Court record checks uncover few surprises

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Compared with past years, the candidates on the November ballot appear to walk the straight and narrow, for the most part, when it comes to paying bills and obeying the law.

Checks in Richmond County criminal and civil court records of the 12 candidates vying in contested elections found few surprises, unless you count traffic and municipal ordinance violations and a pending lien by Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics against a candidate who was injured in a car wreck and didn't have health insurance.

A 2003 check of commission candidates, by comparison, found 25 judgments entered against Freddie Handy for delinquent taxes and bills and Marion Williams' record of simple battery and criminal trespass charges from 1992 involving his ex-wife. A 2005 check found commission candidate Robert DeMello's dizzying record of criminal charges, liens, bankruptcy and foreclosure.

The most checkered past this time belongs to commission District 1 candidate Matt Aitken, whose rap sheet includes a list of marijuana, cocaine and criminal trespass charges from the late 1980s.

But that's nothing he's hiding. He spent 14 months incarcerated on cocaine and methamphetamine charges. He became a Christian while in the Richmond County jail and has led a clean life ever since.

According to Georgia Department of Corrections records, he was released from Coweta County Prison in April 1990 at age 31. He soon began a prison ministry, and within a few years got a job at Olin Corp., where he still works. He was pardoned by the state in 1990. All of this can be found in his campaign literature.

"I know my heart's changed, and I know what God's done for me," he said in a September interview. "That's why we have a pardon process. That's why we have forgiveness."

Another District 1 candidate with an arrest record is Bill Fennoy, though he was cleared of wrongdoing and the case was dismissed by the State Court solicitor's office.

Mr. Fennoy and civic activist Woody Merry were both charged with misdemeanor simple battery in June 2008 after a probable cause hearing over their infamous run-in the May before at an Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority meeting.

According to an account from solicitor Harold V. Jones II based on witness statements, Mr. Merry confronted Mr. Fennoy in the corridor of the James Brown Arena for not attending a previous meeting, which prevented a quorum and a likely vote to rehire former facilities director Julie Huggins. After a chest bump, Mr. Merry pushed Mr. Fennoy; then Mr. Fennoy pushed Mr. Merry to the floor and kicked him.

"It wasn't until he put his hands on me that I did what I did," Mr. Fennoy said in an interview earlier this month.

As a condition for having his case dead-docketed, Mr. Merry had to write a letter of apology. The charge against Mr. Fennoy was dismissed and has since been expunged.

Another District 1 candidate has a probable cause hearing coming up in Magistrate Court on Nov. 6, three days after the election.

Last month, Elliot Davis filed paperwork to pursue a warrant against James R. "Butch" Palmer, who he said pointed a gun at him, a misdemeanor. Mr. Davis told police that as he drove past Mr. Palmer's Tuttle Street home Sept. 24 with his stereo on, Mr. Palmer pointed a shotgun at him and said, "Turn that music down, boy, before I shoot you."

Mr. Palmer denies pointing the gun or calling the man "boy" and says it was Mr. Davis who launched degrading slurs at him that day. Mr. Davis has a criminal history himself, having served time in state prison on cocaine charges and having been arrested last summer in a raid at an illegal boardinghouse Mr. Palmer has targeted in his neighborhood campaign against crime and drug-dealing.

As for liens, Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics has filed a notice of a pending claim for $20,409 in medical bills against District 1 candidate JoRae Jenkins. The notice filed Sept. 24 in the Richmond County Clerk of Court's office says it's for treatment received from July 6 through Sept. 17.

Ms. Jenkins said she was injured in a car wreck -- a six-car pileup -- on July 6, and she's still undergoing physical therapy.

"That's a little odd," she said of the filing, "considering that I'm still in a lawsuit with State Farm."

Her attorney, Joe Neal, said it's not a lawsuit, but an insurance claim. He said Ms. Jenkins wasn't at fault, but she's self-employed and didn't have health coverage.

Once a settlement is reached with the at-fault driver's insurance company, the lien will be paid off, Mr. Neal said.

"That's what they do," he said of MCG's court filing. "They do that to anybody that's in a wreck who doesn't have health insurance."

Other candidates had records of only traffic infractions.

Correspondent Sylvia Cooper contributed to this article.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (13) Add comment
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cajunnana2000
2
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cajunnana2000 10/26/09 - 01:47 am
0
0
It would really be nice if

It would really be nice if all EX-cons could find God and a good job after being released from prison.

FedupwithAUG
0
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FedupwithAUG 10/26/09 - 01:51 am
0
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Well I guess if Aitkin gets

Well I guess if Aitkin gets in office Pot will be legal and Gay Marriage will be illegal. If Butch gets in the gays are really screwed because he's one of those that refuses to believe he’s a homo and bashes his own kind. If Jenkins gets in she will have us taxpayers paying her insurance and filling her gas tank. I wouldn’t know what to do if DeMello got in office except put some money away so when the taxes go up to pay his legal bills I'd be ready. Freddie Handy get's in I'm leaving the county. Fennoy is just scary but he is going to win because he's the right color.

