Originally created 04/28/00

Across the area: Charge upgraded in battery incident



One of the two charges against the man authorities say attacked two women in two Augusta business' restrooms was upgraded Thursday to aggravated sexual battery.

Michael Samuel Williams, 19, of Old Wheeler Court, was originally charged with sexual battery and simple battery for events that occurred on April 1 and 23, respectively.

The upgraded charge involved the April 1 incident, where a man reached from underneath into an adjoining stall in the women's bathroom at McDonald's at 3423 Wrightsboro Road, and touched the genitals of the woman in it, said Maj. Ken Autry of the Richmond County Sheriff's Department.

The second incident occurred April 23 at Kroger at 2801 Washington Road, when a man again reached into another stall and grabbed a woman's legs, but she fought him off and ran out of the bathroom.

A third woman also stepped forward Thursday and said a man she identified as Mr. Williams followed her into the women's bathroom at the Evans Kroger on Washington Road but did not attack her, Maj. Autry said.

AUGUSTA

Rain disrupts paving schedule

Rain this week threw off the Department of Transportation schedule for repaving ramps on Bobby Jones Expressway. So far, the schedule changes will affect only this weekend's traffic flow on the following ramps: Entrance ramp 196A from I-20 eastbound will be paved today; and crews will work from Bobby Jones eastbound onto Wheeler Road on exit ramp 1-C Sunday. For more information about the schedule changes, call (706) 855-3466.

AIKEN

Surgeon settles damage lawsuit

An Aiken doctor named in eight lawsuits since 1990 has settled an action by a man who accused the surgeon of causing him permanent spinal damage, a resolution that comes just one month after the doctor settled another suit.

Dr. Franklin Epstein agreed this week to settle a lawsuit filed by James Victor Peek, which claimed that Dr. Epstein and his partner, Martin Greenberg, caused permanent damage when they applied 10 pounds of traction to the patient's neck during surgery.

The defendants also settled a suit brought by Mr. Peek's wife, Janet, who claimed she suffered a loss of consortium as a result of her husband's permanent damage. Circuit Judge Thomas Cooper Jr. sealed terms of the settlement.

Dr. Epstein, a neurological surgeon, has been the defendant in seven other lawsuits since 1990 -- one of them a wrongful death case with a jury verdict of nearly $7 million against him.

In March, the doctor also settled a lawsuit with Leigh P. Corley, a nurse at Aiken Regional Medical Centers who claimed the doctor's obscenity-laced tirade toward her exceeded all bounds of possible decency. The nurse claimed Dr. Epstein caused her emotional distress and humiliation after accosting her in a hallway and threatening to knock her to the floor.

AIKEN

Man indicted in mail theft case

An Aiken man accused of stealing a mail truck from a Trenton Post Office has been indicted by a federal grand jury, authorities said Thursday.

Bobby Boseman, 42, of Aiken, was charged in a one-count indictment theft of mail. The indictment alleges that on March 30 Mr. Boseman drove away with the mail truck without authorization.

If convicted, the maximum penalty Mr. Boseman faces is five years in jail and a fine of $250,000. The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William C. Lucius of the Greenville Office.

RICHMOND COUNTY

Defendant absent during verdict

Veteran defense attorney Peter Johnson has had numerous clients acquitted of criminal charges during his career, but this week was the first time he had a client leave before the jury returned with such a verdict.

On Wednesday at the conclusion of a one-day trial, a Richmond County Superior Court jury found Tamikka Burnett, 19, of Brown Street, not guilty of charges of aggravated assault and possession of a knife during the commission of crime.

But Ms. Burnett wasn't there to hear the jury's decision, Mr. Johnson said. She did return to the courthouse later and learned she no longer faced the possibility of a prison sentence.

Ms. Burnett was arrested about a week after a May 23 street fight between two groups of young women. Renee Williams was stabbed in the back during the melee on Summer Street that night.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Sheriff sues over on-air comments

ANDERSON -- The Anderson County sheriff has sued a local radio station and disc jockey, claiming he's been called everything from a homosexual to a wife-beater on the air.

"I've got some rinky-dink radio station that has been slamming my reputation and the reputation of every other government official, and I'm sick of them," Sheriff Gene Taylor said Wednesday.

Sheriff Taylor is suing WAIM-AM for $10 million and disc jockey Rick Driver for $1 million.

In the lawsuit, Sheriff Taylor said Mr. Driver and his guests had falsely accused him of insanity, homosexuality, adultery, criminal domestic violence, cross-dressing and other illegal or corrupt activities.

Mr. Driver said he doesn't recall anyone making those statements, though he said they may have come out through insinuation and innuendo.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Film explores diocese's history

CHARLESTON -- A one-hour docudrama titled Fire Tried Gold shows the history of the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston from its founding in 1820 to the present day.

The film premieres with a private screening today and is expected to be broadcast later, although the details have not yet been worked out, said Mary Jeffcoat, a spokeswoman for the diocese.

The film, produced by Visual Edge Productions, shows the arrival of John England, the first bishop of the diocese, from Ireland in 1820. It dramatizes events in the history of the diocese and includes interviews with leading historians and church figures.

The film explores the changing times in which Catholics have lived in the state.

AUGUSTA

Sprinkler head bursts in hospital

A burst sprinkler head caused flooding on three floors at Doctors Hospital on Thursday night, setting off fire alarms and forcing staff to evacuate patients to dryer areas, a hospital spokeswoman said.

At about 8:30 p.m., Richmond County firefighters were summoned to the hospital in response to the alarms set off by flooding on the third, fourth and fifth floors, said spokeswoman Ginger Tyra. About 20 patients were moved to other rooms because of the flooding, and visitors were moved outside while the situation was resolved, she said.

"Basically it was an inconvenient situation, but there was never any danger," Ms. Trya said. "There was never any lapse in patient care."