Sheriff: Jailers not told of anti-white bias in inmate death


COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — Jail officials say they were unaware that a Black Georgia inmate may have harbored racial resentment before they put him in a cell with a white man that he’s accused of beating to death.

Muscogee County Sheriff Donna Tompkins tells local news outlets that her staff didn’t know that Jayvon Hatchett allegedly told police that he was looking for a white man to kill after he was arrested for stabbing an employee of a Columbus auto parts store on Aug. 25. A police report listed the stabbing as an “anti-white” bias incident, but Tompkins said the sheriff’s office wasn’t given the report or informed of the threat.

“No one in my agency was aware when they classified him, when they put him where they put him,” Tompkins said. “No one was aware of a specific threat to any group, nor did he indicate any to our security, medical or mental health staff.”

Hatchett shared a cell with white inmate Eddie Nelson Jr. from Aug. 28 through Sept. 5. A deputy reported seeing Hatchett atop Nelson in the early morning hours of Sept. 5, local news outlets report. Tompkins said that as deputies pulled Hatchett from Nelson, he said Nelson had put a hair in Hatchett’s sandwich. Nelson died of what the Muscogee County coroner ruled was blunt force trauma.

“Somebody made a decision to put these two inmates in a cell together and that never should have happened. Whoever did it had to have known,” said Craig Jones, a lawyer representing Nelson’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit.

He said multiple deputies were in the courtroom during Hatchett’s preliminary hearing where officers testified Hatchett told them he stabbed the store clerk because he is white.

“You can’t tell me those officers in court didn’t go back to the jail and tell their supervisor, and their supervisor didn’t tell their supervisor,” Jones told WTVM-TV. “I think it was probably a total breakdown of communications, but this is a big enough deal that if you’re in charge of the jail, if you’re in charge of the sheriff’s department, you have to know about this.”

Tompkins said she ordered an internal investigation into what knowledge deputies had of the charges against Hatchett and how they decided to house him with Nelson. But she said sees no reason to call in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Nelson was in jail for a probation violation because he had failed to register as a sex offender.

Hatchett is charged with murder in Nelson’s death. The 19-year-old has pleaded not guilty, but officials say he has confessed and Tompkins notes the deputy saw what happened. Hatchett is charged with aggravated assault and possession of a weapon during a crime in the auto parts store stabbing.

Tompkins said both cellmates had seen the jail’s mental health provider.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Source: https://thebrunswicknews.com/news/state_news/sheriff-jailers-not-told-of-anti-white-bias-in-inmate-death/article_76310b95-b0cb-596b-b8bf-e992e83317f4.html

NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week


A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:

CLAIM: Law enforcement found 39 missing children in a double-wide trailer in Georgia.

THE FACTS: A law enforcement operation in August did locate 39 children in Georgia over a two week period, but the children were not all found in one trailer or in a single location. On August 27, the U.S, Marshals Service announced the completion of a two-week operation that located 39 children in Macon, Georgia, and the greater Atlanta area. During “Operation Not Forgotten,” the U.S. Marshals Service and other law enforcement agencies rescued 26 children and arrested nine people. Law enforcement also located an additional 13 children who had previously been reported missing, and confirmed the children were with the proper custodian. Posts on social media distorted some facts of the operation. “How is finding 39 missing children in a double wide trailer in Georgia NOT the biggest news story in America?” reads a post that has been widely shared and copied on Facebook. But the children were not all found in a double-wide trailer or even in a single location or on a single date, said Dave Oney, a spokesperson for the U.S. Marshals Service. “The children were found in a variety places — houses, hotel rooms,” Oney told the AP. Other children were located in apartments and “even on the streets,” according to Darby Kirby, chief inspector with the U.S. Marshals Service Missing Child Unit. Neither Oney or Darby were able to confirm if any of the children had been located in a trailer. Oney said some of the children had been missing for a few days while others had been missing for a couple of years. “Fifteen of the children were identified as victims of trafficking. The other children were victims of parental kidnappings, children who absconded from the Division of Family and Children Services, Department of Juvenile Justice custody, and were believed to be in danger or critically missing,” reads a statement Oney provided to the AP. While social media posts suggest the story about the children found in the trailer is not getting enough attention, that is because the claim about the trailer is false. Operation Not Forgotten was covered by many media outlets, including The Associated Press, CNN, CBS and others.

