Originally created 03/12/98

Additional area news



Federal court says jurisdiction lacking

ATLANTA -- Federal courts lack jurisdiction over advertising transmitted within a state to fax machines, a federal appeals court has ruled in an Augusta lawsuit.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered the U.S. District Court to dismiss a complaint against Hooters of Augusta Inc. over unsolicited advertising. The panel said the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act applies only to interstate transmissions.

The plaintiff, Sam Nicholson, had complained that the use of fax advertising shifted the cost to the consumer. The lower court had ruled that Mr. Nicholson had failed to state a claim. The appeals panel was made up of Senior U.S. Circuit Judges James C. Hill and John R. Gibson and U.S. Circuit Judge Joel F. Dubina.

Woman indicted on tax charges

A former Augusta resident will be arraigned in court later this month on federal charges that she lied on her federal income tax returns, underestimating her earnings by nearly $750,000 over four years.

A federal grand jury indicted Darlene C. Pennington, now of Tybee Island, Ga., on four counts of making false personal income tax returns. Each charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Her arraignment is scheduled for March 24 in Augusta's federal court.

The indictment accuses Ms. Pennington of claiming she earned from $7,636 to $25,225 from 1991-94, when her real earnings ranged from $120,254 to $308,673 in those years.

The indictment alleges Ms. Pennington lived in Augusta in 1992 and in Hephzibah in 1993 when filing tax returns. The following two years, she lived at Tybee Island, near Savannah.

Wagener magistrate sworn in

WAGENER -- Donna Williamson of Wagener was sworn in Wednesday as Aiken County's newest magistrate. She replaces Wagener Magistrate Olin T. Corbett, who left office Jan. 2.

Chief Magistrate Max Meek said Judge Williamson will be in training through May. In the meantime, county officials must decide where she will hold court. Judge Corbett kept office on his back porch.

Judge Williamson said she expects the county to select a site in downtown Wagener but the location hasn't been determined. She begins her training Monday in Columbia with classes at the Criminal Justice Academy.

She will also spend time with other local magistrates.

Her salary as a part-time magistrate working 39 hours a week is about $28,000. She has been working at Wagener Insurance and Realty.

Judge Williamson is married and has two children, Anna, 11, and Cliff, 19. Her husband, Billy, is a state employee who works in Columbia as a master craftsman. Her mother-in-law is Inease Williamson, a member of the Aiken County Board of Education.

Robber sentenced to 25 years

APPLING -- An Augusta man accused in a string of armed robberies pleaded guilty Wednesday and was sentenced in Columbia County Superior Court.

Gordon L. Saddler, 22, charged in seven armed robberies while on parole in Columbia and Richmond counties before his Oct. 22 capture, pleaded guilty to all charges against him, including armed robbery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, aggravated assault, obstruction of a police officer and simple battery, according to Assistant District Attorney Kelly Brashear.

For the armed robbery and weapon convictions, Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet sentenced Mr. Saddler to 25 years in prison, Ms. Brashear said.

Federal flood aid promised

ALBANY -- The Clinton administration promised federal disaster relief for flooded southwest Georgia on Wednesday as small boats cut through neighborhoods making rescues and residents hunkered down to await the cresting of the Flint River.

James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, flew over the flood area and announced a presidential declaration making a half-dozen counties eligible for disaster relief -- less than four years after flooding caused Georgia's worst natural disaster.

Report card shows B, D

ATLANTA -- Georgia's new science curriculum gives students a laundry list of science topics without teaching underlying principles, the Fordham Foundation of Washington said in a recent report.

The education think tank gave Georgia's revised Quality Core Curriculum a B in mathematics but a D in science in a state-by-state analysis released Tuesday. An international study recently blamed a curriculum covering too many topics with too little depth for American 12th-graders' poor showing compared to other nations.

Bill would raise speed limit

COLUMBIA -- Motorists could legally drive 70 mph on South Carolina's interstate highways under a proposal that once again has state House approval but failed last time in the Senate.

Representatives voted 101-11 Wednesday to increase the limit from 65 mph to 70 mph, and the limit on multilane divided highways from 55 mph to 60 mph. The speed limits would apply only in areas where the change is posted but the bill does not specify what those areas would be. The speed limit would remain at 55 mph on other highways.

PSC member defends spending

COLUMBIA -- State Public Service Commissioner Warren Arthur is defending his $40,000 in travel expenses during the past three years, saying the trips were to keep South Carolina from becoming a dumping ground for spent nuclear fuel.

"It's not in the best interest of South Carolina for Savannah River (Site) to become a permanent dump," said Mr. Arthur, who has taken 74 trips while in office and is up for re-election this year.

Commission documents show Mr. Arthur's travel expenses since January 1995 are more than twice those of any other panel member, a Columbia newspaper reported Wednesday. The commission governs electricity, water, sewer, gas and telephones for South Carolina's 3.8 million residents. Its $5.6 million budget is funded through fees paid by electricity customers.

Mr. Arthur, of Hartsville, said the $40,000 was spent researching the nuclear-waste industry, traveling to meetings and seminars in Las Vegas, Miami and Washington. Mr. Arthur, who drew a salary of $70,172 in fiscal 1997, said he considered himself a lobbyist on behalf of the state.