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Latest from Veronica Waters

    Dangerous drugs, and dozens of people accused of selling them, are now off the street.  Spalding County police are in the process of locking up 60+ offenders for selling and distributing methamphetamine and heroin across metro Atlanta, and out of Georgia into other states.  Investigators say they obtained more than 100 arrest warrants. About 10 of those arrested are affiliated with the Ghostface Gangsters, Sheriff Darrell Dix tells WSB Radio.  “The Ghostfaced are predominantly Caucasian,” Dix adds, and explains, “They have a lot of beliefs very similar to neo-Nazi, Aryan-type beliefs and they are extremely violent.”  Dix says that after three people died of suspected fentanyl-laced meth or heroin, they used wiretaps to track that drug network. “We started getting information about a local dealer here,” Dix explains, adding, “His name is Kevin Pitts.  “We initially went up on a wire on his phone, and then we found his source who was dealing in the metro area.”  A second wiretapping led deputies to their main target – Amanda Pugh.  Dix says that Pugh was the source of methamphetamine that came into Spalding County that police believe could be connected to multiple deaths.  Pugh's drug network had customers as far away as West Virginia, with some arrests also coming in Florida and South Carolina. As the investigation grew, Spalding County investigators found that some of the suspects were already on the radar of other agencies. Other information that was uncovered was turned over to the DEA.  The two-month long investigation was dubbed “Operation Say No More.” Dix tells WSB that was a catchphrase used repeatedly by one of the main suspects. “On the phone, when people were ordering drugs or wanting guns from him, he would just always end the conversation with, ‘Say no more,’” Dix says.  He adds that overall, this is a major blow to this trafficking network. “As I have said before, if you sell narcotics, or are a gang member, you are a criminal,” Dix affirms, saying, “You have three choices. You can stop, you can leave Spalding County, or you can begin counting down your days of freedom because we are coming for you.  “If you choose to be a criminal, thug, or gang member, you’ve made your choice, so get used to seeing us on a regular basis. We are not backing down and we will do everything we can to make our county safer.”
  • It's not all fun when the games get this big. As the Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots are now worth more than $2 billion combined, some convenience stores are seeing long lines of hopeful winners coming to buy lottery tickets. At QuikTrip, the frenzy means long hours for employees.  'What we've learned is when you get massive lines like this, our people get worn out,' QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh tells WSB. 'You know, the monotony of just pushing a button over and over and over again. 'So we spend a lot of time trying to relieve people because believe it or not, it's hard on your back, and it's really hard on your index finger!'  Thornbrugh says for the most part, stores have only one lottery machine, so the lines for tickets are handled by only one worker at at a time. The stores have to increase the frequency of breaks, and also bring in extra staffers to help.  'It's just been constant, 24 hours a day selling these tickets,' he says.  Even though the crowds are large, it doesn't necessarily translate to big business for the stores, Thornbrugh reveals.  'The downside of it is when you get jackpots this high, the discretionary money that somebody would spend maybe on a hot dog, a sandwich, or a fountain drink, that money's really being used for the lottery ticket. So the other inside sales, they suffer a little bit on this,' he says.  Thornbrugh says while QuikTrip is happy to help, they can see their personnel getting tired.  'We want somebody to win,' he laughs.  He also says he just might buy a lottery ticket himself--provided the lines are not too long.
  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms pulled an expected vote on the Gulch deal from the agenda of a Wednesday special-called meeting of the City Council. Thursday, the council's president, Felicia Moore, called a special meeting for October 24th, which was to focus on water and sewer bonds. Moore also included the public financing package for the $5 billion Gulch development. The next day, Friday, Bottoms' Chief of Staff Marva Lewis wrote in a memo to Moore stating that the mayor’s office wanted the legislation removed from the agenda, saying the plan to include it was based on the understanding that outside counsel would have details of the new plan ready for review by October 17.
