Originally created 04/23/04

Across the area



Man gets five years' probation

An Aiken man received probation Thursday after pleading guilty in General Sessions court to possessing child pornography.

Paul Zentista, 46, received five years' probation and must register as a sex offender after pleading guilty to third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, Assistant 2nd Circuit Solicitor Brenda Brisbin said.

The sentence was handed down by Circuit Judge James C. Williams. Prosecutors had recommended jail time for Mr. Zentista.

Authorities say Mr. Zentista was in possession of numerous images of children as young as infants and up through puberty engaged in sexually explicit acts and poses.

The pictures were first discovered about two years ago by a girlfriend, and a subsequent search of Mr. Zentista's computer uncovered more child pornography, Ms. Brisbin said.

Mr. Zentista was initially charged with second-degree criminal sexual exploitation of a minor but was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser included charge.

Woman says she was thrown out of office

An Augusta woman told Richmond County sheriff's deputies that she was manhandled and thrown out of a Broad Street business after trying to use a telephone Wednesday, a police report states.

Eva Brame, 66, told deputies that at 11:15 a.m., she asked a receptionist at the Merrill Lynch office on the 900 block of Broad Street to use the phone.

The receptionist told her she could use a phone at the rear of the office, the report states. Ms. Brame said a man grabbed the phone from her and questioned why she was using it.

She said the man hung up the phone and yelled at her to get out. She said when she tried to leave through the front door, the man grabbed her around her arm and forced her out of a side entrance, telling her "the front entrance is for clients only."

The report states that she suffered a large bruise to her upper left arm.

Man gets 20 years in prison without parole

An Aiken man was sentenced to 20 years in a federal prison with no parole this week after pleading guilty to possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute.

Kenneth Valentine, 46, was arrested outside an Aiken nightclub last year, where Aiken County Sheriff's officials found 90 grams, or more than three ounces, of crack cocaine in his car, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Strom Thurmond Jr.

The case was investigated by the Aiken County Sheriff's office, Aiken County Solicitor's office and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

City administrator's assistant resigns

Peggy Seigler, the assistant to Augusta City Administrator George Kolb, has resigned to take a job with the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mr. Kolb confirmed Thursday.

He said Ms. Seigler submitted her letter of resignation a week ago and will work her last day April 28."She's got a fantastic offer from her former employer," he said.

Mr. Kolb said that among other things Ms. Seigler was in charge of the county's Web site information, news releases and "promoting good things the organization is doing."

"There's going to be a hole there in terms of communication that I was beginning to see take shape really well," Mr. Kolb said, adding that he hasn't decided how or when the position will be filled.

Traffic signals taken from department

Someone took several traffic signals from the city's Traffic Engineering department Wednesday, a Richmond County Sheriff's Office report states.

A witness said that at 10:04 p.m., she saw someone loading five three-light traffic signals and one five-light traffic signal into a silver van at the intersection of Windsor Spring and Richmond Hill roads.

The total value of the traffic signals taken is about $2,000, the report states.

Sodomka receives Louis Harris Award

The Augusta West Rotary Club has awarded this year's Louis Harris Award to Dennis Sodomka, the executive editor of The Augusta Chronicle.

The award is presented annually to a member of the area's news media as a way of honoring the memory of Mr. Harris, who was both longtime editor of the newspaper and an active community leader.

Mr. Sodomka has directed The Chronicle's news department for more than 16 years. He has always been active in the Augusta community on a variety of civic and cultural boards.

Phillips Street to close on Saturday

Phillips Street in Augusta will be closed from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday to make way for the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History's children's festival, an Augusta Public Works Department news release states.

Motorists are asked to use 12th Street, Harrison Street or R.A. Dent Boulevard.

Man claims he was robbed at a car wash

An Augusta man told Richmond County sheriff's deputies that he was assaulted and robbed while at a west Augusta car wash Wednesday night, a police report states.

Erhard Bieberich, 42, told deputies that at 10:41 p.m., while he was at the National Pride Car Wash on the 2800 block of Washington Road, two men hit him on the back of his head and kicked his legs from behind, knocking him to the ground.

He said one man kicked him on his left side. He asked them if they wanted his wallet, after which they demanded it.

The men were last seen running south across Washington Road toward the nearby Publix supermarket, the report states.

Trenton man says he was carjacked in lot

North Augusta public safety officers investigated an incident in which a Trenton, S.C., man said that he was assaulted and carjacked in a store parking lot before being dropped off near downtown Augusta, a report states.

Gabriel Thomas Padgett, 30, told officers that at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, he was forced to get into the trunk of a 2000 Chrysler Sebring he was sitting in while in the parking lot of Dollar General in the 1200 block of Knox Avenue.

He said he was driven to a location somewhere between New Ellenton and Beech Island, where his assailants pulled over, let him out of the trunk and hit him on the back of his head.

Mr. Padgett said the men changed a tire on the car that had gone flat and then drove him around for several hours before stopping the vehicle at a parking lot near King Street and Walton Way in Augusta.

Worker took money, supervisor states

A supervisor at a west Augusta fast food restaurant told Richmond County sheriff's deputies Wednesday that an employee took the business' night deposit bag and didn't deposit it at the bank, a report states.

The supervisor at Church's Chicken on the 2800 block of Washington Road told deputies that at 4 p.m. the employee took the deposit to drop it off at the bank.

The woman said she discovered the employee hadn't made the deposit, and the employee told her that the employee's boyfriend took it.

The employee told the supervisor she would pay the money back, but did not, the report states. The bag had $400 in it, the report shows.