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Local Govt & Politics
DeKalb commissioner identified during trial
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DeKalb commissioner identified during trial

DeKalb commissioner identified during trial
Photo Credit: Kent D. Johnson / AJC

DeKalb commissioner identified during trial

Federal prosecutors linked DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson to defendants in a South Carolina public corruption trial Monday, showing  jurors Watson’s picture during a witness’ testimony.

Prosecution witness Phil Mims didn’t identify Watson by name. But Mims said he saw a mustachioed man from the DeKalb County Commission meet at the Columbia Hilton hotel with one of the defendants, Jonathan Pinson, according to The State newspaper. That’s when prosecutors showed a picture of Watson that withheld his name but identified him as the DeKalb commissioner.

Watson, who represents east DeKalb County, denied knowledge of the case.

“I know nothing about that. I have no idea,” Watson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution when reached by phone Monday. “No one subpoenaed me. I’m not indicted. I have no other comment.”

Mims testified during the trial in Columbia, S.C., that Pinson and his business partner, Eric Robinson, talked with Florida developer Richard Zahn about their influence over politicians during a meeting at the hotel.

Mims said Pinson made references to the effect of, “We got a few of them under control or we’ve got them in our corner.”

Mims didn’t say which politicians Pinson was referring to.

Mims pleaded guilty last November to conspiracy and bank fraud charges related to Pinson’s investment in a housing development.

Pinson, the former chairman of South Carolina State University’s board of trustees, and Robinson are on trial on charges that they used their political and personal connections to enrich themselves through a series of white-collar crimes.

One of those alleged crimes involved discussions to pay bribes to a DeKalb elected official in exchange for favorable treatment, according to a 52-count indictment. The indictment didn’t say what the defendants wanted from the DeKalb official in return for the payment or whether they carried out their plan.

The indictment refered to an “elected DeKalb County Councilman,” but it didn’t name him.