  • The city of Atlanta has settled with its ousted fire chief Kelvin Cochran, who was let go amid a hubbub over a book he wrote which compared homosexuality to bestiality. The city council Monday approved by an 11-3 vote paying $1.2 million to Cochran. Cochran's 2015 dismissal came after he wrote a book called 'Who Told You That You Were Naked?' in late 2013, giving it to some subordinates at work.
  • A now-fired Atlanta Police sergeant has been indicted on four charges stemming from the February 2017 shooting of a North Carolina tourist near the Georgia Dome.  A Fulton County grand jury handed up an indictment Wednesday against Mathieu Cadeau, 52, on counts of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and two counts of violation of his oath of office.   The man who was shot, Noel Hall, says he is happy to hear about the charges.  'I think it's a good start going forward, and it looks like things are moving in the right direction of what I feel needs to happen,' said Hall.
  • You have probably heard the “Objection! Hearsay!” line in your favorite legal drama.  A Cobb County judge must decide whether alleged hearsay can be used against an accused child molester.  The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously ruled that when the case against Antonio Almanza goes to trial, hearsay evidence identifying him as the alleged abuser is not categorically barred under Georgia’s new rules of evidence.  In May 2014, a Cobb County girl told her mother that a relative had molested her. The mother alerted authorities, who told her to take the child to the doctor for an examination.  At the hospital, the mom told an ER doctor that Almanza had touched and raped the girl. Almanza was indicted for aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery, statutory rape, child molestation, and incest.  Since that outcry, the mom and the little girl have vanished, and prosecutors have not been able to find her. They believe the pair may have left the country. The Cobb County District Attorney sought to have the mother's statements at the hospital, and later to the girl's pediatrician, admitted as evidence.  Almanza's lawyers objected, saying that the testimony from doctors does not fall under the typical medical exceptions to the hearsay rule. Hearsay testimony is usually barred because defendants have the right to cross-examine witnesses, which they cannot do if the speaker is not in court. The trial judge, then the Court of Appeals, said that the testimony was inadmissible hearsay.  WSB legal analyst Phil Holloway says one exception to the hearsay rule is for medical diagnosis and treatment – and what is considered 'pertinent.'  'If a child or a parent goes to the doctor and says the child has been molested or abused, it's important for the doctor to know how the child was molested or abused so the child can be treated properly,' Holloway explains, adding, 'What's not so important to diagnosis or treatment is the alleged identity of the abuser.'  Prosecutors contended, however, that the statements should be allowed under newer federal evidence rules which pushed out Georgia's older ones.  Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds says he is pleased with the justices' 'well thought-out' opinion.  'The mother of that victim had made statements to the treating physicians about what happened to her daughter. We believe that should have been admissible in a court of law based on the opinions that we've read throughout the United States,' Reynolds says.  He adds, 'We were convinced in the end that the Supreme Court would agree with us and rule in our favor, and thankfully, they did.'  Holloway says the justices essentially punted the case back to the trial judge to decide, using the newer federal rules of evidence, whether the mother's statements can be heard by a jury.  'It's like a math teacher telling you got the problem wrong because you worked the equation wrong, even if you may have stumbled onto the correct final answer,' he says. 'The Cobb judge may well reach the same conclusion because under federal precedent, the state has a tough hill to climb.'  Reynolds is confident the statements pass the test, noting that the justices said both the trial court and the Appeals Court were wrong to use Georgia's outdated evidence rules in excluding the mom's statements. He calls the state Supreme Court's ruling a 'strong opinion in favor of all victims of crime.”
