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Latest from Sandra Parrish

    A bill to bring new voting machines to Georgia is headed to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk.The State House gave final passage to the measure Thursday calling for new touch-screen voting machines with a paper ballot that would then be scanned to record the vote. The bill passed along party lines 101-69 with Democrats voting against it.
  • In an impassioned and sometimes emotional speech, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston took to the well of the House Monday morning to address his fellow lawmakers over accusations that he’s abused a law that allows attorneys in the Legislature to delay court cases.A resolution was filed by Buford Republican Rep. David Clark last week, with ten others signing on, calling for Ralston’s resignation after an investigation by WSB TV and the AJC found more than 50 cases over the past two years have been delayed for clients he represents.
  • Nearly a dozen State House members sign onto the resolution calling for Speaker David Ralston to step down.  Rep. David Clark (R-Buford) filed the measure accusing Ralston, a Blue Ridge attorney, of abusing his power by delaying more than 50 cases of his clients citing legislative privilege. Clark became especially upset when one of those cases involved a man accused of raping a teenager six years ago. “I can’t stay silent when something is being done wrong and especially when there are victims who are being hurt by our Speaker who’s abused his power,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. Ralston maintains he’s done nothing wrong saying some of those cases are in the final stages of being handled and others are out of his control due to court schedules and witnesses. He is pleased with the outpouring of support he’s received former Governors Roy Barnes and Nathan Deal, both attorneys, and current Gov. Brian Kemp. “Many, many House members have reached out. And so, I think as people take a look at it and kind of sort through the fact from fiction, they kind of see what’s there. But if people want to drop a resolution, it’s certainly a free country to do that,” says Ralston. All the nearly one dozen lawmakers who signed onto the resolution are Republicans. One Democrat told Parrish his party has no plans to get involved. Ralston says he will not step down. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s not about me, it’s about getting the work done for the people of Georgia,” he says.
  • A bill to increase the penalties against hit-and-run drivers who cause serious bodily injury or death sails through the Georgia Senate. The bill is named for 23-year-old Charlie Jones, or C.J. as his family called him, who was struck by a hit-and-run driver in northeast Cobb County ten years ago. After the driver fled, he was subsequently run over by other vehicles that did stop. His cousin, Marcus Coleman, believes had the first driver stopped, Jones might still be alive.  He and his family have been fighting for justice ever since. “Our tenacity led us to find out the loopholes and the inconsistencies in the hit-and-run legislation which I understand hasn’t been updated since 1999,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. After C.J.’s Law failed to pass last year, the family worked with Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) to sponsor the bill this legislative session. “It is totally unacceptable to cause a serious accident, harm somebody and flee and keep going. You have a duty to stop and render aid when you cause an accident that causes serious harm,” she says. Her bill increases the current penalty of one to five years in prison to one to ten years. The driver who hit Jones has never been found. His family has returned to the scene every year on the anniversary of the accident in hopes the person will come forward. “This is not a vengeful type of push for legislation, because again we don’t feel like it would help us. But we feel like it balances the laws as drivers are becoming more and more distracted in today’s era,” says Coleman. He will continue to fight for the new law as the bill now heads to the House.
  • The first bill Governor Brian Kemp signs into law corrects a problem created last year when it comes to when a vehicle must stop for a school bus.  Senate Bill 25 requires all vehicles to stop unless there is a grassy median or physical divider. It corrects a bill passed in the final minutes of last year’s session that inadvertently changed the law allowing oncoming cars to pass on roads with a center turn lane.  “This was a team effort from the General Assembly, law enforcement, educators and concerned citizens to do the right thing and help save kids’ lives,” Gov. Kemp says.  Col. Mark McDonough, head of the GSP, tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish that last year’s change in the final minutes of the legislative session led to confusion for drivers.  “It takes that confusion away. We’re falling back to the way it was—the way it should be,” he says.  The bill took affect the moment it was signed into law.
