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    A DeKalb County city is enlisting companies from around the country to help promote it as a tourist destination. The Brookhaven Convention and Visitors Bureau has a budget of $1.6 million this year, Executive Director Renée Areng said. While the bureau is a nonprofit and a separate entity from the city government, it is funded by the city’s hotel-motel tax. The BCVB is using BrandStrategy, Inc. and Zehnder Communications to help in its branding and marketing effort. Zehnder will manage $700,000 of the bureau’s budget, while BrandStrategy, Inc. is being paid $116,000, Areng said. MORE DEKALB NEWS: » 2 years after fire at music school, the songs play on » Creeks near homes in DeKalb flooding BrandStrategy, based in Washington state, is “leading an extensive research and market analysis project” that will form a marketing strategy for the city, the statement said. Zehnder, an advertising agency with offices in Louisiana and Nashville, will help with a range of marketing, public relations and advertising services. The Convention and Visitors Bureau, created under the city’s charter, was established in 2018 as a way to market Brookhaven as a tourist destination. Brookhaven, a city of more than 50,000 people, incorporated in 2012. “We are building a brand from the ground up,” Areng said in a statement. “This year will be a time of major growth for the Brookhaven CVB ... Our city has a rich history and so much to offer locals and visitors.” Follow DeKalb County News on Facebook and Twitter  In other news:
  • Social media posts about mold and abuses inside the DeKalb County jail have led to a second week of protests. Pictures and complaints circulated on Instagram and Twitter last week, including allegations that prisoners were not receiving medical care and had been served moldy food. “DeKalb jail is mistreating us,” an inmate wrote on a disposable food tray, according to one image that was posted. Meg Dudukovich got involved with prisoner-rights group Atlanta Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee after seeing the viral posts. She said current and former inmates and their families have provided information about deteriorating conditions at the 24-year-old jail, and the Sheriff’s Office has been slow to respond. “They’ve been very dodgy about all the questions,” Dudukovich said. For the past two years, DeKalb Sheriff Jeffrey Mann has requested more funding in the county budget to address mold and aging equipment. Last year, he received $1.5 million in emergency funding to address mold and plumbing issues. » Related | After mold discovery, fixes coming to DeKalb jail The county commission and CEO Michael Thurmond allocated another $9.5 million in the 2019 budget to fix up the 1 million square-foot facility, including mold remediation, new elevators and other repairs. Atlanta Incarcerated Workers is planning a protest outside the jail on Memorial Drive at 5:30 p.m. tonight.  The first protest last Friday attracted about 50 people. The group reported that four people were arrested after protesters pushed their way into the jail lobby with bread they said they wanted to give prisoners.
  • The secret legal settlement between former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration and fired airport general manager Miguel Southwell has become a major focus of the on-going federal corruption investigation at Atlanta City Hall, new records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show. The development is significant because prosecutors appear to be probing unanswered questions about how the city’s law department negotiated the settlement’s terms, why a portion of it was kept from City Council and who paid Southwell $147,000 to resolve the dispute. “It’s important for us to understand how that occurred, where the money came from, and who allowed it to occur,” Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore told the AJC. Mark Trigg, the attorney hired by the city to negotiate the 2016 settlement with Southwell’s attorney, testified Dec. 11 before the federal grand jury considering evidence in the now four-year-old corruption probe, according to legal bills and emails obtained by the AJC. Trigg also provided federal prosecutors with text, email and voice mail messages related to the Southwell settlement, after extended negotiations with federal prosecutors over allowable redactions intended to protect attorney-client privileged communications, the documents show. Prosecutors continued seeking unredacted messages as recently as Feb. 27. Attorney Thomas O’Brien and other lawyers with a Los Angeles-based firm that is working for the city on federal investigation issues submitted legal bills to the city for work from Oct. 19 to Jan. 31, with at least 44 instances of billable hours for work related to Trigg. “Prep meeting with Mark Trigg and (his) counsel; meeting with (federal prosecutors) and FBI to discuss disclosure limitations; attend grand jury; debrief with Mark Trigg and counsel; update mayor and city attorney,” says a Dec. 11 entry that billed the city law department for 6 hours at $950 per hour. The AJC received the invoices after requesting them through the Georgia Open Records Act. One of Trigg’s attorneys on Wednesday provided the AJC with a statement that described Trigg as a witness. The statement also said Trigg turned over information at the request of federal prosecutors about issues that the city “has expressly authorized him to provide.” “Mr. Trigg has been advised that he is neither a subject nor a target of the pending investigation,” the statement says. “Quite to the contrary, he is merely a fact witness regarding certain isolated events within the scope of the investigation.” Testimony