  • Dockless scooters dot sidewalks across Atlanta, but that is not always a guarantee that you can find one in a hurry.  Now, Bird is getting ready to launch Bird Delivery, which will drop off a scooter at your personal nest -- home or office -- and reserve it for you to ride all day.  Currently, scooter renters have to do a sort of seek-and-retrieve to hop on one of the rides, using a map on an app to find where the Birds are nested, as they can be ditched wherever a rider wants.  Some riders in midtown Atlanta seem intrigued by the idea, even as Bird has yet to release pricing information for the upcoming service, or a roll-out date.  Matthew Quinn began riding the electric scooters in recent months, and says the time of day affects how difficult they are to locate. He often needs one in the evening hours, when he says Birds seem to be more scarce, but Limes are not. The idea of scheduling a delivery could be worth exploring, he speculates.  'The pros would be getting it; the cons would be we'd probably still have to wait for it,' says Quinn. 'Like, they're driving around Atlanta in a truck?'  Bird charges $1.00 to unlock the scooter, and 15 cents per minute after that. Krysta Silva, a university student, says she's curious to know what the upcharge would be for a reserved rental. She says it could be worth the time saved.  'Where my apartment complex is, there's usually not that many,” says Silva, adding, “Every now and again there will be one, but it's like, 'Oh, I want to go to class [and] get there in five minutes,' and there's not one there. So it would be convenient.” Bird says the vehicle would be dropped off at your doorstep by 8:00 A.M.  The all-day reservation could be a move to give rideshare car services like Lyft or Uber a run for their money.  Dylan Atanasov frequents midtown and Buckhead for work and socializing, and rides the scooters daily.  'I don't drive in midtown, and I take MARTA to work every day, so this is just really convenient when I'm going somewhere besides home,' he says.  He expects that he will be a customer who has a Bird delivered to him, since he's had times when he walked out of his home and spent 20 minutes looking for a scooter. The pricing, he said, is not likely to deter him.  'It's probably still going to be better than an Uber most of the time,' says Atansov. 'This right now, I'm going to a friend's house that's like three miles away, and it's going to cost me about three dollars, or four.  'And I don't have to sit in traffic.'  Andy Watson is a scooter commuter who rides every day, but who would not have much use to schedule a delivery, he says. As he got ready to unlock a Bird off Peachtree Street, he says he usually finds scooters in the same spot daily as he heads back to his car in a parking lot.  'They're always right here, so it's not really a big issue. There's been a few days where there hasn't been one out in front of the building, but it's like 200 yards to walk, so it's not that bad,' he laughs.  As Watson opened his Bird app, there was the invitation to schedule a delivery. He entered his ZIP code and the app promised to let him know when the service was available.
  • Time, pain, and compensation. Those were the themes of attorney Neal Pope's closing arguments at the trial over a botched circumcision in Clayton County.  His first 18 days of life, said Pope, were Baby D.'s only normal ones of his life. 
  • The defense has rested in the Clayton County trial of a lawsuit over a botched circumcision, disputing the idea that the child will face years of mental anguish.The suit seeks damages for the child’s medical bills, as well as for physical and mental pain and suffering, disability, and disfigurement. Much of the defense's case was spent trying to prove to the jury that some of the defendants--the clinic owner, Anne Sigouin, and the boy's pediatrician--should not be held liable for things that happened at Life Cycle clinic in Riverdale.
  • The mother of a boy who suffered a botched circumcision at a Riverdale clinic tells a Clayton County jury about the anguishing aftermath. Stacie Willis contends she was never told a vital piece of information after the bloody procedure--that part of her 18-day-old baby boy's privates had been cut off. At times during the trial she has cried listening to the testimony; the day the nurse midwife who performed the procedure talked about how the sliced-off tissue was kept in a refrigerator and then thrown away, she got up and walked out of the courtroom in tears.
