Local News Articles

Smithville Police Department Treats Needy Families to Christmas Party

December 21, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Santa and Mrs Claus present gifts to children at Christmas party

Many needy families were treated to a dinner, entertainment, and gifts at the second annual Cops for Kids Christmas party held Friday night at the First Baptist Church Life Enrichment Center.

The party, sponsored by the Smithville Police Department and organized by records clerk Beth Adcock, is held each year by invitation only for families who are experiencing a difficult time around the holidays due to illness, loss of income, or other circumstances.

The New Life United Pentecostal Church Choir performed during the party and church pastor Dwayne Cornelius read passages of scripture from the Bible about the birth of Christ.

Santa, Mrs. Claus, and three of his elves showed up to hand out presents to the delight of everyone, especially the children.

Three Named in Sealed indictment Arrested for Kidnapping and Rape

December 20, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Savanah Arnold
Abigail Vogel
Johnny Devault
Stacy Dawn Lannom

Three of four people named in Grand Jury sealed indictments have been arrested for allegedly kidnapping and raping a woman they thought stole money and suboxone strips from them.

Savanah Arnold, Abigail Vogel, Johnny Devault and another woman (not yet arrested) are co-indicted on charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated rape, and theft under $500.

According to Smithville Police, the four defendants held the victim against her will at Arnold's home on October 24. Arnold and the other woman then strip searched the victim, penetrated her body cavity looking for the money or drugs, and stole her clothes. The next day, October 25, Arnold allegedly dressed in the victim's clothes, went to a local industry where the victim was employed and tried unsuccessfully to pick up the victim's paycheck.

The victim came to the police department the day after the assault, October 25 to report the kidnapping, rape, and theft.

Lieutenant Matt Holmes related the story to WJLE on Wednesday, December 18 at the police department. "The victim said that on October 24, she went to Savanah Arnold's house to watch the kids of some friends. While there, Arnold, Vogel, Devault, and the other woman showed up allegedly intoxicated on drugs and accused her of stealing from Arnold $575 and 60 suboxone strips. The victim denied it.

According to Lieutenant Holmes, Arnold and the other woman took the victim to a back room and strip searched her. "One of the suspects placed a trash bag on her hand and penetrated the victim, searching for the money or drugs. She did not find anything. The victim resisted the assault and asked if she could leave. They refused to let her leave and took her cell phone so she couldn't call anyone. Johnny Devault allegedly threatened to assault the victim if she continued to resist. They stole the victim's clothes, placed her in a car half dressed, drove off and then dumped her out on the side of the road," he said.

The next day, October 25 Arnold dressed in the victim's clothes and went to the victim's place of employment. She entered the industry, walked up to the counter wearing the victim's ID and asked for her paycheck, representing herself as the victim. An industry official noticed that Arnold was not the victim and asked why she was there. Arnold then changed her story stating falsely that she was there to pick up the paycheck for the victim who was in a Nashville hospital. When the industry official told her the victim would have to come and get the check herself, Arnold left. The industry later received a call from a female, falsely identifying herself as the victim, saying it was okay for them to give her paycheck to whoever came to pick it up.

Industry officials alerted Smithville Police to a possible identity theft. Lieutenant Holmes and Officer James Cornelius responded to the call. Arnold was taken into custody at the industry and charged with identify theft.

WJLE has obtained a copy of the indictment concerning the kidnapping, rape, and theft which alleges that Arnold, Vogel, Devault, and the other woman (not yet arrested) unlawfully and knowingly did confine the victim on October 24, so as to interfere substantially with her liberty, with intent to terrorize the victim or another, constituting the offense of Aggravated Kidnapping.

Count two of the indictment alleges that Arnold and the other woman did accomplish sexual penetration, unlawfully, while being aided or abetted by another person and through the use of force or coercion.

The third count of the indictment alleges that Arnold knowingly did obtain or exercise control over certain property, to wit: $20 and clothing being under the value of $500, the property of the victim, constituting the offense of theft.

Meanwhile, in a separate case Smithville Police have charged a Lebanon woman with theft over $10,000 for allegedly using the credit card of a local business to pay her personal bills over a ten month period from January to November, 2013.