— Associated Press writer Jude Joffe-Block reported this item from Phoenix.


CLAIM: California just passed SB 145, a bill that would end felonies for child rape and legalize pedophilia in the state.

THE FACTS: SB 145, which has passed the California legislature and awaits the governor’s signature, would not legalize pedophilia. It would only give judges expanded discretion to determine whether an adult must register as a sex offender. Under current law, judges can make that decision in cases of voluntary, but illegal, vaginal sex with a minor age 14 to 17 and an adult within 10 years of the minor’s age. SB 145 would expand that law to include voluntary oral and anal sex within the same age parameters. The bill would not apply to any minor under the age of 14, nor would it apply to any age gap larger than 10 years. It also would not apply if either party claims the sex was involuntary. Advocates say the bill makes existing California law more inclusive for the LGBTQ community. The bill has been widely condemned by social media users falsely claiming it would legalize pedophilia. “PEDOPHILIA is now LEGAL in CALIFORNIA,” read a Facebook post viewed more than 8 million times. “Now a 21 year old can have sex with an 11 year old, and not be listed on the sex registry as a sex offender. This is unbelievable California!” Posts making such claims fundamentally misrepresent what SB 145 does, according to the bill’s authors and outside experts. Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, called the claims “hogwash” in an interview with The Associated Press. “The accusation that it somehow allows pedophilia is simply not true,” Levinson said. Also, contrary to false posts on social media, the bill would not apply when a minor is under the age of 14, when the age gap is larger than 10 years, or when either party says the sex was not consensual. If passed, the bill would “bring much-needed parity” to California sex offender registration law, according to a statement from Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who drafted the bill. “This bill allows judges and prosecutors to evaluate cases involving consensual sex acts between young people, regardless of their sexual orientation, on an individual basis,” the statement said. The bill did face opposition in the legislature by some lawmakers, including Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who said she thought the 10-year age gap was too broad. The bill has passed both houses of the California legislature and awaits a signature from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Source: https://thebrunswicknews.com/ap/national/not-real-news-a-look-at-what-didnt-happen-this-week/article_c4eeed60-2b74-5f81-b208-77b5d03f853f.html

Lengthy penalty sinks sex offender residency bill


The push on legislation combating human trafficking and child sex crimes arrived in the state Senate Judiciary Committee late Monday afternoon, as the committee voted down one proposal and heard discussion on several others.

State Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah, appeared for the vote on his legislation, which included Senate Bill 35. The idea is to prohibit sex offenders from living so close to their victims and victims’ immediate family members so as to cause ongoing problems.

“We’ve had a hearing-only on this bill already, and I will point out what I think is the major change,” said state Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, who also chairs the committee. “That is on Line 36, which was reworded to read, ‘No individual shall move to reside within,’ and that differs from the original language, which was, ‘No individual shall reside within.’

“The thought process there is, you will recall from the discussion with the prosecuting attorneys, is that there were some constitutional issues, where someone moves to within 2,000 feet of a victim but is unaware that the victim is within that distance.”

The key phrase in the bill, Jackson pointed out, is an offender would have to make a knowing and intentional violation of the law — a person couldn’t be charged when they had no idea they were in violation.

The distance set by the bill is 2,000 feet, which Jackson explained to state Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, just seemed to be the most reasonable distance.

“What 2,000 feet relates to, well, 1,000 feet, as you can imagine, for lack of a better term, three football fields,” Jackson said. “So, 2,000 feet is six football fields. If a person that’s a victim wants to go for a walk, 2,000 feet — meaning they can go in a circle around three or four football fields and they don’t have to worry about their assailant. Seeing their assailant, or the assailant being a predator, or just looking at them. There’s nothing magical about 2,000 feet, but 1,000 feet we thought was just too small of a distance.”

State Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, expressed concerns with the penalties, which appears to have been the issue that sunk the legislation, ultimately. The new law would provide for a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, which some senators saw was too much for the offense.

Among the bills heard Monday without a vote, state Sen. Zahra Karinshak, D-Duluth, brought two that deal with human trafficking — S.B. 325 and S.B. 326.