  • Veronica Waters

    Reporter

    Veronica Waters is an anchor and reporter for News/Talk WSB. She is also the staff expert on legal affairs and the courts. In 2007, the Radio-Television News Directors Association named Waters' series on "Snaring Internet Predators" best in the region with an Edward R. Murrow award for Investigative Reporting.She has been honored by several professional organizations for news and sports feature reporting, and was named in 2003 as the Atlanta Press Club's Radio Journalist of the Year. Waters has covered an assortment of high-profile cases from Mayor Bill Campbell's corruption trial to the murder trials of activist-turned imam Jamil Al-Amin and of former DeKalb County, GA Sheriff Sidney Dorsey.She served as the station's correspondent for the murder trial of accused "Black Widow" Lynn Turner, and the death penalty case of double murderer Stacey Humphreys. One of the biggest legal cases in Atlanta history involved the notorious Gold Club racketeering trial. Waters covered this unfolding drama not only for WSB Radio and radio stations throughout America, but also for a worldwide audience on BBC Radio. Waters joined WSB in 1997 as an anchor and reporter. She began her journalism career at the Southern Urban Network and Mississippi Network in Jackson, MS. Waters attended Alcorn State University and Mississippi State University, and enjoys cheering for the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

    Latest from Veronica Waters »

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  • After DeKalb County School District officials promised efforts to improve their hiring process, the district hired a teacher this summer who had been arrested in 2013 in New York for meth possession. Carl Hudson was arrested in 2013 for possession of methamphetamine, a felony, a few blocks from Flushing High School, where he was principal. According to the New York Daily News, he pleaded to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct and received a conditional discharge, meaning the whole incident would get wiped from his record if he did not have any other legal run-ins over the following year. Hudson’s case is like the series of hiring blunders that led DeKalb officials to admit to gaps in the district’s hiring processes while promising to correct those flaws. According to his resume, he moved to Atlanta in 2016 and found employment with Atlanta Public Schools, beginning as a long-term substitute before becoming a permanent hire, until he left the district this summer to teach math at Tucker High School. Atlanta Public schools officials said he worked for the district just over a year, ending in November of 2017. His arrest, though, was easily found through a Google search and according to Georgia teaching standards should have kept him from being employed by either school district. Superintendent Steve Green said Tuesday that being previously charged with a crime would not make someone ineligible for a job. District officials said they were not aware of Hudson’s arrest prior to hiring him. TRENDING STORIES: Police ID woman run over, killed at gas station; search for driver underway Michelle Obama extends national book tour, adds stop in Atlanta Officer shot in bulletproof vest during traffic stop, suspect killed Atlanta Public Schools officials did not say whether they were aware of his 2013 meth arrest, but said late Tuesday that results of standard background checks met their guidelines. According to the Code of Ethics for Educators, from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, unethical conduct includes the commission or conviction of a felony, including a situation where the charge is disposed through diversion or similar programs. On his application, Hudson marked “no” when asked whether he had been convicted of any crimes in the last five years. On his resume, instead of listing the name of the high school where he worked, he wrote “NYC DOE High School,” or New York City Department of Education. Efforts to reach Hudson were not successful. District officials said he “walked off the job” Nov. 26. Bernice Gregory, the district’s human resources chief, said changes to the hiring procedure since she arrived at the district in April include having a second person — either Gregory or the director of employment services — perform a second candidate screening to ensure checks and balances on the district’s hiring checklist have been met. That could include a Google search and verifying a person’s job history for the past 10 years, talking to at least one reference who directly supervised the candidate. “We put another set of eyes on it,” Gregory said about the applications. “Once we put their names in Google, you know everything … is going to come up that’s out there.” The district recently joined the National Association of Teacher Education and Certification, which has a database giving the district access to convictions, arrests and charges against a potential candidate. Her staff is set to begin training this week to use that system. She said they also recently signed up for access to the Child Protective Services Information System, which essentially is a child abuse registry for the state of Georgia and would tell district officials whether someone had had as little as a child abuse complaint against them. A question added to applications will ask applicants if they have been asked to resign from a school district. During peak hiring times, Gregory said someone from her department will ask the question again. The district has gotten into trouble for sloppy hiring in the past, including a teacher hired last summer who had been fired from the Toledo, Ohio, school district on allegations that she assaulted students by putting them in headlocks and pushing them against walls. DeKalb County Schools placed Sandra Meeks-Speller on administrative leave on Oct. 10, 2017 pending an internal investigation, shortly after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution requested her personnel file and told district officials what was uncovered online about her past. Diane Clark was removed twice from the district in 13 months. The first time, in November 2016, she was allowed to retire early after several of her Cross Keys High School students claimed she made threatening comments about getting them deported immediately after President Donald Trump was elected. The second time was December 2017, after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution discovered Clark had been brought back to the district as a substitute teacher.  District officials admitted failing to do internet searches was among critical gaps in their background-check process, and promised changes such as verifying the work history candidates provide on their job applications and making direct contact with references.“Our background-check process certainly needs shoring up,” Superintendent Steve Green said last year. “We need to keep up with the times for ways there are to get information. In the old days, if you were cleared to teach in Ohio, you would be cleared to teach here.” District officials said in an email at the time that they would provide training sessions on interview tips, contact state boards where candidates are licensed and provide annual safety awareness training for some human capital management employees.
