Originally created 09/06/00

Across the area



RICHMOND COUNTY
Officials pull buses in U.S. brake recall

Six Richmond County school buses were pulled from routes Tuesday as officials waited to see whether they are part of the 46,000 buses nationwide that could have faulty brakes.

Thomas Built Buses, a subsidiary of Freightliner Corp., issued a recall Thursday after determining that a defect existed in its Bendix ABS EC-17 brakes. The defect involves the anti-lock brake system on buses manufactured between March 1998 and last month. When the buses are moving less than 20 mph, they can temporarily lose their braking ability for up to three seconds, according to a Freightliner spokesman.

Richmond County Superintendent Charles Larke said school officials were notified of the recall during the weekend and decided not to use the buses when routing pupils to and from school until receiving unconditional clearance that the buses are safe.

"Although we have not experienced any braking problems with our new Thomas Built Buses, we will take no chances when it comes to the safety of our students," Dr. Larke said. School officials are expected to know today whether the buses are on the recall list.

Richmond County buses transport about 20,000 pupils each day, and the county has 175 buses in its inventory.

RICHMOND COUNTY
Jury indicts man in car thefts

An Augusta man suspected of stealing and reselling vehicles worth at least a half-million dollars was indicted Tuesday.

A Richmond County grand jury issued an indictment accusing Antonio L. Tyler, 24, with 10 counts of theft and one count of violating the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Mr. Tyler is accused of running a racketeering operation from March 1999 through July 25 by obtaining vehicles such as expensive sport utility vehicles stolen from dealerships throughout the Southeast and then selling them to unsuspecting customers.

As an inducement to buy the vehicles offered at a fraction of their value, Mr. Tyler allegedly offered to register them and obtain insurance coverage, according to the indictment.

The vehicles recovered were valued at $450,000 to $500,000, the source reported. According to the indictment, vehicles recovered included a Cadillac Eldorado, Chevrolet C-1500 trucks, Chevrolet Tahoes and Ford Expeditions.

RICHMOND COUNTY
Men sentenced on drug offense

Two Augusta men have received prison sentences for offering a smorgasbord of illegal drugs for sale, including what resulted in one of the largest cocaine seizures ever made in the city.

Gilbert T. Lewis, 21, was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison Aug. 25, and Nicholas W. Mims, 23, received a 112-month prison sentence. The pair pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in June to possessing and dealing cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA (also known as "ecstasy") and marijuana for about two years.

Mr. Lewis and Mr. Mims were arrested Feb. 15 after local and federal drug agents searched their Wrightsboro Road home and found an estimated $300,000 in illegal drugs - 73 ounces of cocaine, 32 ounces of methamphetamine, 35 ecstasy pills and 28 ounces of marijuana.

RICHMOND COUNTY
Man in sex case out on bond

A Columbia County man accused of having sexual relations with an adolescent during a four-year period was released on bond Tuesday pending possible indictment and trial.

Randall W. Nowill, 39, was arrested Aug. 23, about 10 days after a teen-age girl reported he had sexually molested her since she was in the eighth grade and had recently made overtures toward her young cousin, according to the investigator.

Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet agreed to set a $75,000 bond for Mr. Nowill under certain conditions: He is to stay out of Richmond and Columbia counties unless his father accompanies him to legal and medical appointments, and he must live in McDuffie County with his parents, maintain a 9 p.m. curfew and make no contact with the girl or her family.

BURKE COUNTY
Pair sentenced in bank fraud

A former Burke County bank employee and her son received probation and prison sentences, respectively, for bank fraud and money laundering.

June Ready, 57, and Spencer "Lee" Ready Jr., 37, were sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court for the two crimes committed four years ago through Mrs. Ready's employer, the Bank of Burke County.

Mrs. Ready received five years of probation, and Mr. Ready received a 27-month prison sentenced followed by three years of supervised release, a form of probation.

According to IRS and FBI agents, Mr. Ready talked a number of relatives and friends into taking out bank loans in their names for him with the understanding he would repay the loans. Some loans were not repaid, though, investigators said.

Mrs. Ready assisted her son through her job as a loan officer in 1996. Bank officials estimate the loss at nearly $300,000. The Readys will have to make restitution as part of their sentences.

AIKEN
Police seek clues in assault

No arrest has been made in the brutal beating and rape of an Aiken woman who was attacked outside the Whiskey Junction nightclub, authorities said Tuesday.

The victim, a 27-year-old woman, told authorities that she left the nightclub at about 2 a.m. on Aug. 27 and went behind a nearby home to use the bathroom, said Lt. Michael Frank, spokesman for the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.

The woman said someone hit her on the head and knocked her unconscious. When she woke up, her dress was around her waist and she had been sexually assaulted.

The woman also suffered a bruise on the head and scratches on her back, Lt. Frank said. She was taken to Aiken Regional Medical Centers, where forensic evidence was collected.

The woman's shoes and purse were found behind the residence where the attack took place. She was unable to provide a description of the attacker, Lt. Frank said.

AIKEN
Deputy charged in collision

An Aiken County sheriff's deputy has been charged with driving too fast for conditions in a weekend head-on collision that heavily damaged the patrol car.

Deputy Glenn Mathues, 45, was driving around a curve on Snipes Pond Road just after midnight on Saturday when he lost control of his vehicle and crossed the center line. The deputy struck an oncoming Ford Probe, causing extensive damage to both vehicles, according to a sheriff's report.

The other driver ran from the accident scene, and Deputy Mathues found an opened beer container in the car and drops of blood. Once officials determine who was driving the Ford Probe, they plan to charge the driver with leaving the scene of an accident.

The deputy told his supervisors that he was traveling about 55 to 60 mph around the curve as he headed toward Interstate 20 to assist a deputy with a traffic stop, according to sheriff's Lt. Michael Frank. A trooper with the South Carolina Highway Patrol found Deputy Mathues to be at fault in the accident and ticketed him.

HOLIDAY
Wrecks claim 20 lives in states

ATLANTA - Eleven people died in traffic accidents in Georgia and nine in South Carolina during the Labor Day holiday weekend.

The Georgia State Patrol also reported that there were 2,579 accidents and 674 injuries during the three-day holiday that began Friday night and ended at midnight Monday.

Two of the deaths occurred in the last six hours of the holiday weekend - one in Valdosta and the other near Madison.

The number of traffic fatalities fell short of predictions. The state patrol estimated there would be 18 deaths on Georgia roads, said Gordy Wright, the deputy director of the Georgia State Patrol.

In South Carolina, a 72-year-old man from Fountain Inn died Monday night when the car he was driving collided with a tractor on Interstate 385 in Greenville.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Lawmaker quits anti-lottery group

COLUMBIA - The state Senate's top officer has quit a lottery opposition group, saying it has become too partisan.

"No Lottery 2000 Inc. has become closely affiliated with ambitious Republican politicians who are exploiting the lottery debate by attempting to convert the issue into one that is partisan," Senate President Pro Tem John Drummond, D-Ninety Six, wrote to the group's chairwoman, Kathy Bigham.

Mr. Drummond said he would continue to oppose the lottery that the Democratic Party's leadership and Gov. Jim Hodges are pushing. He urged other elected officials to quit the No Lottery 2000 effort and join "a nonpartisan effort to defeat the proposal for a state-run lottery."

Republicans have tried to redefine the lottery as a partisan issue to attack Democrats, Mr. Drummond said.