before federal grand juries is secret. Witnesses aren’t prohibited from revealing what they told the grand jury, but Paula Junghans, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney for Trigg, declined to provide additional information. Settlement defused a crisis Reed fired Southwell in May 2016 — a move that set off explosive allegations, with both men accusing the other of illegal activities. The broadsides came at an inopportune time for Reed, who was a surrogate for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and was being vetted for a high-profile role in her administration. By August of that year, the two men reached a detente. They released a vaguely worded statement in September retracting their previous allegations of illegal conduct. The statement also referenced a “resolution” to the matter, although a Reed spokeswoman denied Southwell had been paid as part of it. City Council approved a $85,516 settlement in December 2016, which council members were told would pay for career counseling, job placement assistance and health insurance. The Reed administration told council that the money represented the full settlement with the fired airport boss. But last summer the AJC and Channel 2 Action News revealed the secret portion of the agreement after the news organizations obtained emails and other documents that showed Trigg and Southwell’s attorney, Lee Parks, finalizing plans for $147,000 in additional payments to Southwell from unspecified sources. The agreement was remarkable because the full settlement was hidden from City Council, and it turned out the vast majority of the $85,516 authorized by council actually went to Parks’ law firm for his fee in negotiating the secret portion of the settlement. Parks told the AJC in August that “the manner in which the (Southwell) settlement was memorialized was dictated by the attorney for the City and Mayor Reed.” Parks declined comment for this story. The city’s law department is responsible for hiring outside counsel and approving its work. Cathy Hampton was the city attorney at the time of the Southwell negotiations. She stepped down from that position in 2017. Thursday, the AJC reported that prosecutors are also examining the relationship between Hampton and Paul Hastings LLP, another law firm handling legal matters for the city in the federal probe. Expert: ‘They see some fire’ Demanding grand jury testimony from an attorney about a client is an unusual move by federal prosecutors because it typically requires obtaining permission from high-ranking officials in the Justice Department’s main office in Washington, D.C., said two former federal prosecutors. “It speaks to how important this information may be and how important this investigation is to the (U.S. Attorney’s) office,” said Bret Williams, a former federal prosecutor in Georgia and New York who is now in private practice. “I think they don’t just see smoke. I think they see some fire.” Some of that fire, Williams said, could be conspiracy or wire fraud, particularly if officials in the Reed administration sent emails or other electronic communications indicating intent to mislead the council on terms of the settlement. Reed said last summer that the circumstances surrounding Southwell’s firing were “thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and no wrongdoing or improper behavior was found.” He did not respond to text messages seeking comment on Trigg’s grand jury testimony. The city also did not respond to a request for comment. Testimony from attorneys rare Caren Morrison, a law professor at Georgia State University who was a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York, said the legal invoices make her think prosecutors are looking at issues surrounding that settlement — as opposed to the allegations Southwell made after his firing that Reed steered contract awards to favored airport vendors. “I think they’re following up with the attorney specifically because it doesn’t seem that they’ve fully unraveled what exactly was going on with these payments in the first place — why City Council was lied to, why the payment to the lawyer was masked,” Morrison said. “And the attorney seems to be in an extremely good position, being one of the principles dealing with this matter or trying to set up this unusual payments scheme. “Attorneys are not frequently brought in before a grand jury. But when the investigation relates to a (process) that the attorney is an active participant in, then it makes sense to examine the attorney before the grand jury.” Though the settlement agreement did not disclose the source of the $147,000 payment to Southwell, emails from October 2016 showed Parks complained that his client had not been paid some two months after the agreement was reached. And the emails mentioned prominent Atlanta developer Scott Taylor, who at the time had major business ventures pending with the city. “Mark this is getting out of control,” Parks wrote to Trigg. “Scott Taylor now wants a contract that absolves him from payment. We have a contract with the city. It is your obligation to work with whoever is going to make the payments, without our having to separately contract with them.” Taylor’s firm, Carter, said it hired Southwell as a consultant for work related to airports outside Georgia after Reed fired him as Atlanta’s airport general manager. A spokesman for the company said Taylor had no knowledge of any settlement negotiations with Southwell, and didn’t know either of the lawyers involved. A lawyer for Trigg said Friday that Trigg “played no role in any third-party contracts to which Miguel Southwell may have been a party.” The legal invoices and emails obtained by the AJC for this story do not mention Taylor, who declined to comment.