“I want to share with you that these are two important measures to fight sex trafficking and human trafficking here in Georgia, which as you know is a high priority for our governor,” Karinshak said. “Senate Bill 325 would expand the statute of limitations for prosecuting human trafficking-related offenses to 10 years from the commission of the crime, or from any victim’s 18th birthday.”

Susan Coppedge, a friend of Karinshak’s from their time as federal prosecutors, spoke on S.B. 326. She recently served both the Obama and Trump administrations in the State Department as the ambassador at-large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking of Persons.

S.B. 326 would allow for the clearing of criminal records for victims of human trafficking. She said as it stands now, trafficking survivors remain in a position of vulnerability because they can’t get jobs as a result of these criminal actions they were forced to commit.

Coppedge also provided the anecdote of a mother who said she wasn’t allowed to chaperone her daughter’s field trip because of a past prostitution conviction.

“It also affects the ability to get housing in some situations, and it just continues to victimize a survivor that the system recognizes is a victim of a crime, not a perpetrator,” Coppedge said. “That’s why the law is so important. And Georgia — sadly, for me — is one of 10 states at last count that had not passed a law like this.”

State Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, presented legislation that would criminalize the possession and production of sexually suggestive images of children that already aren’t covered by other laws. He said the issue came up in a summer study committee that there’s a gap in existing law.

Presently worded, S.B. 331 states, “It is unlawful for any person to knowingly possess or control or produce any material or medium which contains images that depict a naked or nearly naked, suggestively posed, and inappropriately sexualized child or children with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desire of such person or the person viewing such images.”

Work will also continue on tweaking that bill, which during discussion appeared to need more specificity.

Jackson closed out the hearing by discussing his bill to outlaw childlike sex dolls.

“Similar measures have been passed in the state of Florida, also in the state of Tennessee, also, if you look back, there’s a … (U.S.) House resolution, 4655, introduced in June 2018, that talked about childlike sex dolls,” Jackson said. “It is indeed a problem that has come to Georgia … actually, sold across the world. There have been 230 childlike sex dolls that have already been caught, and in the GBI or in federal custody. that have entered our state.”

Jackson was slightly off with his dates — the congressional resolution referenced was the Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots Act — or CREEPER Act — of 2017. It passed the House by voice vote June 2018 after introduction in December 2017. The bill, a bipartisan effort, didn’t have any Georgia co-sponsors.

Possession of such a doll under Jackson’s S.B. 332 would be a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature on first offense and a felony for every offense thereafter, resulting in sentences of one to five years. Meanwhile. selling, lending, giving away or manufacturing such a doll, or possession with intent to do the same, would be a felony with penalties of one to 10 years.

Source: https://thebrunswicknews.com/news/local_news/lengthy-penalty-sinks-sex-offender-residency-bill/article_6f4e6734-4098-5d78-8771-a67864fd3720.html

Legislators hit ground running on first day of 2020 session


The eyes of Georgia turned briefly to the coast Monday morning as state Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, fulfilled his role in the ceremonial opening of the 2020 session in the state House of Representatives.

“And now, a moment I have been waiting for, for three or four months,” Speaker of the House David Ralston said. “Do y’all feel the tension building? The chair recognizes for the report of the Committee on Information and Audits, the chair of that committee, the gentleman from the 179th District, representing the coast of Georgia, Chairman Don Hogan.”

The recognition was the cause of some mirth within the chamber, as state Rep. Noel Williams Jr., R-Cordele, and state Rep. Matt Dollar, R-Marietta, chuckled throughout the process.

“Just look who you’ve surrounded me with,” Hogan said, referencing Williams and Dollar. “Mr. Speaker, your Committee on Information and Audits has read the journal of the previous legislative day, and found it to be correct. And what a great start of this session.”

The House had a light day, approving a resolution that lays out the schedule for the next 14 legislative days, and going through first and second reading of a number of bills.

Notable among the second readers is H.B. 720, sponsored by state Rep. Steven Sainz, R-Woodbine, among others, which mandates probation to follow prison time for convicted sex offenders. Judges would also have the ability to set a maximum life probation penalty if the defendant is convicted of a felony.

The bill also reorganizes how the state determines risk and how it classifies people considered sexually dangerous.