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 10/26/09 - 01:59 am
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Laugh cajunnana, a 20,000 a

Laugh cajunnana, a 20,000 a year job you call good? I think it may even be 12,000. The only reason you seek this title is because you are out to make something in the long run. Take Butch Palmer for instance. He has 15 rental properties in the Harrisburg area, He has allot to gain. He is also Partner in the Harrisburg Gentrification company, LLC. He is out to buy properties for dirt cheep and turn them around and make a retirement fund. Don't be fooled.

justus4
107
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justus4 10/26/09 - 02:27 am
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The guy with those drug
Unpublished

The guy with those drug charges must not be a person of color because the article's title would've been: Cocaine Charges Uncovered Connected with Candidate. Those are serious charges and should be viewed as such, because the high standards associated with public officials must be consistent regardless of ethnicity. And yes, "forgiveness" is an American tradition, but it's just that someone having been associated with drugs sends the wrong to our youths. That is a no brainer.

Brad Owens
4727
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Brad Owens 10/26/09 - 04:58 am
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I call ANY job that pays your

I call ANY job that pays your bills and supports you and your family as 'good'. I also think that a person's ACTIONS speak louder than words. Matt has turned his life around and his past, however you view it, should not be held against him. I Like Butch and would vote for him if I could but I do not see the benefit of trying to destroy Matt over his past. Augusta needs people like Matt and Butch and Ms. Jenkins offering themselves for office. Also, the part about Ms. Jenkins medical bills is just not an issue. If she was not a fault then the insurance will have to pay. The lien is just procedure to insure payment when the insurance settles.

MrAlwaysRight
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MrAlwaysRight 10/26/09 - 10:25 am
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Those who would hold an

Those who would hold an offense against someone for 20 years, after that 20 years were spent being a positive asset to our community and others, should have another lobotomy. After all, we don't hold drug use against a certain other politician... not naming names here.

KingJames
10
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KingJames 10/26/09 - 11:22 am
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People in Augusta have long

People in Augusta have long memories.

SnowBallCity
2
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SnowBallCity 10/26/09 - 12:18 pm
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............"Posted by

............"Posted by FedupwithAUG on Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:59 AM" ................................................................................You are Spot On my Friend.

justus4
107
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justus4 10/26/09 - 12:56 pm
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Turned life around, eh?
Unpublished

Turned life around, eh? Twenty yrs ago, eh? Well, what message of consistency do U send, while others are rotting in jail because poor judgement and NO second chance. What hypocrites...and U think something has changed...?

PharohJ
0
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PharohJ 10/26/09 - 05:34 pm
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Only in Augusta! Guns,

Only in Augusta! Guns, battery, tax evasion, manipulation, lawsuits, jail time and God. This is our potential for elected officials?
I hear an alter call at the ballot box!

cj
1
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cj 10/26/09 - 08:25 pm
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The lien is not "filed

The lien is not "filed against District One Candidate . . . ." This article misleads the reader into thinking that the Candidate has done something wrong which warranted a lien being placed against her. AC should clarify this. A hospital lien is a lien against the potential recovery for injuries caused by a third party, not against the patient.
And by the way, let the public beware if you are injured in an auto accident, the hospital may file lien and refuse to bill your health insurance. What that means for people, is that if you are involved in an auto accident and are transported to the hospital, then instead of filing on your health insurance, the hospital will place a lien on your recovery against a third party's insurance company. This means, before you recover for damages, the hospital bill gets paid. The problem is that the automobile liability limits are only 25K in Georgia, so you may not be able to recover anything after the hospital bill is paid. The hospital does this so it can get reimbursed dollar for dollar for their bill without having to adjust the bill for the contracted insurance rates. Hopefully the legislature and or courts will overturn this practice.

tired of the crap
0
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tired of the crap 10/26/09 - 11:55 pm
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i like butch and wish there

i like butch and wish there were more like him i would vote for all of them maybe they would clean up augusta and get it safe again.

FallingLeaves
27
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FallingLeaves 10/27/09 - 09:51 am
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I hope that the one that is

I hope that the one that is voted in, brings the other candidates on board to help him clean up Harrisburg and other neighborhoods and districts follow suit.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 11/02/09 - 07:46 pm
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I thinkt Matt Aitken is a

I thinkt Matt Aitken is a really nice guy..BUT I think Butch has the passion that we need and will look after the interests of the taxpayers more. I think we need a true civic activist of the commission and no more legacy candidates or candidates put up by the power-brokers.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 11/02/09 - 07:49 pm
0
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Oh.. and btw... Joe Rae

Oh.. and btw... Joe Rae jenkins seems as sweet as sugar and a very nice lady.. give her a few years and she will be a major player I think. But this one goes to Butch

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