Originally created 01/31/98

Local and area briefs



Inmate sentenced in attack on guard

A 20-year-old Augusta man facing a trial next month in connection with drive-by shootings received a five-year prison sentence Friday for assaulting a jailer.

A Richmond County Superior Court convicted Jason Damon Hankerson earlier in January of felony and misdemeanor charges of obstruction of law enforcement officers.

Richmond County sheriff's jailers testified that Mr. Hankerson refused to obey orders Oct. 26 and tried to choke one officer and later charged at other officers.

Judge Albert M. Pickett sentenced Mr. Hankerson to the maximum possible sentence of five years for felony obstruction and one year for the misdemeanor obstruction, allowing Mr. Hankerson to serve the two sentences simultaneously.

Mr. Hankerson and his brother, Boise Eugene Hankerson, are scheduled to stand trial Feb. 19 on charges of aggravated assault, robbery and weapons violations in connection with drive-by shootings July 3 and 6.

Judge rejects DUI plea deal

A Hephzibah man accused in a drunken-driving crash that seriously injured several people must plead guilty as charged or take his chances before a jury, Judge Albert M. Pickett said Friday.

Willie Eugene Walker, 23, was in Richmond County Superior Court on Friday morning to plead guilty to reduced charges of driving under the influence and one count of serious injury by vehicle -- crimes punishable by a maximum six-year sentence.

But Judge Pickett -- after estimating that medical expenses of those injured in the accident easily added up to half a million dollars -- rejected the negotiated plea.

"That's not enough ... I want him for a long time," Judge Pickett said.

According to the Richmond County sheriff's accident report, early on the morning of March 8, Mr. Walker was driving a 1979 Cadillac north on Twigg Street when he crossed the center line, crashing his vehicle into a 1992 Nissan driven by Sharon Broadnax.

False-charge accusation made

A pizza delivery man who reported being robbed by a gunman on two occasions while delivering pizza in Aiken County has been charged with filing false police reports after admitting he was never robbed.

Freddie Gregory, 21, of Warrenville told North Augusta Public Safety officers that while delivering a Papa John's pizza to Willow Wick apartments Jan. 16, a masked gunman approached him in his car and demanded cash from him. The following weekend, Mr. Gregory reported a similar incident just outside North Augusta.

North Augusta and Aiken County police met with the delivery man, who finally admitted he was never robbed, police said. He is charged with filing false reports.

Democratic chief to resign

AIKEN -- South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Ronnie Maxwell of Aiken said Friday he will resign in February so the party can choose a new leader before the November elections.

Mr. Maxwell earlier said he would resign in May when his term ends.

"I have absolutely no doubt that this is the correct decision," he said. "With the busy activity of an election year, waiting until May to select a chair is not in the best interest of the state party."

The party's executive committee will fill Mr. Maxwell's unexpired term at the Feb. 17 meeting.

The Aiken attorney, in his second two-year term, said earlier this week he is resigning to spend more time with his family and his law firm.

Columbia prosecutor-turned-trial lawyer Dick Harpootlian has expressed interest in the job.Convictions could draw 35 yearsAn Augusta man is facing as much as 35 years in prison next month when he is sentenced for various crimes, including one he was convicted of Thursday in Richmond County Superior Court.

A jury convicted Larry Roberson, 35, of felony obstruction of a law enforcement officer in connection with a struggle with a Richmond County sheriff's deputy over the officer's gun.

In November, a jury convicted Mr. Roberson of theft by receiving, being a convicted felon in possession of a weapon and various traffic offenses but deadlocked over whether Mr. Roberson was also guilty of aggravated assault on the officer.

Last March, Mr. Roberson was shot by an officer after he committed a series of traffic offenses in a stolen vehicle that he wrecked, and then he struggled with an officer over a handgun.

Norwood to sit on health panel

WASHINGTON -- House Republican leaders this week named U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., to a new House GOP task force on health-care reform.

Dr. Norwood is the author of the Patient Access to Responsible Care Act, a managed-care reform bill that has about 220 co-sponsors, including more than 90 Republicans.

He said the task force appointment will give him an opportunity to try to persuade reluctant Republicans to get behind reform legislation.

The Norwood bill would establish a consumer "bill of rights" governing health-insurance plans. Patients would be guaranteed access to emergency room care without prior authorization and the choice of a doctor outside their health plan.

They also could appeal denials of care to an outside panel and sue insurance plans for harm from medically negligent decisions.

The task force has not yet set dates for meetings or hearings, said John Stone, a spokesman for Dr. Norwood.

Hollings seeks accounting change

WASHINGTON -- After President Clinton's State of the Union call to preserve Social Security, U.S. Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings has introduced a bill to keep the program's revenues out of the hands of either big spenders or tax cutters.

Mr. Hollings, D-S.C., disputed the idea that a huge budget surplus will come during the coming fiscal year, enough to fuel new spending and tax-cut initiatives.

He said revenues from federal trust funds are counted as part of the predicted general-fund surplus, even though that money is supposed to be dedicated to Social Security, Medicare, unemployment compensation, and military and civilian retirees.

Mr. Hollings' bill would require the Social Security trust fund to become a separate entity, prohibiting its use for other purposes.

"If you want to save Social Security, don't take funds from it in the first place," Mr. Hollings said during a Capitol Hill news conference.