42 year old Stacy Dawn Lannom, who works for a Watertown accounting firm, is under a $10,000 bond and she will be in court January 9.

21 year old Nathan Theodore Harmon is charged with burglary and theft over $500. His bond is $5,000 and he will be in court January 9.

Chief Randy Caplinger reports that on November 25, Harmon and a juvenile allegedly broke into a building on South College Street through a window and took a large tool box and air conditioning duct work valued at $550. The stolen items were sold for recycling.

The juvenile will appear in juvenile court on a petition for committing a delinquent act.

40 year old Chrissy Evans was cited for shoplifting at Walmart on December 1. Chief Caplinger said a store employee told police that Evans was suspected of putting items in her purse. After she paid for some things, Evans was stopped. She produced several items she had not paid for in the amount of $149.50.

25 year old Joshua Ledale is cited for possession of schedule IV and VI drugs. He will be in court on January 14. Chief Caplinger said while responding to a fight call on December 3, an officer made contact with Ledale. The officer found a small bag of a green leafy substance that Ledale had thrown on the ground. After requesting and receiving consent to search, the officer also found a small plastic wrapper on Ledale's person which contained a pill believed to be Xanax.

38 year old James Scott Hall is cited for speeding and charged with a second offense of driving on a revoked license. His bond is $3,000 and he will be in court on January 8. Chief Caplinger said Hall was operating a motor vehicle when he was stopped for speeding. He could only produce an ID. A computer check revealed his license were revoked for a DUI. Hall was arrested and brought to the jail for booking.

32 year old Rhonda Williams is cited for shoplifting at the Dollar General Store on December 9. Chief Caplinger said an officer was dispatched to the store in reference to a shoplifter. The store manager told the officer that Williams was seen putting items in her purse. She was stopped outside the store where she produced the stolen items from her purse.

37 year old Lynda Neville is cited for theft of merchandise at Walmart. Chief Caplinger said that on December 11 an officer was informed by a loss prevention employee that Neville had been seen placing items in her purse. The officer made contact with Neville, who allegedly admitted to taking several items from the store.

33 year old Jayme Denise Hendrixson is cited for shoplifting at Walmart. She will be in court on January 15. Chief Caplinger said Hendrixson was seen allegedly concealing items from the store in her shirt sleeves, pockets, and purse. Items from the store were found in her jacket.

SES Second Graders Perform in Christmas Musical (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

December 20, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page

Second Graders of Smithville Elementary School performed in a Musical called "Christmastime Around the World" at the County Complex auditorium on Wednesday.

The performance was open to the public

(VIEW VIDEO HERE FEATURING SOME OF THE STUDENTS)

BackPack Program Helps Feed Needy Children

December 20, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Cindy Childers and Dee Anna Reynolds
Dee Anna and Cindy Loading Food onto pickup truck
Some of the Food Boxes

The DeKalb County School System's BackPack Program began a few years ago as a means of providing essential foods to needy children over the holidays to keep them from going hungry. Since then the program has grown and now, needy children get food to take home every week for the weekend when school is out.

With the holidays coming up and school being out for a longer period, volunteers and supporters of the Back Pack program have been busy this week preparing bags and boxes of foods that contain a little more to get the children through the Christmas season.

"This is an example of what one school is going to get," said Dee Anna Reynolds, School Health Coordinator, pointing to a stack of food boxes in the corner of a room in the Central Office building Wednesday. "This is what kids from Northside will get this weekend. You've got food boxes there that came from Food Lion, which they donated. They have donated those the last three years. We get that along with the other food that we have purchased through donations in our community and the small grant that we got through the community foundation. Those food boxes will go home with the kids on the bus this week," she said.

More than two hundred needy children from schools throughout the county benefit from the Back Pack program including fifty seven this year who will get a home visit with a little extra food supply for Christmas. "This is additional food for families who the school health coordinators have identified as a little more needy," said Reynolds. "In addition to the food they're already getting this weekend to take home, we'll deliver to their homes on Friday. We also have for them a bag of goodies, such as play-doh, coloring books, crayons, matchbook cars, gloves, hats, etc. They'll get a turkey and some fresh fruit to go with their boxes so they'll have everything they'll need over the holidays," said Reynolds.