H.B. 724, lead-sponsored by state Rep. Matthew Wilson, D-Brookhaven, would decriminalize marijuana possession in unincorporated areas of counties, with the maximum penalty limited to a fine of $1,000. Counties would be able to set other, lesser penalties.

H.R. 811, sponsored by state Reps. David Knight, R-Griffin, and Trey Rhodes, R-Greensboro, urges the House to take a closer look at the Spaceport Camden proposal and consider the risks in approving the venture.

Meanwhile in the other chamber, call it the day the lights went out in the Georgia Senate.

A power outage in the area of the State Capitol threw a bit of a wrench into the proceedings in the state’s upper chamber, though the schedule ran close to planned in the House.

Among the first considerations is a bill on internet sales taxes in which the Senate insisted on its version of the bill, H.B. 276, and notified the House. The House voted against the Senate’s amendments to the bill at the end of the 2019 session, which sets things up for a conference committee to work out the differences.

Among the bill’s details, it would require sales taxes for use of ride share apps, and an online marketplace facilitator would be obligated to pay taxes for retail sales, not the marketplace seller. A marketplace facilitator, as defined in the bill, is someone who “contracts with a seller in exchange for any form of consideration to make available or facilitate a retail sale that is taxable under this chapter on behalf of such seller directly or through any agreement with another person….”

Retail sales will be assumed to be made in Georgia “if it is to be held for pickup, used, consumed, distributed, stored for use or consumption or rendered as a service within this state.”

Legislation taken up during first readers today in the House includes a coal ash cleanup bill, H.B. 756, which is one of the policy priorities of House Democrats.

“Under Georgia law, we protect the environment and human health from household trash more than we protect the environment from the dangers of coal ash,” state Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, said in a statement.

The bill’s sponsors have a steep hill to climb, both in terms of lobbying and being in the minority party. Republican efforts on coal ash legislation in recent years — notably by state Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, and state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak — never made it out of committee.

Source: https://thebrunswicknews.com/news/local_news/legislators-hit-ground-running-on-first-day-of-2020-session/article_1a84d4b4-f2d4-5ff8-acd6-cf3c7894a4ae.html

Proposed homeless home generates concerns


Cindy Supernaw has fond memories of her days as a seventh-grader at Frederica Academy when the school was located in what is now Harpers Joy, a home for the mentally disabled in Brunswick’s downtown historic district.

Frederica Academy held classes for several years in the building after the old Brunswick hospital closed. She’s seen a lot of changes since Frederica Academy moved to St. Simons Island and the building was repurposed as a home for the mentally disabled called Harpers Joy more than two decades ago.

Supernaw lives in a house less than a half block away from Harpers Joy, and like many living in the surrounding area, she has never had a complaint about the residents and believes they are good neighbors.

In fact, when the state tried to close Harpers Joy in 2012, neighbors rose up to express their support for keeping the facility open. After months of protests, and with the help of then State Rep. Alex Atwood, the state backed down and kept Harpers Joy open.

What has dismayed Supernaw and many others is a proposal to turn Harpers Joy into an apartment complex for the homeless. And she’s not alone.

A petition started after last week’s meeting has already generated more than 670 signatures opposing the creation of a homeless home at the old hospital.

There are lots of concerns about how surrounding neighborhoods will be affected if Hand in Hand of Glynn, Inc. goes forward with plans to convert the building, she said.

Critics of the proposal say the old hospital building, located on Norwich Street, is too far from the commercial district downtown — about eight blocks away — for residents to walk through residential neighborhoods to shop, work or go to doctors appointments.

Some have also expressed concerns about the potential for an increase in crime, loitering, noise late at night and the difficulty residents will have grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments and job hunting at the location.

“We need a place for the homeless but not in a residential neighborhood,” Supernaw said. “That’s going to screw up this neighborhood.”

Another neighborhood resident, Melanie Page, said she is concerned the park across the street from the old hospital building will become a magnet for the homeless.

“It’s a bad idea,” she said. “There are no services close to here. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Page said a homeless home should also come with mental health services for some of the residents, which was not mentioned at the meeting by the Hand in Hand of Glynn representatives who spoke. Hand in Hand became a registered charity in Georgia in February and there is no contact information other than a post office box address. Nobody from Hand in Hand could be reached Wednesday for comment.