  • A city plan to put contextual markers citing slavery as a cause of the Civil War next to four of Atlanta’s Confederate statues this spring has hit a snag. The proposed markers are part of a larger city initiative to address the presence of controversial Confederate-named streets and monuments in Atlanta. A City Council committee charged with implementing the overall plan, which includes the markers, projected in January that they would be installed by late spring. During a committee meeting on Wednesday, however, members said it would take at least until the end of the year to get them in place. The reasons for the delay: Deciding who will pay for the signs and the process of getting the proposal vetted and approved by other city departments before it’s voted on by the full council. “I wanted to have this done by now,” said Council Member Carla Smith, who heads the three-member street names and monuments committee. The monuments in question are the Confederate Obelisk and Lion of Atlanta in Oakland Cemetery; the Peace Monument in Piedmont Park; and the monument at the intersection of Peachtree Battle and Peachtree Roads commemorating the Battle of Peachtree Creek and North-South reconciliation. Though the city technically owns them now and maintains them, none were originally erected by the city. In the aftermath of the Civil War, organizations sympathetic to the Confederacy paid for them and had them installed. Now the city is working with the Historic Oakland Cemetery Foundation, the Piedmont Park Conservancy and the Atlanta History Center to figure out how to pay for the new signs that will augment them. Representatives from the cemetery, conservancy and history center attended Wednesday’s meeting. Smith said a donor has agreed to pay for the markers, at a cost of $2,000 each. The donor would then donate them to the city. Meeting participants debated whether the cemetery foundation and the park conservancy might pay for signs for their venues instead and assume maintenance of them once installed. Council Member Michael Julian Bond and Doug Young, Atlanta’s assistant director for historic preservation, said the city should take responsibility for both. Bond said that if the donation did not come through, it would be possible to get it allocated through the city’s general fund. “I think the city should completely own this, embrace it,” Bond said. Several city departments, including legal and parks and recreation, also will review the plans before they are brought to a council vote. All agreed that it wasn’t a question of whether the markers should be erected, but how quickly the wheels of city government could move to make it happen. “The conservancy agrees the panels are needed,” said, Mark Banta, chief executive of the conservancy. The proposed language for the markers varies with location, but all refer to the practice of racial segregation laws instituted after the Civil War that disenfranchised generations of African Americans.
  • U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath had been listening to constituents for an hour Saturday when Christine Rozman of Marietta rose to talk about immigration. Rozman, a self-described conservative, said her heart went out to people fleeing trouble in other countries. But she said the United States in the past had limited immigration to allow newcomers to assimilate and to protect the “integrity of what America stood for.” She said immigrants were a financial drain, and she was “scared for our country.” Each comment brought a few muttered retorts from a crowd packed with McBath supporters, prompting Rozman to respond, “I’m sorry if you guys listen to fake news all the time and you’re not educated.” That drew loud groans from the crowd. And that’s when McBath piped up. “This is an open forum for everyone in this district,” the Marietta Democrat told about 150 people at a Marietta church. “Please do not break down the good discourse we’ve had up until this point.” The crowd burst into applause. The exchange underscores the tightrope McBath walks as she seeks to consolidate support in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, where she eked out a victory five months ago. It’s a district long dominated by Republicans – and one the GOP is targeting as it tries to win back control of the House of Representatives. On Saturday, McBath vowed to be a voice for bipartisanship in a polarized political climate. “I represent Republicans. I represent Democrats. I represent independents,” she told the crowd at her first town hall meeting, drawing more applause. “I represent you all.” Representing everyone in a polarized political climate is a tall order – especially in the 6th District. It includes parts of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties, and in recent decades has been represented by such conservatives as Newt Gingrich, Johnny Isakson and Tom Price. But suburban Atlanta has been evolving from a conservative bastion to a political battleground for years – a process accelerated in part by the rise of President Donald Trump and energized by last year’s nationally watched Stacey Abrams gubernatorial campaign. Last November, McBath – a gun control advocate and former airline flight attendant – ousted Republican incumbent Karen Handel by fewer than 3,300 votes. Now Handel is seeking a rematch. State Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, has also announced his candidacy. On Saturday, McBath touted her accomplishments since she took office in January. The House passed a measure requiring federal background checks for gun sales – a priority for McBath, whose son was killed in a shooting. The U.S. House also passed an expansive elections and ethics overhaul. Neither bill is going anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate. PHOTOS: Lucy McBath’s ‘community listening session’ The crowd quizzed the representative on immigration, health care, gun control and other issues Saturday. McBath sought to distance herself from controversial proposals from some of her Democratic colleagues. She said she supported incremental measures to shore up Obamacare, rather than jumping to a broader “Medicare for all” approach to health care. She said she does not favor abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. And when someone in the audience won applause for saying there is support in the district for impeaching Trump, McBath tamped down such talk – without ruling it out. “Impeachment is a very, very serious process. It is not to be taken lightly,” she said. “We’re not running after the president (saying), ‘Impeach, impeach.’ ” McBath pledged to work with the president where possible, but also to hold him accountable. “My role is to make sure all the checks and balances are working,” she said, “to make sure that no one person, no one committee is above the rule of law.” McBath’s performance won plaudits from her fans. “She gives me hope, because she’s on the right side of the issues,” said Holly Simnel of Marietta. She even won compliments from some conservatives. Rozman was glad McBath stuck up for her right to comment at the meeting, and she welcomed the representative’s pledge of bipartisanship. “I was pleasantly surprised,” Rozman said. “I hope she is sincere.”