"For the home deliveries, the children selected are the most needy in the county. We have one family who has nine children. We have families who have one child but those are the ones who are having the biggest struggle this year," said Cindy Childers, Assistant School Health Coordinator.

"They (children who get the home deliveries) are already on our backpack program, but we're giving them a little extra. They'll get their regular weekly backpack with extra in it for the break. We also like to make the home deliveries ourselves because it makes it a little more personal," added Reynolds.

With much of the foods, children can easily open the packages without adult supervision. "Its food that a child as young as a kindergarten student can just open and eat. Its peanut butter and crackers, gummy fruit, pudding, instant oatmeal, peanuts, and things like that," said Childers.

"We have a population of homeless people here that we're trying to serve right now. Some don't have stoves or refrigeration and those kids don't have the access so we're trying to make sure they have a little something to eat and drink to get them through the weekend or holidays," she said.

"The foods are prepackaged. There are Slim Jims for protein. Peanuts for protein. Peanut butter and crackers for the good carbs, things like that," said Reynolds.

"We've also got Ramen noodles and foods that came from Second Harvest which Food Lion donated to us. That actually has complete meals in it. Plus oatmeal and things like that, which if they (children) have access to water, they can eat it even without heating it up," Childers added.

The BackPack Program is supported by donations and it will continue weekly as long as donations keep coming. "The Backpacks go home every weekend. The first large donation we got was from a local person who wanted to stay anonymous. It was his request that we do it every week until the money runs out. The money has not run out yet. For some strange reason, when we get to that last few dollars, the good Lord sends somebody in with more money so we can continue on," said Childers.

"A lot of the food that we're delivering has also been donated by individuals, churches, and the hospital," added Reynolds.

Transportation Supervisor Jimmy Sprague is a big supporter of the BackPack Program and both Reynolds and Childers say they appreciate his help. "We're not sure of his connections but he has been able to help us the last two or three years. This year he got us eight to ten pound Butterball turkey breasts donated for each family. Each family will receive a turkey breast. Two years ago he helped us with some canned hams. We delivered fifty canned hams. We were able to give some families more than one. He also helped us with getting fruit last year," said Reynolds.

Sprague also helps with some of the deliveries. "Because he knows the roads in DeKalb County, he takes care of everything under the hill that is kind of obscure. He makes sure he takes care of that after all the children have been delivered home. He is on the road helping us out a lot more than people would imagine," Childers said.

"I will be delivering "Turkey Boxes" to twenty one families In DeKalb county on Friday," said Sprague. "This year we have been provided "Honeysuckle" turkey breast from our local supporters, Mr. Jamie Turner and Larry's Discount Grocery. This is a great program that provides meals and snacks for the children that could go without over the Christmas break if it were not for this program. I would like to thank all the people that have helped with this program. From the donations to the groups that pack the boxes each week. We have been blessed with local churches, youth groups, and local businesses that have stepped up to help with this program. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all who have helped in any way big or small," Sprague said.

Many volunteers pitch in and help to make the program successful. "We have some great volunteers here at the office that help us every week to get the food in and out and we've got some people who are going to be helping us with the home deliveries," said Childers.

Reynolds said the BackPack program is meeting a great need in our county and the families served are grateful for it. "We have always known the need was there. This is our fourth year for home deliveries. That first year for me was an eye opener. I realized how much we do have that need. It's become a passion between Cindy and I and every year we're able to do a little bit more," she said.

"I know that people think fifty seven children are not many for our county but that's fifty seven children that would not have food. If you line those up, fifty seven children is a lot to go hungry, especially at Christmas in a community where we profess to be such a loving and giving community. This proves that we are. People have stepped up. They don't want glory for it. They just want to help out our kids. If you have given, we truly appreciate you,' said Childers.

"The families really appreciate it. You can tell that," added Reynolds.

