Across Georgia

Agricultural company accused of favoring foreign employees


ATLANTA --- Federal authorities say a Georgia agricultural company was favoring foreign workers over American employees.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a June 20 filing that Hamilton Growers, of Norman Park, was engaging "in a pattern or practice of regularly denying work hours and assigning less favorable assignments to U.S. workers" in favor of laborers from the government's agricultural guest worker program, known as H-2A.

It also said there is evidence the company engaged in a pattern of "discharging U.S. workers and replacing them with H-2A guest workers."

The complaint was filed on behalf of about 40 American employees who said they were assigned fewer hours and made less money than counterparts from outside the U.S. It said some were eventually fired because of their race.

The company countered that the employees violated attendance rules, loitered and resisted work. It also said that all employees are guaranteed the same wages but that some earn more because they work faster.

Soldier with dieting defense gets life sentence in slaying

FORT STEWART --- A Georgia soldier who argued that a crash diet drove him to kill a superior was sentenced Friday by a military jury to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Staff Sgt. Rashad Valmont was convicted of premeditated murder Thursday in the June 2010 slaying of Master Sgt. Pedro Mercado at Fort Gillem, outside Atlanta.

Valmont's attorneys said they will appeal. They insist the 30-year-old Army Reserve soldier was delirious and dehydrated from crash dieting after a different supervisor told him to lose weight quickly.

Valmont walked into Mercado's office, shot him six times with a handgun, then drove to a nearby police station and surrendered. Mercado, 47, had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was nearing retirement.

Coroner says 5-year-old died from lethal dose of anesthetic

MCDONOUGH --- The Henry County coroner has found that a 5-year-old girl who went to a McDonough urgent care clinic to be treated for a broken arm died from a lethal dose of a local anesthetic.

The coroner told WSB-TV that someone at the Family Medical Clinic gave Kensley Kirby a lethal dose of lidocaine. Kensley's parents took her to the clinic after a fall last month. The clinic referred questions to their attorney, who could not be reached Friday.

Jeff Lane, the director of investigations for the Georgia Composite Medical Board, said he couldn't comment on whether the board is investigating.