  • A Cobb County detective has been reprimanded for violating the department’s code of conduct after posting derogatory remarks on social media about a Cobb Sheriff’s Office inmate who died in custody. Police Chief Mike Register said Det. Jeff Edgecomb had expressed remorse and will attend sensitivity and social media training to “help him make better decisions.” “We all agree, including the detective, that his comment was insensitive,” Register said. Edgecomb’s comments were made in response to the death of Jessie Myles, a 31-year-old man died after suffering an “unexplained medical event” at the county jail, according to the Marietta Police Department, which arrested Myles. “Non news story … a doper has a medical event and died at the hospital, not the jail,” Edgecomb wrote on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Facebook page in response to an article about Myles’ death. “Why are we reading about this??” According to a “critical incident reminder” provided by the police department, Edgecomb was found to have engaged in “unbecoming conduct,” “because his social media posts were insensitive to the death of another person and ultimately were tied to his employment as a Cobb County police officer.” Myles’ manner and cause of death are being investigated by the county medical examiner. The Cobb Sheriff’s Office said it provided Myles with medical assistance as soon as he showed signs of distress, but has declined to comment further, citing the investigation. If the medical examiner finds Myles’ death was caused by something that happened at the jail, Cobb police or the Georgia Bureau of Investigation could be called in to investigate. Chief Register said it would be up to the sheriff, but that if that were to happen, he would suggest GBI take the case. Three inmates, including Myles, have died in Sheriff’s Office custody since December. The manner and cause of those deaths are under investigation.
  • U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s popularity remains steady among Georgia voters as he heads into a tough 2020 re-election, but an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows the first-term Republican continues to struggle with voters in densely populated metro Atlanta. The poll also shows the favorability of Stacey Abrams, the potential Democratic challenger to Perdue with the highest profile, slipping among Georgia voters as she considers whether to run for the Senate, governor or the White House. The new poll offers a snapshot of the state’s political landscape as Democrats focus on capturing a Georgia U.S. Senate seat for the first time since Zell Miller retired in 2004. Perdue, a former Fortune 500 chief executive, has vowed that his second term in the Senate will be his last. The poll was conducted March 24 through Monday by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. Read more: AJC poll: Kemp’s approval ratings on the rise; Trump still underwater AJC poll: Strong support for Roe; opinion closer on ‘heartbeat bill’ Interactive: Complete poll results PDF: Poll crosstabs Roughly 47% of likely Georgia voters rated Perdue favorably, statistically unchanged from a similar AJC poll released in January. That’s about 7 percentage points ahead of President Donald Trump, his close ally who is also running for re-election next year. Both Trump and Perdue are likely to face an uphill battle in Atlanta’s fast-changing northern suburbs, which punished Republican candidates in last year’s midterms. But Perdue’s campaign hopes to improve on Gov. Brian Kemp’s performance in the area, after he lost two once-reliable Republican strongholds, Cobb and Gwinnett counties, to Abrams. The poll shows Perdue has room to grow. While regional breakdowns of the poll are less precise because of the smaller number of voters included, they provide a general picture of support. About 39% of voters in metro Atlanta — defined as Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties — approve of him. Across the state, only 25% of voters view him unfavorably, and about 28% don’t have an opinion. Many voters haven’t tuned in yet, particularly because the Democratic field remains unsettled. “I’m happy with what I see so far,” June Sablick, a Flowery Branch hairdresser, said of Perdue and state Republicans. She’s motivated, too, by the specter of another Abrams campaign. “I’ve never liked Stacey Abrams. I just don’t like her actions, her ways, her personality. I don’t like her overall demeanor. Everything about her is wrong,” Sablick said. “I’m just glad she’s not running right now.” Abrams has given herself an April deadline to decide whether she’ll challenge Perdue and recently said she could wait until the fall to announce a presidential run, leading some Democrats to predict she’ll pass on a Senate bid. She’s said she’s keeping all options open. Washington Democrats have intensified their courtship of Abrams. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that “it’s certainly not too late” for Abrams to hop into the race, and he hinted she would receive a plum assignment if she won. “I think she’d be a great, great senator,” he said. “And I’ve told her I think she could play a major role in the Senate the minute she got here and how important it was to the country.” Several other Democrats have also expressed interest in challenging Perdue should Abrams pass on a 2020 run. At the front of the line is former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who filed paperwork to explore a Senate bid. Other potential contenders include former 6th Congressional District candidate Jon Ossoff and state Sen. Jen Jordan. Each would have work to do to build name recognition that approaches Abrams’. The poll showed about 45% of Georgia voters view her favorably, compared with 52% three months ago. Her unfavorable rating jumped 5 percentage points to 45%. Only about 1 in 10 voters don’t have an opinion about her. Abrams struggled particularly with men, older voters and conservatives. And one-third of moderates gave her unfavorable reviews. But she fared best with women, minorities and voters in metro Atlanta. One of those voters is Patricia Budd, a soon-to-be retiree in Smyrna. She was impressed by Abrams’ performance in last year’s gubernatorial race against Kemp and thinks she’d have an “excellent chance” of defeating Perdue. “She’s smart. She’s very articulate,” Budd said. “She just really stands out.”