"The need is here. We're trying to fulfill it. I know that we're missing some. If you know of somebody out there who is in need please give us a call at the Board of Education. We want to help those people," concluded Childers.

DeKalb Hospital Supports Eagle Scout Project

December 20, 2013
by: 
Shan Burklow
Sue Conley and Ethan Judkins

DeKalb Community Hospital recently donated a check to Eagle Scout Ethan Judkins for the completion of a handicap ramp and viewing platform at the DeKalb County Fair.

“This project was very important to Ethan and he has worked very hard to raise the funds necessary to build this platform,” said Mom– Melanie Judkins, “It is our hope that this will make coming to the fair more enjoyable for those needing handicap assistance.”

“I would like to thank DeKalb Community Hospital for supporting my project along with the other businesses and individuals who helped me,” said Ethan Judkins, “I am so glad that the project is finished and I look forward to using the ramp next year at the fair.”

The viewing platform and ramp is located at the hilltop arena and will be available for use during the 2014 DeKalb County Fair in Alexandria, TN.

Pictured: Sue Conley– CEO of DeKalb Community and Stones River Hospital presents a check to Eagle Scout Ethan Judkins for his recent handicap accessibility project.

DeKalb Fire Department Partners with State Fire Marshal to Offer FREE Smoke Alarms

December 19, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Brian Williams Installs FREE Smoke Alarm at home of Porter Webb
County Fire Chief Donny Green
Station Commander Brian Williams

Since April the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department has installed 471 smoke alarms free of charge for residents across the county who didn't have one.

It's part of the "Get Alarmed Tennessee Smoke Alarm Program" by the State Fire Marshal's Office to prevent home fire deaths in Tennessee.

Using grant funds awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the State Fire Marshal's Office purchased 20,000 smoke alarms for distribution to fire departments in the state. Under the grant program, fire departments who participate are to install these smoke alarms in at-risk homes.

"The response has been fantastic here in DeKalb County. I believe it has been a huge success and I think it will continue to be a success as long as we can continue to get these smoke alarms," said Brian Williams, Station Commander of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department's Main Station.

"The County Fire Department has installed 471 smoke alarms (this year) and I have just picked up another 102 (to be installed), " said Williams, who is responsible for installing the smoke alarms. "Most of the response is from elderly people. The oldest person we have served is a woman in Alexandria who is now 100 years old. She had never had a smoke alarm in her life. She was very thankful that we took the time to install a smoke alarm just for her safety and well being," said Williams.

While many elderly persons have taken advantage of the free smoke alarms, the program is for anyone in need. "It's for everybody. Anybody without a smoke alarm or without a properly working smoke alarm is considered at high risk. If you have a smoke alarm and it is ten years old, which is what is considered the shelf life of a smoke alarm, then it needs to be replaced," said Williams.

Unlike many of the smoke alarms that are available in stores, those being installed by the county fire department are powered by a battery that doesn't have to be changed twice a year. "We encourage people to get on board with these ten year smoke alarms," said County Fire Chief Donny Green. "It doesn't require any maintenance. We're always reminding people to change batteries in their smoke alarms during the fall and spring with the time change but with these alarms you don't have to do that. All you have to do after they are installed is just keep them clean. They will be there to serve for ten years. After that they will start chirping. It's an audible alarm to let you know that the end of the shelf life of that smoke alarm is approaching and that it needs to be replaced," said Chief Green.

The smoke alarms available under this grant program are not just for residents in the rural areas. Chief Green said the county fire department will also provide them to city dwellers. "These are available to anybody. If you don't have a smoke alarm or if the one you have is ten years old or older you are at-risk and we want to provide you a new one. It doesn't matter where you live in the county. If it's Alexandria or the City of Smithville, Dowelltown, Liberty, or wherever it is you live in DeKalb County, you are eligible to get these smoke alarms," said Chief Green.

