Originally created 06/29/01

Across the area



AUGUSTA
Investigators study Bayou fire

Fire investigators began the search Thursday for the cause of the early morning fire that destroyed the Bayou nightclub Wednesday in downtown Augusta.

Richmond County Fire Investigator Lt. G.B. Hannon and insurance company investigators met at the burned-out club at 904 Broad St. to begin what could be a lengthy probe.

"We're just going through the preliminaries right now," said Lt. Hannon. Investigators will interview employees and electrical and mechanical contractors who worked on the building renovations last year, he said.

"And then we'll go from there to try to find the point of origin and the cause of the fire," he said. "But due to the structural damage and concerns about the structure that is still standing, we're going to take a look at how safe it is."

The fire broke out early Wednesday morning, triggering a three-alarm alert that drew 70 firefighters, eight engines and four aerial ladder trucks. No injuries were reported.

AUGUSTA
Visitor reports riverwalk attack

A Louisiana man scouting out locations for a religious meeting was attacked and mugged by a group of five men on Riverwalk Augusta late Wednesday, according to a Richmond County sheriff's investigator.

Jeremy Dark, 25, of La Place, La., was staying at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta and took a walk about 10:30 p.m. along the Savannah. On the upper level at Ninth Street, a group of men passed by. They exchanged hellos, then someone grabbed Mr. Dark from behind, Investigator Paul Godden said.

The group beat him and took his wallet from his back pocket, the investigator said. He jumped to the lower level of the riverwalk, and the men fled.

Mr. Dark suffered contusions to his face and an injured foot, Investigator Godden said. He was treated at Medical College of Georgia Hospital.

The men were described as young, black, wearing shorts and T-shirts. Some had stocking caps on their heads.

Mr. Dark was in town to find a meeting place for a Laplaince Ministries conference, Investigator Godden said.

GEORGIA
Man says he took strip-club bribes

ATLANTA - A self-described extortionist testified Thursday that he accepted bribes from Craig Carlino, manager of the New York strip club Scores.

Michael Sergio, a 69-year-old former associate of the Gambino crime family, said Mr. Carlino paid him almost $75,000 during the mid-90s to help Mr. Carlino keep his job at the New York strip club.

Mr. Sergio said Mr. Carlino, a former manager of Scores and a managing consultant for Atlanta's Gold Club, "fell out of favor" when he turned to Gold Club owner Steve Kaplan to help him keep his job instead of leaving it to Mr. Sergio. Mr. Carlino was fired from Scores in 1995. He filed a lawsuit against the club, but it was later dropped.

Mr. Kaplan and six of his associates are charged with creating a multimillion-dollar racketeering conspiracy centered on the Atlanta strip club that included prostitution, credit-card fraud and ties to the mob. The trial is in its seventh week.

Under cross-examination, Mr. Sergio revealed that he had served two years in prison for several charges, including extortion and conspiracy to commit murder.

GEORGIA
New chief justice sworn in

ATLANTA - Justice Norman S. Fletcher was sworn in Thursday as the new chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, accepting the gavel from Robert Benham - the first black to serve as chief justice for three terms.

Justice Fletcher, 66, was appointed to the state Supreme Court by then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris in 1989. He was named presiding justice in 1995.

Leah Ward Sears was sworn in as presiding justice during Thursday's ceremony in the House chambers.

Justice Fletcher, who became the state's 27th chief justice, is originally from Fitzgerald. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia in 1956 and a law degree from the school in 1958.

He practiced law prior to his Supreme Court appointment. While in private practice, Justice Fletcher held posts as a special assistant attorney general from 1979 through 1989 and as Walker County attorney from 1973 to 1988. Justice Benham remains on the court.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Web site shows refund recipients

COLUMBIA - With $67 million in unclaimed IRS tax refunds last year nationwide, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler is taking action to inform state residents if they are owed money.

The lieutenant governor's Internet Web page lists 1,297 South Carolinians who never received their federal refund. Residents can access the list at the following Web address: www.state.sc.us/ltgov

Each year, the post office is unable to deliver tens of thousands of refund checks, and they are returned to the Internal Revenue Service. This happens for a variety of reasons, but mostly because taxpayers change their address or get married and change their last name.

Taxpayers without Internet access may call Mr. Peeler's office at (803) 734-2080.

GEORGIA
Ex-officer indicted in rape

BRUNSWICK - A former Glynn County police officer has been indicted on charges that he raped a woman while he was on duty in December 1999.

A county grand jury issued a three-count indictment Wednesday charging Dennis James Krauss with rape, sexual assault against a person in custody and sexual battery.

Mr. Krauss forced the woman to have sex with him on or about Dec. 6 while she was in his custody, and on Dec. 23 he touched her intimately without her permission, the indictment said.

Mr. Krauss, a 19-year veteran with the Glynn County Police Department, resigned Dec. 30, 1999, six days after being arrested in the case. He was released on bond.

Rape is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison or a life term, depending on the circumstances. The sexual assault charge carries a one- to three-year term, and sexual battery is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Driver rams police department

MYRTLE BEACH - A man has been arrested after authorities say he rammed a van into the Myrtle Beach Police Department and then led officers on a chase.

Stanley Tribble, 45, of Myrtle Beach, was charged with trying to run over police officers and earlier forcing his way into a home.

The van headed down an outside walkway toward a door near the complaint desk and chipped the brick walls.

Officers tried to stop the man, but he drove away. They were able to stop him a short time later in the grass in front of a school, police Capt. Faith Gildea said.

Mr. Tribble was charged with first-degree burglary and two counts of kidnapping for an earlier incident. In the van incident, Mr. Tribble is charged with two counts of assault with intent to kill and one count each of failure to stop for police, assault and battery with intent to kill and arson.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Councilman, sons face charges

ATLANTIC BEACH - An Atlantic Beach town councilman and two of his sons were among four men arrested on drug charges, U.S. Attorney Scott N. Schools said Thursday.

Councilman Vander More Gore, who has served on the council the past eight years; his sons Jeffrey Lee Gore and Vander Keith Gore; and Anthony Pridgen were arrested Wednesday.

The four were indicted last week on charges of conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine and more than 5 kilograms of powder cocaine after an investigation by several agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.

Mr. Schools said the maximum penalty for each man is life in prison, a $4 million fine and a five-year supervised release.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Poachers steal turtles' eggs

HILTON HEAD - Four loggerhead sea turtle nests have been robbed of their eggs, and officials say it has been a continuing problem during the past few years.

Kim Washok oversees daily operation of the island's sea turtle protection project. She said four nests that each contained about 125 of the federally protected species' eggs were poached the weekend of June 16.

Officials said Wednesday they are seeking information about the stolen eggs.

Natural Resources Department Cpl. Joel O'Quinn said the eggs are used in cooking and are considered an aphrodisiac by some. Poachers can make between $1 and $5 for an egg, he said. They face a federal fine of $100,000 and one year in prison per egg.