  • The runoff for a west Atlanta City Council seat between Byron Amos and Antonio Brown will continue as planned. On Thursday, Judge Richard Winegarden said that a provision of the state constitution that disqualified political candidates because of unpaid taxes was so poorly worded that he couldn’t interpret it. The judge’s decision capped a three day trial that left questions about whether the contest would happen on Tuesday as scheduled. In the March general election, only three votes separated the second- and third-place finishers, triggering a recount. That prompted candidate Gregg Clay to allege that Brown, the businessman who barely beat him, shouldn’t have even been in the race because a $5,400 state tax lien. But Winegarden said there was no evidence Brown had acted improperly. “I’m not going to disqualify Mr. Antonio Brown because of his tax situation,” Winegarden said. In an Atlanta courtroom on Thursday, Clay’s lawyer also alleged that the Fulton County Election Board failed to process votes, incorrectly classified voters, improperly counted ballots and at one precinct, enlarged first-place finisher Amos’ name on the ballot, causing him to garner a disproportionate number of votes. “That’s well more than we need to overturn this election,” said Lindsey Walker, Clay’s lawyerHillis. But Winegarden said he only saw evidence one person had been wrongly turned away at the polls, which wasn’t enough to throw the outcome of the election into doubt. Brown told the court that he didn’t know about the tax lien until he learned of Clay’s lawsuit. He said it was the result of an incorrect income amount on a tax form. As soon as he became aware of it, his accountant determined that his real tax debt was only about $400. He provided the AJC with a receipt showing he had paid that amount plus roughly $300 in interest. Brown’s lawyer, Bruce Brown, point to a provision in the law that says that candidates disqualified because of tax liens can become eligible again as soon as they pay their bills. The trial featured meandering lines of questioning that the judge characterized as laborious. Several candidates who lost in the runoff questioned the county’s top election officials and one was allowed to examine two provisional ballots. The District 3 post, which represents communities near Mercedes Benz-Stadium, was left empty when Councilman Ivory Lee Young Jr. died in November. The district being rapidly redeveloped. It includes the westside expansion of the Atlanta Beltline, but also two of the city’s poorest communities, English Avenue and Vine City. The election is to fill the remainder of Young’s term, which expires in 2021. The runoff is scheduled for April 16.