The program also allows fire departments to receive, while supplies last, a limited amount of bed shaker alarms designed specifically for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Priority for these specialty alarms is given to those who cannot afford to purchase the devices on their own. The county fire department has installed two bed shaker alarms this year in DeKalb County . "Smoke alarms are great but if you are deaf or can't hear good they may not wake you," said Chief Green. "With a bed shaker, you still have smoke alarms in your home and the alarms will sound off if you have a situation where there is smoke in the house. The alarm then sends a signal to a monitor that is set up on this bed shaker. The audible signal from the smoke alarm goes to the monitor. The monitor is connected to a round ball that goes underneath your bed mattress. When that monitor receives that signal from the smoke alarm, it activates the bed shaker and through an intense vibrating motion underneath the mattress, it wakes up the person in bed. These bed shaker alarms also have a flashing light," said Chief Green.

Although hundreds have been served in DeKalb County, Chief Green said many more persons locally should take advantage of this free service because it could save lives. "If you know someone who needs a smoke alarm, help us spread the word. These alarms are free and we install them for free. We will not ask for a donation when we come to your home. We only ask that you let us put in these smoke alarms so that everyone in your home can be safer," he said.

"It's not only a safety feature for the public, but for the fire department as well. If someone is trapped in a home or needs to be rescued, we're putting our firefighters at great risk by going into a house to try and rescue someone that might not have been alerted (by not having a working smoke alarm). But if they do have an alarm and can get out safely, then we're not putting our firefighters at that kind of risk. It's a dual benefit to the public and the firefighters," Chief Green continued.

If you would like a free smoke alarm from the county fire department, contact Station Commander Brian Williams or Chief Donny Green. "It's simple to make the request. All you have to do is call us and tell us your name, your address, and phone number and we'll get you on the list. We make every effort for those who sign up for this program to let them know who is coming to their house, when we will be there, and when you can expect us. Brian has done all of our installations. Anytime he is out doing this, he has on some kind of shirt that has one of our official logos on it. He will always introduce himself. But more importantly, before he comes to your home, he will call you and say, "My name is Brian Williams, you have requested a smoke alarm, and I am on my way there and you can expect me". That way you know nobody is going to show up at your door unannounced and you don't have to wonder who it is," added Chief Green.

Call Station Commander Brian Williams at 615-330-4066 or County Fire Chief Donny Green at 615-464-7176. You can also message them on Facebook. "We have a Facebook page, DeKalb County Fire Department, and if you want to request a smoke alarm on there you can go to our Facebook page and put a message on our wall or you can send us a private message on there," Chief Green concluded.

Fire Destroys Keltonburg Home (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

December 18, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Home of Percy Pinegar, Jr. Destroyed by Fire on Keltonburg Road
Mobile Home of Kenneth Pack Destroyed by Fire on Old Bildad Road

A fire destroyed the home of Percy Pinegar, Jr at 4915 Keltonburg Road (Keltonburg Nursery) Wednesday night.

Central dispatch received the call at 6:13 p.m.

Members of the Midway, Belk, Keltonburg, Short Mountain Highway, and Blue Springs stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded along with the tanker truck, DeKalb EMS, and DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

The fire apparently spread quickly and firefighters could not save the home.

Members of the family were reportedly at home at the time of the fire but escaped without injury.

Meanwhile, in a separate incident the single wide trailer home of Kenneth Pack at 1399 Old Bildad Road was destroyed by fire early Wednesday morning.

Central dispatch received the call at 1:32 a.m.

According to Lieutenant Kyle Caspar of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, Pack was cooking when a grease fire ignited in the kitchen. By the time Pack got out of the trailer, flames were coming through the roof.

Although firefighters could not save the trailer, they were able to keep the blaze from spreading to an outbuilding.

No one was injured.

Members of the Short Mountain Highway, Keltonburg, Belk, and Main Station responded from the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department along with the tanker truck.

Hospitals Help Indian Mound Boys Have a Merry Christmas

December 18, 2013
by: 
Shan Burklow
Angela Stockton, Denise Griffin, Brian Woods and CFO Alan Sharp

The employees and staff at DeKalb Community and Stones River Hospital raised over $2,500 to purchase Christmas gifts for the teens at Indian Mound Home for Boys located in DeKalb County, Tennessee. Gifts included requested and needed items including shoes, clothes and work boots.