  • The State Senate moves to fix a problem with a bill that became law last year that many say puts children’s safety at risk. In the final minutes of last year’s session, both the House and Senate approved the bill unaware it would no longer require cars to stop for school buses if there is a center turn lane. “Immediately one of my directors of pupil transportation reached out to me and said, ‘Oh y’all have made a fatal error that will put our students at risk all across the state’,” says Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen). His new bill, which passed the Senate unanimously today, reverts to the original law requiring vehicles to always stop unless there is a grassy median or some other physical divider. It now goes to the House. If approved there, it would go to Gov. Brian Kemp and take effect upon his signature. Heath says he is still unsure how the bill last year got changed in those final minutes leading to the unintended consequences. “That’s the problem that we have with the way the Legislature works. When things show up in conference committee reports, sometimes in a substitute bill in committee, or something happens on the floor, the people who are affected by these changes… sometimes they have no warning that the Legislature is about to do something that takes away your liberties,” he says.
  • The lone survivor of a plane crash in Union County just before Christmas is speaking publicly about the ordeal and her efforts to walk again. Brittany Whitener suffered spinal injuries in the crash that killed three of her close friends who all worked together at one point in time at a medical facility in Blue Ridge. “I consider them more like family,” she tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. Robert Atkinson, a 56-year-old pharmacist who had recently left to open a pharmacy in Blairsville, had been trying for months to get Whitener, 55-year-old Renea Greiner and 50-year-old Michelle Seay to go up in his single-engine Piper.  Whitener says December 19 was a time they could all finally get together. “It was just out of the blue, ‘Hey, let’s go on a night flight and look at Christmas lights’,” she says. Whitener, who was seated up front next to Atkinson, says they flew around north Georgia for about 30 minutes enjoying the lights and then headed back to Blairsville Municipal Airport. She remembers Atkinson pointing out the controls as they were getting ready to land and she even took a picture of the runway lights just before the crash. “I don’t remember much of what happened. I just know we were coming in to land and then the next thing I know I was hollering. I could see the rescuers in the woods and I just continued to holler until they got there,” says Whitener. She was air-lifted to a hospital in Gainesville and would learn following surgery that her three friends didn’t make it. “At first, I did have survivor’s guilt. You know, why didn’t they survive. I mean if I could survive, what’s the difference?” But Whitener says the spouses and family members of her three friends assured her she shouldn’t feel bad. Now the community is coming together to help the 29-year-old with medical expenses, including a t-shirt sale by the Blue Ridge Pharmacy, a GoFundMe page set up by the doctor’s office where Whitener works, and a benefit auction and dinner which will be held Feb. 16 at the Union County Civic Center. “We all four come from two small communities and for everybody to rally behind me — people I don’t even know — that’s more than what words can express,” she says. Whitener says her prognosis is good. She has already regained some feeling in her legs and is hopeful she’ll be walking again soon. “If I survived the plane crash and made it this far… it may take me a while, but I’ll walk again one day.”
  • A South Carolina group that advocates against gun violence among young people visits a Gwinnett County neighborhood where two teens lost their lives New Year’s Eve.  Jack Logan, founder of “Put Down the Guns Now Young People”, was so touched by the tragedy in which 15-year-old Devin Hodges took his own life after accidentally shooting and killing his 17-year-old friend Chad Carless, that he and a volunteer drove from Greenville to pass out more than 300 gun safety locks to neighbors in the rain.  “This is the worst gun violence in America to me. All of them are sad, but this one takes precedence over the rest of them,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Gwinnett County Police investigators say the two teens were among a group of four inside a make-shift shed when Hodges took out a handgun to show them. It went off, hitting and killing Carless before help could get there. As police arrived, Hodges was seen running between two homes where he then took his own life with the same gun.  “Out of all the malice with gun violence and all the other tragedies, this one has touched me the worst,” says Logan.  He says he is not opposed to legal gun ownership, but wants to promote safety.  “This could have been prevented,” says Logan. “We’re trying to prevent this from happening again in this subdivision or any other subdivision.”
  • A former Gwinnett County band director pleads guilty to 21 counts involving sex with four students.With his mother openly weeping in the courtroom, 45-year-old Villie Jones entered guilty pleas to 20 counts and an Alford plea to another—maintaining his innocence although admitting there was enough evidence to find him guilty.