  • Seven of 10 Georgia voters say they oppose overturning the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that guaranteed the right to an abortion, according to a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll. Those surveyed were more closely split on a pending state law that would outlaw the procedure at about six weeks in most cases. Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign the abortion legislation. About 49% oppose the bill, according to the poll, with about 44% saying they support it. Nearly 6% of respondents said they neither supported nor opposed the measure. Those with opinions had strong ones — about 39% of those polled said they “strongly opposed” the legislation and almost 26% “strongly support” it. RELATED>> Interactive: Complete poll results AJC poll: Kemp’s approval ratings on the rise; Trump still underwater PDF: Poll crosstabs The poll results highlight how deeply polarizing the issue is for Georgians. Bobbi Keith, a 48-year-old homemaker from Savannah, said she believes abortions should be allowed in certain circumstances. “It should always be a woman’s choice, but there have to be some circumstances involved,” she said. “If it’s molestation or rape or something like that, I think it’s more (acceptable) than just someone that just had a one-night-stand and gets pregnant.” Amy O’Sullivan, a 58-year-old Milton resident, said it’s not the government’s job to limit access to abortion. “I don’t think it’s right to turn around and tell somebody what they can and can’t do with their own body when it comes abortion,” she said. The poll of 774 registered voters was conducted March 24 to Monday by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs Survey Research Center. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points. The AJC polled voters across Georgia about their thoughts on abortion, including the recently passed House Bill 481, which would ban most abortions when a doctor can detect a “heartbeat” — usually about six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even realize they are pregnant. Current Georgia law allows abortions to be performed until 20 weeks. What is a heartbeat is at the center of dispute. Supporters say it should be used to establish when life begins. Doctors who oppose the legislation, however, said what appears to be a heartbeat at six weeks signals the practice motions of developing tissues that could not on their own power a fetus without the mother. O’Sullivan, who said she has raised three chronically ill children, said when she was pregnant the third time, the doctor told her abortion was an option. “I was told to accept he would be sick or terminate my pregnancy with my youngest,” she said. “I looked at my husband and I said, ‘I don’t think I can do it (abort).’ But that was my decision.” There are currently about 20 lawsuits involving abortion — including several “heartbeat” laws — up for consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court that could be used to challenge the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. RELATED>> A first wave of women targets Republicans after Ga. ‘heartbeat’ vote Georgia’s anti-abortion ‘heartbeat bill’ heads to governor’s desk See how Georgia lawmakers voted on anti-abortion ‘heartbeat’ bill A look at abortion bills around the U.S. in 2019 Opponents of Georgia anti-abortion ‘heartbeat’ bill set sights on 2020 Photos: Georgia House debates abortion bill Georgia anti-abortion activists hope the state’s “heartbeat bill” will be the one that overturns the court’s ruling. But poll respondents across nearly all demographics said they don’t believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Nearly 58% of those responding to the AJC poll said they believed abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Almost 38% of respondents said they believed the procedure should be illegal in all or most cases. Nearly 5% declined to answer the question. The only groups polled who said they thought Roe v. Wade should be reversed were those who consider themselves “very conservative” — at almost 70% — and about 56% of those with a family income of less than $25,000 a year. Nearly 50% of Republicans, 83% of independents and 88% of Democrats in Georgia said the decision shouldn’t be overturned. M.V. “Trey” Hood III, a political science professor and director of UGA’s Survey Research Center, said while there has been some national support for limits on abortion, people generally don’t want to outlaw the procedure altogether. “Georgians may be viewing the new law, rightly or wrongly, as placing curbs on the procedure,” he said. A national Gallup poll from July 2018 found that 64% of those surveyed did not want to overturn Roe v. Wade. But Keith, the Savannah homemaker, said she believes the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortions up until a fetus is “viable” — usually around the third trimester — should be reversed. “By that time, it’s no longer a fetus,” said the mother of two. “You can find out the baby’s sex at that point. It’s developed to the point that it’s a baby to me.” How people felt about access to abortion fell along party lines. About 80% of Democrats said they think abortion should be legal in most or all cases compared with about 67% of Republicans who believe the procedure should be banned in most or all cases. Kemp, who made a campaign promise to sign the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, is expected to sign HB 481 sometime this month. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has already said it will file a lawsuit challenging the legislation. If it becomes law, Georgia still would allow later abortions in cases of rape, incest, if the life of the mother is in danger or in instances of “medical futility,” when a fetus would not be able to survive after birth. Someone who has become pregnant after an incident of rape or incest would have to file a police report to have the abortion performed. Roopville auto mechanic Ben Sundling, 40, said being a Christian leads him to oppose abortion in general. But if someone who is a victim of rape or incest wanted to get an abortion, he thinks it should be allowed. “There should be some guidelines to when you can get one,” he said. “They shouldn’t just 100% have the option to do an abortion for convenience.” The new law would also allow parents, once a heartbeat is detected, to claim an embryo on their taxes as a dependent and it would be counted toward the state’s population.