The hospital hosted a pizza party in honor of the boys including a visit from Santa himself. When asked about his gifts, one teen replied, “This is so cool! I got everything I asked for on my list. I can’t wait to get back and try on my new Nikes.”

“Of all the things our hospitals do to help the community, this is the event I love the most,” said Director Linda Gagne, “It is such a special time for us as well as the boys.”

“I would like to thank all of the employees for all of the fund raisers and hard work throughout the year to make this happen,” said HR Assistant Jennifer Tramel, “We could never say enough about the good-hearted people who help all year long for this one special day. It warms my heart.”

DeKalb Community and Stones River Hospital have provided much needed Christmas items for Indian Mound boys for many years. Both hospitals would like to thank the community along with their employees for supporting this wonderfu l annual tradition.

To donate to the Indian Mound Boys Home Christmas Fund, contact HR Assistant Jennifer Tramel (615) 215-5370

####

Pictured: Angela Stockton, Denise Griffin, Brian Woods and CFO Alan Sharp of DeKalb Community and Stones River Hospital gather gifts to distribute to the eager teens of Indian Mound Home for Boys in DeKalb County, Tennessee.

Pictured: First grade students of West Side School eagerly await a special treat of milk and cookies from Stones River Hospital Dietary Department.

Shots Fired at Officers During Pursuit

December 17, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Kevin Glenn Smith
Lydia Renee Judkins

The search for a man trying to evade arrest Monday night escalated with shots being fired at a patrol car during a pursuit before daybreak early Tuesday morning.

35 year old Kevin Glenn Smith remains at large and is wanted by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department. He has a criminal history of drug offenses, burglaries, thefts, and an escape. Smith is now facing new felony charges in DeKalb County. He also has warrants against him in Warren, Coffee, and Cannon County.

The story unfolded Monday evening when Detectives of the Sheriff's Department went to a residence on Pea Ridge Road, Liberty to attempt to serve a Failure to Appear warrant on Smith’s girlfriend, 26 year old Lydia Renee Judkins of Jefferson Road, Smithville.

When Detectives made contact with Smith, who was in a Nissan Pathfinder, Smith started the engine and sped away, almost hitting the officers. Smith drove down a logging road where the officers could not follow in their patrol car and got away.

A couple of hours later, someone reported finding an overturned and abandoned Nissan Pathfinder on the Alexandria to Dismal Road. It was believed to be the same vehicle that Smith had been driving when he was last seen by Detectives on Pea Ridge Road. Sheriff Ray said that the Pathfinder was stolen from another county. The tag on the vehicle was also stolen from a different county.

Sheriff Ray said after the Pathfinder was found, other law enforcement agencies were summoned to join the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department in the search for Smith. "When we found the vehicle, we alerted Putnam County's K-9 unit and they came over with their track dog. We also called for a THP helicopter to fly over with their fleer system which is a heat sensing device," said Sheriff Ray in an interview with WJLE Tuesday night.

As help arrived, the sheriff's department got a tip that Smith had already left the area. "We received information that Smith had already been picked up and taken to a residence in the city limits of Dowelltown. We left the scene on the Alexandria to Dismal Road where the Pathfinder was found and went to Dowelltown where we learned that somebody had taken Smith from there to meet someone around Statesville Road off Highway 96 in Wilson County. We got Wilson County officers to go with us over there to do some saturated patrols to see if we could find this vehicle but we never could locate it," said Sheriff Ray.

On the way back before daybreak Tuesday morning, sheriff's department detectives spotted a suspicious pickup truck in Dowelltown. But when they tried to stop it to investigate, the truck took off and a pursuit ensued. "On our way back when we were driving between Liberty and Dowelltown, detectives saw a white Toyota Tacoma that was suspicious. The truck was on Main Street in Dowelltown but turned onto Highway 70. When the detectives turned around on the vehicle, it began to flee. There were two people in the truck and by the direction of travel that the truck went, we believe Kevin Smith was one of the persons in that vehicle. The pursuit went from Highway 70 to Highway 53 in Liberty, then to Sycamore Road, Hawkins Hill Road, Highway 96, to Statesville Road and then to various roads off Statesville Road near where Smith had been dropped off earlier. During the pursuit, one of the persons in the truck fired a weapon numerous times at the lead patrol car. The detectives did not return fire. For safety of the officers and the public, the detectives backed off the pursuit. Wilson County Sheriff's Department and Watertown Police Department officers were trying to get in position to get the truck stopped, but the driver kept taking roads left and right and finally got away," said Sheriff Ray.

