Originally created 03/01/97

Local and regional briefs



Escapee sentenced to life in prison

APPLING - An inmate who escaped from Columbia County Detention Center on New Year's Day was sentenced this week to life in prison without parole.

Adrian Lamont Smith was convicted of robbing a clerk at the Amoco gas station on Lewiston Road at gunpoint on Sept. 11, 1995.

He has been convicted twice before for robbery in South Carolina and received a mandatory life sentence under the "two strikes" law, said Bill Flemming, assistant district attorney.

His brother, Ebony Smith, was sentenced to seven years in prison earlier this year for his part in the robbery and might face perjury charges for testimony he gave during Adrian Smith's trial, Mr. Flemming said.

University's request to be heard

Arguments are scheduled in court next week on Augusta State University's request that a professor's lawsuit concerning environmental problems be dismissed.

Mary Mobley, a business administration professor, sued the university in 1995, claiming environmental problems in her office in Markert Hall aggravated her respiratory ailments and caused other health problems.

She also accused the administration of failing to notify the public of environmental hazards, such as asbestos, in classroom buildings. The school has denied those claims and is requesting funds to correct the problems.

U.S. District Judge Dudley Bowen Jr. dismissed the lawsuit in favor of the university in April 1996, saying Dr. Mobley failed to document her claims. But the case was reopened June 25 after Dr. Mobley's new attorney, O. Torbitt Ivey Jr., filed a request for reconsideration.

The hearing on the university's motion for summary judgment is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at the U.S. District Courthouse in Augusta.

School official to speak on sales tax

Tommy Price, Columbia County associate superintendent of schools, will speak to the Columbia County Democratic Party on Monday about the March 1-cent sales tax referendum.

The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Evans Government Complex, said Barbara Johnson, one of the event's organizers.

If it is passed March 18, Columbia County school officials say the tax could raise up to $40 million over the next five years for construction and debt retirement.

United Way to announce members

The United Way of the CSRA will hold its annual meeting, The Power of U, at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta.

At the meeting, the charter members of Augusta's Alexis de Tocqueville Society will be announced. Members of this group have pledged or given more than $10,000 to the United Way.

Thomas Gilbane Jr., chairman of the national Tocqueville Society, will be the special guest speaker.

Also, the organization will announce its Alvin W. Vogtle Volunteer of the Year Award winner.

Tickets for the luncheon are $15 and are available by calling 826-4460.

GA

Bombed homosexual bar reopens

ATLANTA - Patrons of a nightclub bombed a week ago returned Friday as the owner reopened the bar, declaring that Atlanta's homosexual community refuses to surrender to hate.

Chris Carroll and Maria Helena-Dolan, both of Atlanta, were the first to arrive Friday evening at The Otherside Lounge, one week after a nail-laden device exploded near the club's rear patio and injured five people. A second device was found by police in the parking lot and detonated.

The two women said they were not afraid of another bombing while they were there.

"This is probably the safest place in Georgia," said Ms. Dolan.

Safety was the main priority at the club. Owner Beverly McMahon hired extra security guards for the reopening, and Mayor Bill Campbell directed additional police to patrol the Midtown neighborhood, home to many of the city's homosexual businesses.

SC

Students to answer for hazing

CHARLESTON - Eleven Citadel cadets will stand before school officials in private hearings Saturday to answer school charges they hazed and harassed two female cadets. But the women who accused them will not be present.

The FBI and the State Law Enforcement Division are investigating allegations that Jeanie Mentavlos of Charlotte, N.C., and Kim Messer of Clover were hazed and harassed.

The women said that, among other things, their clothes were set afire, cleanser was put on their heads, and they were forced to drink tea until they became ill and forced to stand in a closet while being shoved and kicked.

Both women have given lengthy depositions to college officials and attorney Tim Kulp said in a letter to former commandant Joe Trez on Friday the statements should be used in lieu of their appearances.

No bad injuries in plane accident

GREENVILLE - A Learjet trying to land in heavy fog rolled into a ditch at the downtown airport here. No one was seriously hurt, but several gallons of fuel spilled.

Only a two-man crew was aboard Thursday when the plane ran off the runway and skidded down a bank onto a nearby road. The jet ended up about 200 yards from Interstate 385.

Firefighters put out a small fire in one engine. They also used sand to contain some of the leaked fuel.

Greenville Fire Chief Bob Capps said that if the jet's nose had gone into the ditch, the plane could have exploded.

Pilot Edward Fuentes, 33, was treated and released from St. Francis Hospital. Co-pilot Dennis Wenzlick, 34, was not injured.

"It's probably their worst day and their best day of the year at the same time," said Joe Frasher, airport manager.

The $3 million plane, which had left Atlanta, was scheduled to pick up passengers in Greenville.

The jet is owned by Colvin Aviation of Athens, Ga. It was a total loss.

Man sentenced in shooting death

DARLINGTON - A Darlington man has been found guilty of killing his girlfriend and trying to beat a jail guard to death.

Anthony Martin, 20, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Cynthia Hagiler.

Mr. Martin also got 20 years for assault and battery with intent to kill for attacking officer Mark Face in October 1994.

Solicitor Jay Hodge said the sentences will run consecutively.

Officer Face said as he led Mr. Martin to his cell, the prisoner turned on him and hit him on the right side of his face. The officer fell against the wall and suffered a skull fracture.

Officer Face has recovered, but he must wear glasses as a result of the beating.

State refunds disappear in computer

COLUMBIA - If you think the state recently deposited a tax refund into your bank account, don't spend the money.

A computer hiccup this week caused about 1,600 electronic refunds to be deposited and then mysteriously disappear from bank accounts across the state, said Revenue Department spokeswoman Vicki Ringer.

Officials decided not to notify taxpayers because they believe the money will arrive before any letter would.

"Those that have a real tight rein on their money, those are the people that will notice it," Ms. Ringer said.

The department asked banks to waive any service charges connected with the glitch, including returned check charges. The state will pay any fees not covered by the banks, she said.

The direct-deposit program never had experienced such a problem in the five years the state has sent electronic refunds to taxpayers' accounts.

Direct deposits save the state money because they cost about 8 cents per refund, compared with 40 cents for mailed checks.

County won't release vote reports

BEAUFORT - Beaufort County elections officials have refused to release two reports related to problems with the 1996 elections.

The county election commission Wednesday was given two reports, one from a citizens' task force and another from a Houston company that was asked to conduct an audit of the local election office.

A task force headed by Martha Baumberger studied problems in the November elections, which included long lines at some polling places and results that were not available until the morning after the election.

But the commission refused to release the report until all members had read it and recommended changes.

The revised document will be sent to the county council and legislative delegation members, Chairman James Richardson said.

The panel also refused to release a report from the Election Center of Houston, which has been asked to submit a proposal for a management audit of the local election office.

- Compiled by Mike Hill