2003 as a possibility for a different Jefferson location along the bypass, Guthrie said the site at Old Swimming Pool Road has been the only one the Kroger Company said it has looked at in the area.
“This was under contract the whole time,” Guthrie said.
She added that the sign has been posted along the bypass and Old Swimming Pool Road “with the Kroger Company’s permission.”
“‘Go ahead,’ they said. ‘We’re ready,’” Guthrie said.