Originally created 03/10/01

Across the area

Bill would shield more MCG records

ATLANTA - A bill sailed through a Senate committee Thursday that would allow Medical College of Georgia's hospital to withhold some information from the public.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jack Connell, D-Augusta, said the hospital's parent, MCG Health Inc., asked him to introduce the measure to keep the facility from having to disclose sensitive information during negotiations with other health-care providers. He told the committee his bill would simply restore an exemption to the Open Records Act granted to the hospital when it was a branch of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Recently, the hospital was restructured as a subsidiary of a nonprofit corporation.

Mr. Connell persuaded the committee to restore his original wording, essentially removing an amendment added on the House floor last month before its passage there. The amendment would have required continued public disclosure of information as long as the hospital received taxpayer funding.

"This would just sort of put the hospital out of business," Mr. Connell said.

Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Meyer von Bremen of Albany agreed.

"If this language would have remained, it would have affected a lot of other hospitals," he said.

With the Ethics Committee's unanimous recommendation for passage, the bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

Woman charged in fatal car wreck

A woman who police said drove her car the wrong way on Bobby Jones Expressway last month, causing a head-on collision that killed a Milledgeville woman and sent several children to the hospital, has been charged with second-degree vehicular homicide.

Joann Soloman, 42, of the 2400 block of Bahama Drive in Augusta, is also charged with driving on the wrong side of the road, driving outside a limited permit, driving without proof of insurance and a child restraint violation. She was arrested Friday evening at the Richmond County Law Enforcement Center and has since made bond.

The Feb. 10 crash killed Jerry Simmons, 38, who had been driving on the highway's eastbound lanes near the South Carolina border. Her 1997 Toyota Corolla was struck by Ms. Soloman's 1998 Toyota Corolla about a quarter of a mile from the Laney-Walker Boulevard off-ramp, according to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

Ms. Soloman had two children in the car with her, one a 9-year-old boy who was seriously injured, police said. Three passengers in the car with Ms. Simmons, including two children, were treated at Medical College of Georgia Hospital.

Court convicts man of drug trafficking

COLUMBIA - An Aiken man has been found guilty in federal court for trafficking drugs.

The charges stem from a traffic arrest last April.

U.S. Attorney Scott Schools said Friday that Robert L. Williams, 27, was a passenger in a vehicle that had been stopped by police when authorities saw one of the occupants drinking a beer. When the car pulled over, Mr. Williams tried unsuccessfully to escape. Aiken County Sheriff's deputies later found crack cocaine in Mr. Williams' possession, the federal prosecutor said.

He was charged with possession with intent to distribute. Mr. Williams now faces up to 30 years imprisonment or a fine of $2 million. He was found guilty in an Aiken courtroom Thursday.

Federal court Judge Cameron Currie will decide Mr. Williams' sentence once she has reviewed a pre-sentence report prepared by the U.S. Probation Office, Mr. Church said.

Car chase leads to drug arrest

A man caught rolling a marijuana joint on Deans Bridge Road led deputies on a chase through the city Thursday, according to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

About 3:30 p.m., deputies were checking the 2600 block of Deans Bridge Road when they spotted the man parked in a 1998 Toyota Corolla. As they approached, the driver sped away, police said.

The 24-year-old led several marked patrol cars to Harrisburg, where he stopped at the end of Jenkins Street, left the car and tried to hide in the crawl space under a home on the 1800 block, narcotics Investigator Allan Rollins said.

Deputies who found him there discovered he was trying to hide 3 grams of crack cocaine - about $300 worth - under the house, the investigator said. They also found a bag of marijuana.

Brian Arnez Boggan was being held in the Richmond County jail Thursday night, charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana, fleeing and attempting to elude a police officer, reckless driving and driving without a license.

Teen driver charged in death

BRUNSWICK - A 16-year-old girl faces vehicular homicide charges in connection with the "car surfing" death of a Brunswick High School student.

The girl, whose name was not released because she is a juvenile, also will be charged with reckless driving and driving without a license, police said.

Glynn County police said the girl is accused of driving a car on U.S. Highway 17 on Tuesday while Victoria Denton, also 16, was riding on top of its hood, or "car surfing." Victoria fell off, and died four hours later.

A 19-year-old man was on the hood with Victoria but wasn't injured. Neither he nor a 16-year-old passenger in the car were charged.

The driver and passengers initially told police that Victoria was riding in the car and fell out when she opened the door to throw out some trash.

Officer fatally shoots man

MARIETTA - A police officer responding to a domestic dispute fatally shot a 45-year-old man who tried to attack him with a hammer, police said.

Officer Brian Marshall and another officer responded to an argument between David Atkins and his mother at a local trailer park.

Mr. Atkins refused to obey the officers' commands to drop the hammer, and as the police officers backed up, he continued to advance on them, police spokeswoman Tanya Twaddell said.

Officer Marshall, a five-year veteran of the force, shot Mr. Atkins once in the chest. He and the other officer were placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.

Student brings gun to school

WARNER ROBINS - A student who had been suspended from Warner Robins High School was arrested after officers found him on campus with a loaded .25-caliber pistol.

The 16-year-old boy, who had been suspended for fighting and disrupting a public school, was charged Thursday with possession of a handgun by a minor and possession of a handgun on school property.

He was transported to the Regional Youth Detention Center in Macon, Detective Karen Stokes said.

The arrest came at the end of a day as more than a dozen law enforcement officers patrolled two Houston County high schools amid rumors of students bringing weapons to school.

Confession draws interest abroad

MACON - The story of a Macon man who confessed to being the "bicycle bandit" bank robber at a comedy nightclub has drawn interest from Japan.

The case of Glenn Matthews' stint in front of the microphone at the Comedy Cafe in January will be featured on the Japanese television show Amazing News, officials with the Macon Film and Music Commission announced Thursday.

A film crew from Nippon Television is set to arrive in Macon this month.

Mr. Matthews, 43, was charged two days after his confession with robbing the same bank twice since December 1999 and hitting another in August. On all three occasions, he is accused of firing one rifle shot inside the banks, taking money from tellers and escaping on a bicycle.

Turner apologizes for remark

ATLANTA - CNN founder Ted Turner is apologizing for a remark in which he reportedly referred to CNN employees who observed Ash Wednesday as "Jesus freaks."

The Fox news show Special Report with Brit Hume reported this week that Mr. Turner, attending a meeting at CNN's Washington bureau Feb. 28, noticed some employees with ashes on their foreheads and called them "Jesus freaks."

Veronica Gunnerson, a Turner Broadcasting spokeswoman, said Mr. Turner was apologetic Thursday.

"Ted called in this morning, and he was genuinely upset that he had offended anyone," she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Ms. Gunnerson said Mr. Turner did not deny making the comment.

In 1990, the Atlanta media tycoon said Christianity was a religion for "losers," and in 1998 he denounced Catholics and insulted Pope John Paul II. He later apologized for both remarks.

Last August, Mr. Turner spoke on religious tolerance during the Millennium World Peace Summit at the United Nations.

Skeleton remains unidentified

ROCK HILL - A man whose skeletal remains were found near a creek here has yet to be identified, authorities say.

It's unclear how the man died, but no foul play is suspected, York County sheriff's Lt. Glenn Williams said.

The skeleton was pretty much intact, and there were no signs of trauma, said York County Coroner Doug McKown.

Three children discovered the partially clothed remains Tuesday while playing in the woods. The skeleton was lying face down near a creek, and the body was thought to have been there for about a year, Lt. Williams said.

Investigators think the man was between 40 and 55 years old and of average height.


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