  • Five years after allegations of tax evasion were first brought against him, Snellville Mayor Tom Witts takes a plea to avoid jail time. The 70-year-old entered what is called an Alford plea to 11 felony counts including tax evasion and making false statements -- meaning he is not admitting guilt, but acknowledges a jury would likely find him guilty based on the evidence.  “Quite honestly, if I had the physical condition and the financial wherewithal, I would have fought it until the end,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Instead, Witts will serve six months house arrest and 10 years of probation. He must also repay the state $40,000 immediately in back taxes and still faces an additional $112,000 in taxes owed that he says he will fight since he had previous business losses that carried forward.  “I don’t owe that money, I never did owe it. I have all my tax returns where they were filed,” he says.  But District Attorney Danny Porter disagrees.  “He’s been trying to sort of ride that business loss claim. But the truth of the matter is, he needed to claim that six years ago and he can’t now go back and claim it,” says Porter.  Witts was indicted in September 2017 on more than 60 counts for using campaign funds for personal expenses such as a cruise, rent, and porn. He is also accused of undercutting city bids so his own company could do the work.  Porter says the sentence is appropriate since Witts is battling colon cancer and is also caring for his ailing wife.  “I think we’ve accomplished what we wanted to accomplish as far as he’s concerned, but there are going to be people who wanted to throw him under the jail,” says Porter.  Witts also agreed to immediately resign as Snellville’s mayor and never serve in political office again.  “I’m very proud of everything I did for the city Snellville. I think I left Snellville in a better place than I found it,” he says.
  • Sandra Parrish

    News Anchor Reporter

    Sandra Parrish has been a reporter for WSB Radio since 1995 and covers political, legislative, transportation, and educational news. She graduated from the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism in 1989 and worked as an anchor/news director for WPLO in Lawrenceville, an anchor/assistant news director for WNGC in Athens and an anchor/reporter for WDUN in Gainesville before joining the WSB news team. Over the years, she has received over a dozen Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for "Best Use of Sound", "Best Series", and "Best Sports Reporting". She's also received numerous awards from the Associated Press, Georgia Association of Broadcasters, Society of Professional Journalists, and National Association of Black Journalists. Sandra is a former member of the board of the Georgia Associated Press Broadcast Association. She is married with two daughters.

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  • Two men are accused to stealing more than $70,000 worth of musical instruments from the University of Louisville’s School of Music, WLKY reported. >> Read more trending news  Alphonso Monrew, 22, and Anthony Abrams, 52, were arrested Thursday, according to Jefferson County Jail records. Each were charged with two counts of third degree burglary and two counts of theft by unlawful taking, the television station reported. According to police, on several occasions the two men stole instruments, including a $10,000 guitar, from the university’s music school, WLKY reported. The thefts occurred over several weeks, the television station reported. All of the instruments have been recovered and will be returned to students, police said.
  • A Texas woman got an early start to celebrating her 105th birthday, joining more than 150 family members for a party at a San Antonio church, KSAT reported. >> Read more trending news  Minnie McRae, who turns 105 on Tuesday, was the guest of honor at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church on Saturday, the television station reported. McRae’s nephew, Arturo Ayala, flew from Germany to attend the party for a woman who taught him how to dance by giving him lessons in her living room, KSAT reported.  Ayala said he believes he knows the secret to his aunt’s long life 'She's never shared it, but from my relationship with her, I see her always praying and ... always reading,' Ayala told the television station.  Ayala also said McRae was very spiritual and did work with Incarnate Word. 'She's a blessing and she's a miracle,' Ayala told KSAT.