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News

  • Doctor's offices and emergency rooms in Bartow County have been seeing a lot of people with symptoms of food-borne illness. They are complaining of upset stomach, cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. Almost all of the patients say they attended a catered event at Toyo Tire in Cartersville.  Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District environmental health specialist and epidemiologists are looking into the outbreak. The cause of the outbreak has not yet been confirmed.  Logan Boss with the Georgia Department of Public Heath says they are not sure how many people have gotten sick. 'This could be a multi-county event, a lot people work at Toyo Tire from this region,' says Boss. He says there may have been some hospitalizations from the outbreak.  He encourages those seeing symptoms of food-borne illness to see a doctor. The most common symptoms of food poisoning include: Upset stomach Stomach cramps Nausea Vomiting Diarrhea Fever After consuming contaminated food or drink, it may take hours or days before symptoms start to develop. Most people have only mild illnesses, lasting a few hours to several days. However, some develop severe illness requiring hospitalization, and some illnesses result in long-term health problems or even death.
  • Almost 5,000 pounds of explosives brought down the Georgia Dome Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, in a controlled demolition in Atlanta.
  • Charles Manson, the hippie cult leader who became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after masterminding the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969, died Sunday night after nearly a half-century in prison. He was 83.Manson died of natural causes at a California hospital while serving a life sentence, his name synonymous to this day with unspeakable violence and depravity.Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County, reacted to the death by quoting the late Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor who put Manson behind bars. Bugliosi said: 'Manson was an evil, sophisticated con man with twisted and warped moral values.'Today, Manson's victims are the ones who should be remembered and mourned on the occasion of his death,' Hanisee said.A petty criminal who had been in and out of jail since childhood, the charismatic, guru-like Manson surrounded himself in the 1960s with runaways and other lost souls and then sent his disciples to butcher some of L.A.'s rich and famous in what prosecutors said was a bid to trigger a race war — an idea he got from a twisted reading of the Beatles song 'Helter Skelter.'The slayings horrified the world and, together with the deadly violence that erupted later in 1969 during a Rolling Stones concert at California's Altamont Speedway, exposed the dangerous, drugged-out underside of the counterculture movement and seemed to mark the death of the era of peace and love.Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, Manson maintained during his tumultuous trial in 1970 that he was innocent and that society itself was guilty.'These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them; I didn't teach them. I just tried to help them stand up,' he said in a courtroom soliloquy.Linda Deutsch, the longtime courts reporter for The Associated Press who covered the Manson case, said he 'left a legacy of evil and hate and murder.'He was able to take young people who were impressionable and convince them he had the answer to everything and he turned them into killers,' she said. 'It was beyond anything we had ever seen before in this country.'California Corrections Department spokeswoman Vicky Waters said it has yet to be determined what happens to Manson's body. It was also unclear if Manson requested funeral services of any sort.Prison officials previously said Manson had no known next of kin, and state law says that if no relative or legal representative surfaces within 10 days, then it's up to the department to determine whether the body is cremated or buried.The Manson Family, as his followers were called, slaughtered five of its victims on Aug. 9, 1969, at Tate's home: the actress, who was 8½ months pregnant, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, Polish movie director Voityck Frykowski and Steven Parent, a friend of the estate's caretaker. Tate's husband, 'Rosemary's Baby' director Roman Polanski, was out of the country at the time.The next night, a wealthy grocer and his wife, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, were stabbed to death in their home across town.The killers scrawled such phrases as 'Pigs' and a misspelled 'Healter Skelter' in blood at the crime scenes.Manson was arrested three months later. In the annals of American crime, he became the personification of evil, a short, shaggy-haired, bearded figure with a demonic stare and an 'X'' — later turned into a swastika — carved into his forehead.'Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969,' author Joan Didion wrote in her 1979 book 'The White Album.'After a trial that lasted nearly a year, Manson and three followers — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten — were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Another defendant, Charles 'Tex' Watson, was convicted later. All were spared execution and given life sentences after the California Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 1972.Atkins died behind bars in 2009. Krenwinkel, Van Houten and Watson remain in prison.Another Manson devotee, Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme, tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975, but her gun jammed. She served 34 years in prison.Manson was born in Cincinnati on Nov. 12, 1934, to a teenager, possibly a prostitute, and was in reform school by the time he was 8. After serving a 10-year sentence for check forgery in the 1960s, Manson was said to have pleaded with authorities not to release him because he considered prison home.'My father is the jailhouse. My father is your system,' he would later say in a monologue on the witness stand. 