Originally created 05/23/00

Across the area: Fingerprint ruling to get new hearing



The challenge to Woodrow Fryer's candidacy for Richmond County sheriff will get another hearing soon, this time in Superior Court.

The man who first issued the challenge, Augusta attorney William McCracken, filed an appeal Friday in Richmond County Superior Court of the Board of Election's May 12 ruling to keep Mr. Fryer in the race.

Mr. McCracken filed the challenge on the grounds that Mr. Fryer, a Democrat, did not present a set of his fingerprints to the judge of probate court on or before the final day of qualifying, April 28.

State qualifying law requires that candidates submit fingerprints for a criminal background check.

"(Mr. Fryer) obviously didn't comply with (state qualifying law), and a guy who wants to be sheriff in Richmond County or any county can't play fast with the rules," Mr. McCracken said.

Mr. McCracken said he will present case precedent from the Georgia Supreme Court and other rulings at the appeal hearing to back his claims that Mr. Fryer did not comply with state law.

Mr. Fryer said at the May 12 hearing he already had prints on file with the probate court for a gun permit he received in 1999.

Mr. Fryer did not return a telephone call to his house Monday evening.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Flag speech will be televised

COLUMBIA - Gov. Jim Hodges will give a rare live televised speech tonight to talk about the Confederate flag and then sign a bill that removes the banner from atop the Statehouse dome.

Mr. Hodges' spokesman, Morton Brilliant, said Monday the governor would talk about where the state goes from here. The 7 p.m. broadcast over the state educational television system will come from Mr. Hodges' Statehouse office and will be carried by several commercial TV stations.

After months of sometimes bitter debate and demonstrations, the General Assembly last week approved removing the Confederate flag from atop the Statehouse dome and legislative chambers and flying a similar flag at the Confederate Soldier Monument in front of the Statehouse.

But the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which began a tourism boycott of the state Jan. 1, has vowed to continue and expand the boycott until the flag no longer flies on Statehouse grounds.

Lawmakers say that will not work because the legislation Mr. Hodges will sign requires a two-thirds vote from both chambers to move the flag again.

"It's a closed question. You'll never get a two-thirds vote to undo what was done," said state Sen. Glenn McConnell, a Charleston Republican who runs a Confederate memorabilia store.

State Attorney General Charlie Condon said he was investigating the NAACP's boycott to see if it was illegal.

GEORGIA

Teen-ager charged with murder

ADAIRSVILLE - A 14-year-old boy has been charged with murder in the death of a 13-year-old friend who was shot in the back.

Michael Wilbanks was found dead Sunday afternoon after Adairsville police were called to a home in the Bartow County town by a neighbor who reported hearing a gunshot. The name of the 14-year-old suspect was not released.

Adairsville Police Chief Charles Stafford said Monday the two boys were friends but declined to say what investigators believe prompted the shooting. He said additional arrests are likely.

Bartow County District Attorney Joe Campbell said he might try to prosecute the teen-ager as an adult.

GEORGIA

State officer will fill Augusta post

ATLANTA - Mike Hale, Georgia's chief information officer who led the state's massive Y2K preparedness program, will leave state government next month to join an Augusta business.

Mr. Hale, the state's first CIO, was appointed in June 1995 to develop plans and policies to implement technology in state agencies. In 1997, he became head of Georgia's Y2K planning, overseeing one of the largest Y2K programs in the country.

He will become a vice president and chief technology officer at Golf Augusta Pro Shops and will supervise the company's expansion into Internet commerce. His resignation is effective May 31. Gov. Roy Barnes appointed Erwin Fraas interim CIO.

GEORGIA

New state appeals judge named

ATLANTA - A 57-year-old Savannah judge was named to the state Court of Appeals on Monday by Gov. Roy Barnes.

Charles Mikell Jr., a judge of the Superior Court of the Eastern Judicial Circuit, will succeed Judge William Leroy McMurray Jr., who retired earlier this year. The 12-member court is the second-highest appeals court in Georgia.

Judge Mikell was elected to the superior court bench in 1992. He previously had been chief judge of the State Court of Chatham County. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Georgia law school, Judge Mikell is married and has three children.

He will be sworn in at a ceremony May 31 in the Georgia House chamber.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Historic park will be refurbished

CHARLESTON - A state park marking the original settlement of Charles Towne in the 17th century will get its first face-lift since it opened 30 years ago.

Charles Towne Landing is scheduled to get more than $13.6 million in state money for improvements, including the first comprehensive archaeological dig at the 1670 settlement site.

Also, plans may include public tours of the Waring House, which was built in 1830 and serves as the governor's Lowcountry home. And the popular but run-down Animal Forest will get a $2.3 million makeover. Animal pens, including those for pumas and black bears, will be rehabilitated, and a new research center is planned. A red wolf, bald eagle and shore birds may be added to the zoo.

The pavilion, modern when it was built as the centerpiece of the park 30 years ago, has been closed since damage from Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The structure, built on an Indian ceremonial ground, will be torn down.

AUGUSTA

Homeowner extinguishes blaze

Firefighters responding to a house fire off Wheeler Road at about 7 p.m. Monday found the 74-year-old homeowner had put out the blaze himself.

Thomas Leverett and his next-door neighbor used two fire extinguishers to battle flames from a small explosion in a storage room adjacent to the Walters Court residence. By the time firefighters arrived on the scene, all that remained of the fire was smoldering ashes.

Officials suspect the fire was started by some sort of combustible that was likely stored too close to a hot water heater.

"The owners and neighbors did a great job," said Capt. David Wright. "It would have been a lot worse if he hadn't extinguished it himself."

Mr. Leverett said he has lived in the house for 38 years, but this was his first fire. There was minor smoke damage to the house and fire damage to the storage room.

AUGUSTA

Squirrel causes power outage

A squirrel that got caught in a power line clamp Monday night on Thomas Lane caused a transformer to explode and ignited power lines, leaving about 1,600 people without power and shutting down traffic signals for miles along Gordon Highway.

A Georgia Power spokeswoman said outages were reported on Deans Bridge, Milledgeville and Kissingbower Roads at 8:40 p.m. About 1,200 customers had power restored within 10 minutes, and the remaining 400 were on line as of 10:15 p.m.

Road patrol officers directed traffic until signal lights were restored and firefighters extinguished the transformer fire within minutes, dispatchers said.

AIKEN

Train death investigation continues

An autopsy on a Gloverville man who was struck and killed by a train shows no signs of foul play, authorities said Monday.

But Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend said she will continue to investigate why 38-year-old Carol Wood Jr. was lying on the railroad tracks when a Norfolk Southern came along at 1:55 a.m. Sunday.

Witnesses said Mr. Wood was bar-hopping and may have been intoxicated, but final toxicology results could take several weeks, Mrs. Townsend said. The autopsy, performed Monday, showed the only signs of trauma were from the train, she said.

Investigators also are looking into a suspicious and threatening note found near the man's body. The coroner has not ruled out homicide.

"We haven't ruled one way or the other, Mrs. Townsend said. ". . . But we want to make sure he didn't get into an altercation."

The South Carolina Highway Patrol is assisting the investigation.