The Tacoma pickup is also believed to have been stolen because the tag on it was stolen in Wilson County only three days ago (Saturday).

Though Smith has not threatened to harm the public, he is believed to be armed and witnesses have claimed he has said that if he were to be approached by law enforcement officers, he would make them shoot him because he is not going back to prison.

If anyone has information as to the whereabouts of Smith, please call the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department or Central Dispatch at 215-3000. Smith has many tattoos on his body.

According to Sheriff Ray, Smith has no known primary residence. "Through our investigation, he and his girlfriend have been staying with friends or sleeping in vehicles," he said.

Sheriff Ray wishes to thank Chief Mark Collins of the Alexandria Police Department for calling in an off duty officer when authorities thought the search for Smith might reach Alexandria.

Attorney for Mike Foster Files Motion to Dismiss Charge in U.S. District Court

December 17, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Hal Hardin
Mike Foster

The attorney for County Mayor Mike Foster has filed a motion asking the federal court to dismiss the case against Foster alleging that the former UCDD Chairman made false statements to the agency's board of directors relating to the Living the Dream facility, a home for seniors in Putnam County.

In his motion to dismiss filed Friday, December 13, Foster's attorney Hal Hardin claims that "Mr. Foster is entitled to dismissal of the charge because the "statements" he made are ambiguous to such an extent that they cannot be prosecuted as a crime".

Hardin has also filed a motion for a "Bill of Particulars" seeking specificity of the charge against Foster, and a motion for "Severance" claiming that Foster would be prejudiced by a joint trial with his co-defendants Wendy Askins and Larry Webb.

In September, Former UCDD Executive Director Wendy Askins and former Deputy Director Larry Webb were named in a sixteen count federal grand jury indictment accusing them of conspiring to misuse government funds at the "Living the Dream" complex.

The grand jury also indicted Foster alleging that he read a statement that he knew was false at the UCDD board's January 19, 2012 meeting to cover up Askins' and Webb's alleged illegal activity.

In his motion to dismiss, Hardin contends "There is no allegation that Foster was a member of the conspiracy described in the indictment and no allegation that he ever received anything of value for reading the statement. While it is alleged that Foster knew that the read statement was false, it is not alleged that Foster knew that Askins and Webb had a criminal motive for asking him to read it."

A memorandum in support of the motion to dismiss is summarized as follows:

"In Count Sixteen, it is alleged that Mr. Foster violated 18 U.S.C. § 1001 when he presented or read a proposed amendment to the minutes on behalf of Askins and Webb to the Executive Committee of the 64-member Board of the UCDD on January 19, 2012. The purported purpose was to consider a correction to the minutes of the February 16, 2010, Board meeting to show that the Board had at that time discussed the transfer of funds for the benefit of one of the corporations owned by Askins and Webb."

"Thus, the sole count against Foster essentially alleges that he, a local government official, read a "statement prepared by Askins." Yes, read a statement prepared by Askins… to the Executive Committee of a local public Board in a public meeting that all know was being filmed by a local television station. There is no allegation that Foster was a member of the conspiracy described in the indictment, no allegation that he ever received anything of value for reading the statement. While it is alleged that Foster knew that the read statement was false, it is not alleged that Foster knew that Askins and Webb had a criminal motive for asking him to read it. Significantly, as clearly shown by the video, another member of the board made a motion to approve the statement… that board member has not been indicted. After the executive committee members engaged in a full discussion of the motion, it was passed without dissent by the Executive Committee. Mr. Foster “passed” and did not vote on it… none of the numerous Executive Committee members (or the 64 Board members) who discussed the motion and approved it were indicted."