  • There will be laughing, singing, and music swinging when singer Martha Reeves receives another honor in May. >> Read more trending news  Reeves, 77, the lead vocalist of 1960s group Martha and Vandellas, will be honored by the Alabama State Council on the Arts on May 22, AL.com reported. Reeves was the singer for the group’s hits, including “Dancing in the Streets,” “Heat Wave” and “Jimmy Mack.” Reeves, a native of Eufaula, will receive Alabama’s 2019 Distinguished Artist Award. The award recognizes “a professional artist who is considered a native or adopted Alabamian and who has earned significant national acclaim for their art over an extended period,' according to the council’s website. Other recipients of the award include Jim Nabors, Fannie Flagg and George Lindsey. Vandella moved to Detroit as a child and grew up singing in church, AL.com reported. Her gospel-influenced vocals were evident in the group’s pop and rhythm and blues songs, which gave the Vandellas a string of hits on the Motown label. Reeves was inducted with the group -- Rosalind Ashford-Holmes, Annette Sterling-Helton, Lois Reeves and Betty Kelly -- into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. “Martha and the Vandellas were the Supremes’ tougher, more grounded counterpart,” the Rock Hall website says. “With her cheeky, fervent vocals, Martha Reeves led the group in a string of dance anthems that are irresistible to this day.” Reeves was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995. 
  • A Florida deputy was arrested after an altercation at a Jacksonville nightclub, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported. >> Read more trending news  According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Officer Rodney Bryant, a 5 1/2-year member of the department, was involved in a dispute Friday at Mascara's Gentlemen's Club with his girlfriend and her friend.  Bryant has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He has been terminated from his position in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. According to deputies, the group left the club but the dispute continued in a vehicle. This was when Bryant allegedly pulled over, opened the trunk of his vehicle and pulled out a firearm.  Bryant allegedly pointed the gun at the two women, making threats, according to the Sheriff’s Office.  They were all pulled over long enough for the girlfriend's friend to make contact with her sister, who later arrived at the scene, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The girl's sister observed Bryant with the firearm making threats and that he pointed the firearm at her, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
  • A Marine killed in action during the Vietnam War nearly 50 years ago was honored in a memorial service Saturday, and a headstone and plaque were erected at his gravesite at a South Florida cemetery, the Sun-Sentinel reported. >> Read more trending news  Private First Class Gregory Carter was killed in action Oct. 12, 1969, in the Quang Ngai province of South Vietnam, according to according to a Vietnam military casualties database on Ancestry.com. He was remembered in a service attended by nearly 200 people Saturday at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Fort Lauderdale, the Sun-Sentinel reported. “It’s like he woke up to the world again,” Carter’s brother, Anthony Owens, told the newspaper. “His life is meaningful. It means something.” “No, I did not (expect this many people). It raised our spirits, big time.” Carter laid in an unmarked grave until the Vietnam Veterans of America discovered him while searching for photographs of Vietnam veterans to place on the black granite Wall of Faces in Washington, D.C., the Sun-Sentinel reported. Carter was drafted into the Marines on July 4, 1969, when he was 19, according to the Ancestry.com database. He already had a young son and a daughter was on the way, but Carter would never know either of them, the newspaper reported. The Vietnam Veterans of America worked with the city of Fort Lauderdale and others to get Carter’s grave marker, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The organization also secured a photograph from a baseball team photograph in the Dillard High School yearbook, the newspaper reported. Gregory Carter now lies with his mother, grandparents, three siblings and other relatives at Sunset Memorial Gardens. “If you die you’re just lost until somebody thinks about you again,” Anthony Owens told the Sun-Sentinel. “So his spirit is probably all around us right now. It’s a good thing. He’s doing good.”
  • The wife of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was bitten by a rattlesnake at their Arizona home Friday, the Arizona Republic reported. >> Read more trending news  Ava Arpaio was working on her computer in her office around 10 a.m. when the snake bit her on the left foot, Joe Arpaio told the newspaper. 'She's tough. If she can put up with me for 60 years, then she can handle a snake bite,' Joe Arpaio told the Republic. Joe Arpaio, 86, said the large rattlesnake was removed by fire crews. 'Must've been a Democrat,' the longtime Republican joked to the Republic. Ava Arpaio likely will be in a hospital for 'two or three' days, her husband told the newspaper. Arpaio served as sheriff of Maricopa County for 24 years until losing re-election to Democrat Paul Penzone in 2016. The 86-year-old lawman made national news for his Tent City Jail where inmates were housed in Korean War era army tents, KSAZ reported. >> President Trump pardons Joe Arpaio Joe Arpaio was convicted of a criminal charge in July 2017 for refusing to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. He was pardoned a month later by President Donald Trump.