  • A Kentucky man is facing murder charges after allegedly slashing the throat of his sleeping 3-year-old niece early Saturday morning, news outlets reported. >> Read more trending news  The toddler’s father heard her screams over a baby monitor around 2:45 a.m. and was attacked by Emanuel Fluter, 33, when he tried to save his daughter, The Associated Press reported. Josephine Bulubenchi later died from her injuries at an Albany-area hospital. Fluter, a veteran, who had been living with the family in their rural Clinton County home, had been suffering from mental health issues, the child’s father and Fluter’s brother, Dariu Fluter, told WKYT-TV. “I want people to know that he loved his nieces and loved his nephews,' Dariu Flutur said. 'He loved us. He loved me and his sister.” The family told WKYT they forgive him for the alleged murder. 'He has a mental condition that he suffers with since he was in the army,' Dariu said. 'It's tough for us to understand because of what happened.' >> Trending: Texas firefighters rescue over 100 snakes from burning house, including pythons, boas There were four other children in the room at the time of the attack, but none of them were injured, police said. Fluter is jailed on $1 million bond and is due back in court on Dec. 18.
  • A metro Atlanta woman is accused of stabbing another woman to death at a Rockdale County motel and firing at officers during a chase. It happened at a Motel 6 in Conyers. Right after the murder, a statewide alert helped authorities in another part of the state catch the murder suspect, 42-year-old Joyce Marie Lewis-Pelzer. The alert also sparked new attention being put on the disappearance of another woman seven years ago. Last November, Channel 2 Action News followed up on the disappearance of Shawndell McLeod out of DeKalb County that is being investigated as a homicide. [READ MORE: 6 years later, this missing woman's case is now a murder investigation] While looking into Lewis-Pelzer, Channel 2's Matt Johnson found DeKalb court records that show McLeod took out a protective order against Lewis-Pelzer two months before the disappearance. Lewis-Pelzer is recovering at a south Georgia hospital after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said she led deputies on a high-speed chase that ended in Turner County. TRENDING STORIES: Police ID woman run over, killed at gas station; search for driver underway Michelle Obama extends national book tour, adds stop in Atlanta Officer shot in bulletproof vest during traffic stop, suspect killed 'Probably eight or nine minutes from mile marker 94 to mile marker 84 -- 10-miles stretch and it reached speeds of 110 miles per hour,' Sheriff Billy Hancock said. Deputies in Crisp County returned fire when she shot at them on I-75 Monday night. Authorities said she tried to head to Florida after stabbing her partner. A statewide alert helped a state trooper locate her car and attempt to make a traffic stop before authorities said Lewis-Pelzer kept going. It took two PIT maneuvers to stop her and the GBI said she fired at least one shot from her car toward deputies. As for the McLeod case, a Conyers police spokesperson said they're working with another department to look at the suspect further to determine her connection to an additional murder. The family of the victim at the motel is out of state and have not been notified of her death as of late Monday night. The accused killer has multiple domestic violence arrests in both DeKalb and Fulton counties.