'I am only what you made me. I am only a reflection of you.'He was set free in San Francisco during the heyday of the hippie movement in the city's Haight-Ashbury section, and though he was in his mid-30s by then, he began collecting followers — mostly women — who likened him to Jesus Christ. Most were teenagers; many came from good homes but were at odds with their parents.The 'family' eventually established a commune-like base at the Spahn Ranch, a ramshackle former movie location outside Los Angeles, where Manson manipulated his followers with drugs, oversaw orgies and subjected them to bizarre lectures.He had musical ambitions and befriended rock stars, including Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. He also met Terry Melcher, a music producer who had lived in the same house that Polanski and Tate later rented.By the summer of 1969, Manson had failed to sell his songs, and the rejection was later seen as a trigger for the violence. He complained that Wilson took a Manson song called 'Cease to Exist,' revised it into 'Never Learn Not to Love' and recorded it with the Beach Boys without giving Manson credit.Manson was obsessed with Beatles music, particularly 'Piggies' and 'Helter Skelter,' a hard-rocking song that he interpreted as forecasting the end of the world. He told his followers that 'Helter Skelter is coming down' and predicted a race war would destroy the planet.'Everybody attached themselves to us, whether it was our fault or not,' the Beatles' George Harrison, who wrote 'Piggies,' later said of the murders. 'It was upsetting to be associated with something so sleazy as Charles Manson.'According to testimony, Manson sent his devotees out on the night of Tate's murder with instructions to 'do something witchy.' The state's star witness, Linda Kasabian, who was granted immunity, testified that Manson tied up the LaBiancas, then ordered his followers to kill. But Manson insisted: 'I have killed no one, and I have ordered no one to be killed.'His trial was nearly scuttled when President Richard Nixon said Manson was 'guilty, directly or indirectly.' Manson grabbed a newspaper and held up the front-page headline for jurors to read: 'Manson Guilty, Nixon Declares.' Attorneys demanded a mistrial but were turned down.From then on, jurors, sequestered at a hotel for 10 months, traveled to and from the courtroom in buses with blacked-out windows so they could not read the headlines on newsstands.Manson was also later convicted of the slayings of a musician and a stuntman.Over the decades, Manson and his followers appeared sporadically at parole hearings, where their bids for freedom were repeatedly rejected. The women suggested they had been rehabilitated, but Manson himself stopped attending, saying prison had become his home.The killings inspired movies and TV shows, and Bugliosi, the prosecutor, wrote a best-selling book about the murders, 'Helter Skelter.' The macabre rock star Marilyn Manson borrowed part of his stage name from the killer.'The Manson case, to this day, remains one of the most chilling in crime history,' veteran crime reporter Theo Wilson wrote in her 1998 memoir, 'Headline Justice: Inside the Courtroom — The Country's Most Controversial Trials.' ''Even people who were not yet born when the murders took place know the name Charles Manson, and shudder.'___AP writer Michelle A. Monroe contributed to this report. This story contains biographical information compiled by former AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch. Deutsch covered the Tate-La Bianca killings and the Manson trial for The Associated Press and has written about the Manson family for four decades.
  • A rising star in the Democratic Party who gained national attention for tackling poverty in New Mexico said he will not drop out of the race for lieutenant governor despite renewed scrutiny of past allegations that he sexually harassed women.Statehouses nationwide are dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct in a wave of claims against powerful people in politics, entertainment, business and elsewhere. A Democratic assemblyman in California who is facing sexual harassment allegations said Monday that he won't seek re-election next year.Now a candidate for the state's second-highest office of lieutenant governor, Michael Padilla said Monday in a text message that he was forging ahead with his campaign. Padilla has long denied the claims dating to 2006 that he links to issues of a hostile workplace environment, not sexual harassment.Padilla was accused in two federal lawsuits of harassing women while helping the city of Albuquerque overhaul a problem-plagued emergency call center in 2006. The city ended up settling 'sexually hostile work environment' claims stemming from Padilla's six-week tenure as a supervisor.He has adamantly denied accusations that he asked women on dates despite repeated rejections and made inappropriate comments, including saying that in his home, 'women stay home, make tortillas and have babies.'I was raised at the end of my high school years by my three sisters, so I would never dream of saying something like that,' Padilla said. 'This is not who I am, this is not a pattern. This was 11 years ago, and there has never been an accusation like this again.'The 2006 allegations against him also arose during two successful runs for state Senate.Eleanor Chavez, a former state representative, brought up the allegations of sexual harassment in a 2012 Democratic primary against Padilla for a state Senate seat. He angrily denied the accusations, but Chavez kept bringing up the cases because she said the women were trying to deal with the trauma six years later.'The pain was real and still there,' Chavez said. 