  • An experienced workforce development leader hired to help solve problems at Atlanta’s troubled jobs agency walked away after three months, the latest in a string of high-level departures. Valerie Carothers, hired as deputy executive director of WorkSource Atlanta, could not be reached for comment. The City of Atlanta has not responded to a request to see documentation related to Carothers’ leaving. A spokesperson sent an email confirming her depature late Thursday. “At the end of her 90-day probationary period, Ms. Carothers decided to take another path,” it says. Carothers has 20 years of experience in the field of management and workforce development. Her loss is the latest for the agency that has seen leaders come and go, including five mayorally appointed CEOs in five years. Some leaders wonder about the effects of the constant flux on the jobs agency’s ability to manage its programs. It oversees and spends millions of dollars in federal grants. “I think it’s hard for any organization to succeed with continual turnover in leadership, especially for organizations who are troubled,” said City Councilman Matt Westmoreland. WorkSource Atlanta is one of 19 federally funded regional jobs agencies across Georgia tasked with getting young people their first jobs, putting the unemployed and laid-off back to work, and filling employers’ rolls with qualified applicants. It has often underperformed in fulfilling those duties. There was a federal investigation after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2014 exposed fraud and waste at WorkSource that ended with the city paying $1.86 million to the federal government and a WorkSource contractor going to prison for the theft of $600,000. A 2012 city auditor’s report and 2014 city study pointed out multiple shortcomings, and the auditor recommended that Atlanta dump the program because of liabilities it was creating. After the federal investigation, then-Mayor Kasim Reed appointed a former prosecutor to get the agency on track. He stayed more than a year before leaving. He was followed by four other mayorally-appointed interim or short-time CEOs. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms dismissed Reed’s final appointee in mid-2018, Audrey Lawrence, who had years of jobs-agency experience. She replaced Lawrence in the $140,000-a-year job with Kimberlyn Daniel, a former business executive with experience in human resources for companies such as First Data Corp.

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  • “Boyz n the Hood” director John Singleton suffered a stroke last week and remains hospitalized, according to his family. >> Read more trending news In a statement released Saturday, Singleton’s family announced that the 51-year-old filmmaker was in a hospital intensive care unit and “under great medical care.” “On Wednesday, April 17th our beloved son/father, John Singleton, suffered a stroke while at the hospital,” the statement reads. “We ask that privacy be given to him and our family at this time and appreciate all of the prayers that have been pouring in from his fans, friends and colleagues.” Author Neil deGrasse Tyson and actor Omar Epps have been among those tweeting wishes Saturday for a quick recovery. Singleton became the first black filmmaker to receive an Oscar nomination when he was cited for his debut feature, “Boyz n the Hood,” which was set in his native Los Angeles and released in 1991. His other films include “Poetic Justice,” which starred Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur, and “Rosewood.” Singleton’s recent projects include the TV series “Snowfall,” a crime drama set in 1980s Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A former football coach and fitness instructor in Bellingham, Washington, pleaded guilty last month to the November 2017 murder of his wife in Park City, Utah.  >> Read more trending news According to a story posted in March by KSTU in Salt Lake City, Anthony Darnel McClanahan’s guilty plea was part of a plea bargain in which prosecutors agreed to remove a domestic violence designation and an enhanced penalty for the use of a dangerous weapon. Prosecutors also agreed to drop a child kidnapping case against him 30 days after his sentencing, according to KSTU. McClanahan is expected to be sentenced on April 29.  McClanahan’s wife, Keri Colleen McClanahan, was found dead at the Park Regency Resort in Park City on Nov. 2, 2017.  “Nothing will ever bring her back,” Heather Gauf, Keri McClanahan's sister, told The Bellingham Herald. “That’s the unfortunate part of this. We have to continue without her, and her children have to grow up without her. He murdered her in a brutal and savage way.” Police found Anthony McClanahan covered in blood and crawling on his stomach outside early in the morning on Nov. 2, according to charging documents. He lifted himself up just enough to flag down a police officer, and then dropped back down and began convulsing, his arms making a 'snow angel motion,' the officer at the scene told prosecutors. Click here to read more.  Originally from Bakersfield, California, McClanahan played four years with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in the mid-1990s after a collegiate football career at Washington State University. He was in training camp with the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL in 1994 but never played in a game. McClanahan started 41 sports fitness boot camps in Bellingham in 2009 and hosted youth football camps in Whatcom County from 2012 to 2016, according to The Bellingham Herald.  Keri McClanahan, who went by KC, had been planning to leave her husband but wanted to help him get on his feet first, Gauf said in 2017. The couple had met when he was working as a personal trainer in Bellingham, and he pushed for a fast wedding, Gauf said. 'It worried me a lot,'' she said, but 'he kind of had us fooled.' After the January 2017 wedding, the McClanahans moved to Arizona together and began traveling to volunteer in areas that had been affected by hurricanes. But his jealousy began to emerge and, in September 2017, he got frustrated about a missed donation and punched his wife, Gauf said. He'd sometimes refer to the effects of head injuries he'd suffered during his football career, though Gauf said she doubts they were the root cause of the violence. After the punch, Keri McClanahan returned home to Washington, but her husband continued to contact her even as he left Arizona with his son. Anthony McClanahan ended up in Utah because he has family there and wanted his son to be an extra in a Disney TV production, Gauf said. Keri McClanahan eventually met him in Utah to help with his son, and stayed to help him get back on his feet after his arrest in October 2017, Gauf said. Information from The Associated Press is included in this report. 