  • Attorneys for President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn asked a judged to spare him prison time in a memo filed Tuesday. >> Read more trending news  In the filing, Flynn’s lawyers recommended for a sentence 'a term of probation not to exceed one year, with minimal conditions of supervision, along with 200 hours of community service, CNN reported. His attorneys said in the memo that “General Flynn accepted responsibility for his conduct and that his cooperation “was not grudging or delayed.” >> Related: Guilty: Michael Flynn admits in court to lying about Russian communication “Rather, it preceded his guilty plea or any threatened indictment and began very shortly after he was first contacted for assistance by the Special Counsel's Office.” Flynn is scheduled for sentencing next Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials. Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, recommended no jail time for Flynn in a filing last week. Original story: Attorneys for President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn are expected to make a sentencing recommendation Tuesday in a case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office. Prosecutors with Mueller’s team said last week in court filings that Flynn has been cooperative since he pleaded guilty last year to making false statements to the FBI. In light of his assistance, prosecutors asked that Flynn receive little to no jail time for his crime, an argument Flynn’s attorneys are expected to echo, according to The Associated Press. >> Mueller investigation: Report recommends little to no jail time for Michael Flynn Flynn resigned from his post in the Trump administration in February 2017 after serving just 24 days in office. He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials and agreed to fully cooperate with Mueller’s team.  Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced next week by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, according to court records.
  • A day of shopping at a New Jersey mall took a violent turn for three teenagers, who said they were beaten up by two women over a parking space. >> Read more trending news  The three friends - Taylor McFadden, 18; Tatum Bohanon, 19, and Alexandria 'Allie' DeRusso, 19 – told NJ.com that a car was waiting for their parking spot close to the Deptford Mall entrance, but that they weren’t ready to leave.  The girls think that’s what angered the women, who, at first, walked by their car with two men, and then returned and attacked them, McFadden said. She told NJ.com that one of the women hit Bohannon and the other woman punched DeRusso. “Both of my friends were on the ground at this point, getting punched,” McFadden told NJ.com. “I jumped out of the passenger side and I grabbed my phone so that I could call the police. People started coming over, but I think a lot of people were scared to get involved,” she said. When it was over, all three girls were treated at a local hospital. >> Trending: Father turns in daughter to face charges over starving dogs Authorities are investigating the incident.
  • California state lawmaker Joaquin Arambula was arrested Monday on suspicion of misdemeanor child cruelty, Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said. The arrest came after officials at Dailey Elementary Charter School discovered an injury on a child who came into an office Monday afternoon, Dyer said. He did not describe the injury or Arambula's relationship to the child. He was cited for willful cruelty to a child, Arambula, a Democratic state assemblyman, is married with three young daughters. 'Joaquin is a committed father who wants what is best for his children,' his spokeswoman Felicia Matlosz said in a Tuesday statement. 'He is fully supportive of the process, which will show he is a loving and nurturing father.' Arambula is a former emergency room physician who won a 2016 special election to represent part of Fresno and the surrounding rural areas. His father Juan Arambula was a state assemblyman in the early 2000s. Officials at the elementary school reported the child's injury to child protective services, which called Fresno police, Dyer said. Officers called Arambula and his wife, Elizabeth, who both arrived at the scene. The child described how the injury occurred and said Arambula inflicted it, Dyer said. The police determined the injury happened Sunday evening. Arambula was cooperative and cordial, but he did not provide a statement to officers based on advice from his attorney, Dyer said. Officers were 'confident that a crime had occurred' and arrested Arambula on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child, Dyer said. He was taken in a patrol car to police headquarter, finger-printed, photographed and then released because his crime is a misdemeanor. The injury did not rise to the level of a felony. All school district employees in California are considered 'mandated reporters' under state law, meaning they are required to report known or suspected child abuse. They are not responsible for determining if an allegation is valid, according to the state Department of Education's website. They are expected to report if abuse or neglect is suspected or a child shares information leading them to believe it took place. They are then required to call law enforcement or child protective services, and law enforcement is required to investigate. A physical injury inflicted on a child by someone else intentionally is considered child abuse or neglect. Officials at the elementary school and Fresno Unified School District did not immediately respond to requests for comment. __ Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper and Don Thompson contributed.