'But I think Padilla felt he was vindicated because he won.'Padilla rose to Senate leadership as majority whip, acting as the party's point person on longstanding efforts to boost spending on early childhood education as a remedy to poverty.Padilla 'has done some great work, particularly on poverty issues, but he now has to face this issue,' state Democratic Party Chairman Richard Ellenberg said. 'We would like to have our representatives avoiding these sorts of charges. It is dispiriting to have people who in many ways are thought of being very good and constructive accused of unacceptable behavior.'In New Mexico, U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat running for governor, urged Padilla last week to abandon his run for lieutenant governor.The state Democratic Party announced plans to require all candidates to undergo training for sexual harassment prevention or lose access to its voter databases and communications apparatus. The Legislature plans to review its harassment policies and institute new training, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said Monday.Padilla helped New Mexico this year become the first state to ban shaming children with unpaid meal accounts in public school lunchrooms. He drew on his own childhood growing up in foster care in one of the nation's poorest states, citing his experience mopping floors in exchange for free midday meals.While he was in the Senate, the divorced father of two has built a prosperous consulting business for in-bound call centers across the U.S. and in Mexico, handling contracts that involve thousands of workers at a time.The youngest of five children, Padilla had an abusive father and a mother who was unable to care for him. He said he passed through foster care in at least seven cities across the state.Padilla frequently invokes his longtime ties to a state suffering from heroin addiction and chronic unemployment. The senator regularly holds 'matanzas' — a traditional Hispanic gathering centered on the slaughtering of a pig — that attracts many New Mexico Democrats looking to make inroads with Latino voters.___Associated Press writer Russell Contreras contributed to this report from Albuquerque, New Mexico.___Follow Morgan Lee at https://twitter.com/MLeeAP and Russell Contreras at http://twitter.com/russcontreras .
  • A neurologist accused of sexual misconduct in three states is due in court on misdemeanor charges that he groped women at a Philadelphia clinic.Dr. Ricardo Cruciani faces a preliminary hearing in Philadelphia on Tuesday morning. Police have charged him with assaulting seven patients in 2016, while he was chairman of Drexel University's neurology department.At least 17 women in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey have come forward to accuse Cruciani of sexual misconduct in encounters dating back at least a dozen years. The accusers have either reported him to police or have retained attorneys to pursue civil claims.Cruciani's lawyer has declined to comment.
  • Investigators have released photos and surveillance video in hopes of identifying the gunmen who killed a restaurant manager during a robbery this weekend. According to police, three men entered Barcelona Wine Bar on Howell Mill Road in the West Midtown neighborhood as it was closing around 1:45 a.m. Sunday, and tied up the employees with electrical tape.  The men then forced the manager, 29-year-old Chelsea Beller , upstairs to open up the safe. That’s when they shot her. Beller later died at Grady Memorial Hospital.  'I think it's important for us all to acknowledge that this isn't Atlanta. This isn't the Wild Wild West,' Beller's friend Tyler Walters said.  @Atlanta_Police just released this dramatic surveillance from inside Barcelona wine bar of Sunday’s deadly robbery. https://t.co/YHueSecqL7 Police need your help. $7k reward for info. @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/QJG5xHIZMv — Aaron Diamant (@AaronDiamantWSB) November 20, 2017 As Channel 2’s Carl Willis went through the new video, he saw Atlanta police back at the scene looking for evidence in the shooting. Beller's friends say the 29-year-old considered co-workers and restaurant regulars her family. TRENDING STORIES: Police release dramatic video, photos of gunmen who killed restaurant manager Out with a bang: Georgia Dome comes down in Atlanta Grandmother says Facebook Live saved her life: 'I could have died' 'She was the salt of the earth. She was the type of person that had a genuine sense of caring,' Walters said. “She loved coming to work. She loved what she did. It was just a place that she felt happy and she enjoyed what she did.' Investigators are hoping that even though the suspects' faces are masked, that someone might have an idea who they are, and bring a little peace to those grieving over Beller’s loss.  “Money is money, but killing young ladies who are in the prime of their lives, that's not who Atlanta is,' Walter told Willis.  A reward of up to $7,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest and indictment. The Atlanta Police Department released a statement about the incident, saying:  “No crime against our citizens, anywhere in the city, is acceptable. But the robbery and murder of an innocent restaurant manager doing her job is a terrible crime that has shocked even the most jaded among us here at APD,' the department said in a statement Monday. 'We have made fighting violent crime our priority, and this incident underscores that our work is never done. Our investigators are working diligently to find those responsible for this crime. We will continue to focus our efforts on identifying and apprehending violent repeat offenders who prey on innocent people. These crimes are unacceptable, and we will not rest in our pursuit of shutting down these violent criminals.” Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to contact police through Crime Stoppers Atlanta . Their phone number is 404-577-8477 and you can remain anonymous.