  • A Gordon County youth minister who also managed a frozen yogurt shop was sentenced to eight years in prison for trying to solicit sex from a person he presumed was a teenage boy. Zachary Michael Baker, 29, was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty to criminal attempt to commit aggravated child molestation, sexual exploitation of a child by use of a computer and obscene internet contact with a child, the Rome News-Tribune reported.  According to the newspaper, Baker thought he was chatting with a 14-year-old named Aidan, but was actually speaking with Floyd County police Capt. Ojilvia Lom when he arranged to meet the teen for oral sex. Authorities began the undercover sting after Baker reportedly posted a Craigslist ad seeking other men to experiment with. The sweetFrog yogurt shop manager was arrested in January after showing up at a location to have sex with the teen. Prosecutors said Baker didn’t initially ask for sex, but slowly “groomed” the teen by building a relationship with him. At one point, Baker asked “Aidan” if his mom could bring him by the yogurt shop so they could see each other and Baker could make sure the teen wasn’t a law enforcement officer, according to the news report. Baker’s attorney sought a reduced sentence since his client didn’t have previous arrests and there wasn’t actually a minor involved, the paper reported. He argued that Baker works two jobs, attended 16 weeks of group therapy and is a part of a men’s support group.The 29-year-old was sentenced to eight years in prison followed by 17 years on probation. Once he’s released, Baker must register as a sex offender. In other news: 
  • A family camping in a remote area of an Australian island was sleeping in its trailer when two dingoes entered and tried to take off with a 14-month-old boy early Friday. >> Read more trending news  The boy suffered puncture wounds to his head and neck after one of the wild dogs tried dragging the boy into some bushes on Fraser Island, which is off the Queensland coast. The parents awoke to the child’s cries fading in the distance as he was being taken away. The father ran outside and fought off several dingoes. “He was apparently grabbed around the back of the neck area and dragged away. So, if it wasn’t for the parents and their quick thinking and fighting off the dingoes, he probably would have had more severe injuries,” Frank Bertoli, a pilot for RACQ Life Flight, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. The boy was flown to a hospital, where he is in stable condition, 9News reported. His parents told 9News he is recovering after undergoing two rounds of surgeries.  This is the third dingo attack on Fraser Island this year. A 9-year-old boy was chased and mauled in February and a 6-year-old boy was bitten on the legs in January, 9News reported. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
  • A driver was pulled over on the way to a job interview and, instead of getting a citation, he was given a ride by the officer. >> Read more trending news  Ka’Shawn Baldwin, 22, was pulled over for expired plates. He also had an expired driver’s license, according to a social media post by the mayor’s assistant.  Baldwin told Cahokia police Officer Roger Gemoules that he was on his way to a job interview and did not have another way to get there.  'I thought it was over,' Baldwin told CNN. 'The main thing that was running through my mind (was): I'm fixin' to miss the job interview and get the car towed that wasn't even mine.' Rather than write a ticket, Gemoules, a high school resource officer, followed Baldwin as he parked the car at a safe location, and then gave him a ride to the interview, CNN reported.  'He was very respectful when I pulled him over and you could just tell. I could feel that he really was wanting to get to this job interview,' Gemoules told CNN. Baldwin got the job as a package handler at FedEx. He also works at McDonald’s, KSDK reported.  Baldwin told KSDK he will be taking the bus to and from work until he gets his license back.
  • A zookeeper at the Topeka Zoo was injured when a tiger attacked her Saturday morning, officials said. >> Read more trending news  The keeper, whose name hasn’t been released, suffered lacerations and puncture wounds to the back of her head, neck and one arm, Topeka Zoo Director Brendan Wiley said. The keeper was awake and alert when she was taken to the hospital, and is in stable condition, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. The incident happened around 9:15 a.m. in an outside tiger habitat and involved a 7-year-old male Sumatran tiger named Sanjiv, the Capital-Journal reported. When the keeper entered the space, Sanjiv 'tackled her,' Wiley said. The zoo was open to visitors at the time. 'A few people did see the attack,' city of Topeka spokeswoman Molly Hadfield told ABC News. Other zoo employees were able to lure Sanjiv out of the enclosure with food, Wiley said. If the employees hadn’t done so, 'this could have been a very different outcome,” he said. The zoo was closed for about 45 minutes, but has since reopened, except the tiger exhibit. No action will be taken against the tiger. 'While this incident is very unfortunate, he did what a wild tiger does,' Wiley said. Zoo officials are investigating the incident, Wiley said.