Anne Stembler, of St. Simons Island, one of the Hand in Hand members who explained the project to a sometimes hostile audience last week, said volunteers have raised more than $500,000 for the project, estimated to cost about $3 million to renovate the building.

What attracted organizers was the building already had 24 efficiency apartments with electricity metered by unit, sprinklers and security cameras already system in place, a recent inspection by the fire department and proper zoning.

Organizers said they would be selective on who would live in the complex. Sex offenders and people convicted of violent crimes would not be eligible to live in the building. Overnight guests would not be allowed and visitors would be required to show identification prior to entering the building, which will have security around the clock.

Supernaw said the current use of the building as a home for the mentally disabled would be ideal. But Gateway officials who manage the property said they have already moved out about one third of the residents, and they plan to move the remainder in coming months.

But if Harpers Joy is determined to move, Supernaw had another suggested use for the building.

“I think the use they have now is the right one,” she said. “It would make a great loft. Even just an apartment complex would be great.”

Source: https://thebrunswicknews.com/news/local_news/proposed-homeless-home-generates-concerns/article_b63986a9-7760-59c5-bbc7-cf3240d876af.html

Key sex trafficking bill heads to governor


The state Senate by a 52-0 vote Friday sent Senate Bill 158, the “Anti-Human Trafficking Protective Response Act,” to the governor for his signature. The legislation was a priority for the Governor’s Office this session.

State Sen. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough and floor leader for the governor, explained some of the amendments to the bill since the last time the Senate voted.

“The first is in Section 1-3 of the bill, and here we just confirmed that the organization, the victim assistance organization that we’re referring child victims to, will be certified by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council,” Strickland said. “The next change is in Section 1-6. This is where we made it where a minor cannot be prosecuted for prostitution in our state — we have the age of 17, because that is the age in our state of being an adult in Georgia. The House had a version of the bill, they wanted 18, and we agreed with them, so 18 is the age we went to there.

“The bigger changes come in sections 1-9 and 1-10, and this is where we’re trying to use our nuisance laws to go after businesses that have human trafficking occurring on their premises, and are profiting from that. The big thing we discussed is how you create a presumption of a nuisance.”

He said there is a presumed nuisance if there’s a conviction or guilty plea regarding a sex offense committed on the property. Nuisance presumption typically will follow a set of notices given to the property owner, especially involving repeated drug activity. Strickland said that from law enforcement testimony, illegal drug activity tends to occur where sex trafficking occurs.

House Bill 424, adding sex trafficking to the state gang law, passed the Senate on substitute 50-0 and returns to the House for concurrence. State Sen. John F. Kennedy, R-Macon, who presented the bill, noted that language regarding elder abuse — which was part of a different bill originally — was added in order to clean up the state law and reduce conflicts.

The Senate also passed S.B. 6, which prohibits the use of drones to drop contraband into jails and prisons, and now goes to the governor.

The chamber decided not to agree to the House’s changes to a revision of the state hunting laws, so that has to be dealt with in conference committee if S.B. 72 is to advance. While there are minor changes throughout the bill, most of the talk regarding the bill involved the legalization of airgun hunting on private land, and making it easier under the law to bait feral hogs.

With state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, on an excused absence, state Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, presented H.B. 201. That bill, of which the lead sponsor is state Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, prohibits the residents of live-aboard vessels from dumping raw sewage into the state estuaries. It also allows for the state Department of Natural Resources to administer anchorages where pumping out of the waste is possible.

H.B. 201 passed the Senate by a vote of 45-0, and because there were no Senate changes, it now also goes to the governor for his signature.

In the House, a resolution supported in a bipartisan manner by the coastal delegation never received a vote. House Resolution 48, which advocates for coastal industries and the coastal environment, while opposing seismic airgun testing and offshore drilling, was placed on the calendar by the House Rules Committee earlier Friday.

However, apropos of nothing and with no explanation at the time, state Rep. Alan Powell — a Republican from Hartwell who does not sit on the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, which favorably reported the resolution — late Friday afternoon had it recommitted to the Rules Committee.

Source: https://thebrunswicknews.com/news/local_news/key-sex-trafficking-bill-heads-to-governor/article_a49009ba-6bbb-520b-8b45-b307e85e0a00.html

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