Originally created 07/04/05

Across Georgia



Politician files suit against radio host

SAVANNAH - A Chatham County politician has targeted the boisterous host of a political talk radio program with a defamation lawsuit.

Chatham County Commissioner Harris Odell Jr. alleges that Anthony Crystal, better known as Ben Bennett on his WBMQ show, made slanderous remarks.

Mr. Odell is seeking more than $10,000 for damage to his reputation and emotional distress in the lawsuit, filed Thursday in state court. The suit also named as a defendant Cumulus Broadcasting, which owns WBMQ.

In a letter to WBMQ, attorney Bart Turner demanded that the show retract Mr. Crystal's claims last month that Mr. Odell had not filed and paid his property taxes.

Mr. Odell's law practice, along with several others, was flagged last year for an audit by the county tax assessor's office, but tax officials said the problem has since been corrected.

Mr. Crystal would not comment on the allegations.

Man threatened local officials, police say

ARCADE - The owner of a Jackson County oil recycling business where a recent explosion killed a man has been arrested and charged with threatening to kill several local officials.

Police say 53-year-old Joe Sikes might have been angry that local authorities revoked the business permit for Joe Sikes Oil Service Inc., where truck driver Scott Dwayne Brown was killed two weeks ago in a late-night explosion.

In a recorded phone call to Arcade Police Chief Dennis Bell, Mr. Sikes threatened to use a gun to "put the ... council down," burn down council members' houses and "use a truck to take them out," according to the arrest warrant.

Mr. Sikes was arrested Saturday and charged with six felony counts of making terroristic threats toward Mayor Doug Haynie and five members of the city council. He was released the same day on bond.

Hospital unit to close in consolidation effort

SAVANNAH - The child and adolescent unit at Georgia Regional Hospital will close its doors this month as part of a series of moves designed to place troubled youths in community-based facilities.

Sixteen youths will be moved to Bloomingdale, where Gateway Behavioral Health Services has operated a long-term adolescent residential substance abuse program since 1994.

That facility will now act as a 16-bed state crisis stabilization program for children and adolescents.

The moves are part of an effort by state Department of Human Resources Commissioner B.J. Walker to consolidate services in community-based programs, thereby saving the state about $1.2 million.