"In pretrial discovery, prosecutors furnished a video of the January 19, 2012, meeting. It is rare that an alleged verbal crime can be shown on video. The Court is implored to examine the video. That video shows that Foster told the Executive Committee that his memory on the matter at issue was not clear. The video shows that present at the meeting were attorneys and scores of nonprofit board members who agreed with Defendant Foster’s recollection and with the statement read by him. There were no dissents or objections. Foster passed from voting on the issue. Federal crime? Also telling of Defendant Foster’s lack of involvement in any crime is the government’s complete discovery responses which contain tens of thousands of pages of documents unrelated to Mr. Foster."

"By way of basic criminal law, not all false statements violate § 1001, rather only false statements that may affect and influence the operation or the integrity of the government. Once jurisdiction has been determined, issues of materiality, knowledge and falsity arise."

"There are multiple reasons why Count Sixteen must be dismissed for failing to state a § 1001 violation. First, Foster’s statements before a local government board allegedly exposing him to criminal sanctions are, at a minimum, ambiguous to such an extent that, dismissal is required. For example, regarding the subject minutes he stated: “And we talked about it, we don’t think it was. We don’t know if it was voted on, we don’t know if it was properly presented, we don’t really know if it was done as it should have been done and there’s been some problems about whether or not we did it. We talked about it in another meeting about amending it, I think, to include that. And I don’t think that we did it…..was intended to be done and it was either left out or it wasn’t properly recorded. I don’t know which, I wasn’t, I’m not sure…. And I know we talked about it and I… John and I talked about remembering it and Michael and I did and Herb (other board members) nodding his head. We all remember this. But whether or not it was officially done or not but…..And I don’t know if it was properly done…” This ambiguous rambling, quoted language, is the crime alleged in Count 16. Simply to read it is to answer the question – this was not and cannot be a crime. Other members of the Executive Committee, none of whom are indicted, also had similar memories of previous discussion of the subject transaction. Federal crime? For full context of the statements, see the video. The Court is again implored to actually watch the supposed “crime.”

Second, the prosecutor's own theory of the case, as we can see by the allegations of overt acts under Count One, shows that it was Askins and Webb who created the statement upon which Count 16 relies, not Foster. Foster read the statement for them. He did not make a motion to adopt it, he passed from voting on it. A different Board Member suggested bringing it before the Board. There is no allegation in the indictment that Foster was aware of the allegedly criminal activity of the other defendants or that he knew that the statement was related to any criminal activity. Further, U.S. Courts historically, because of the delicate balance, only carefully tread on political matters involving local government officials. Here, such concerns and the First Amendment protects the ambiguous statement of Foster as protected speech. As held in United States v. Alvarez, 132 S. Ct. 2537 (2012), a case that struck down the Stolen Valor Act as an unconstitutional content-based restriction on free speech, there are limits on the government's ability to prosecute expressions of speech, and those limits extend to even false speech. The Supreme Court recognized in Alvarez that as a general matter, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content, and as a result, the Constitution demands that content-based restrictions on speech be presumed invalid and that the government bear the burden of showing their constitutionality."

"Third, Foster’s alleged statement was not material and is not a “statement” for the purposes of a prosecution via § 1001. A violation of § 1001 is comprised of five elements: a statement by the defendant; which must be false or fraudulent material; knowingly and willfully made; pertinent to an activity within the jurisdiction of a federal agency."

"Here, as clearly shown by the video, Foster was merely making a suggestion of action the Executive Committee might take. He had no ability to alter the minutes, he had no ability to implement any policy or to take any action or to control the other members of the UCDD Board, many of whom also made similar alleged “statements” and none of whom are indicted. Only the Executive Committee of the UCDD Board had the ability to make any “statement” which affected federal function, not Mr. Foster. Federal Crime?"

"This Court has the clear authority to dismiss an indictment prior to trial when it fails to state an offense. Finally, while summary judgment is not mentioned in the criminal case context, a Court may consider if there has been a crime, and if not, dismiss it with prejudice."

In his motion for a "Bill of Particulars", Hardin wants the prosecutors to "State the exact false material "Statement" that Foster allegedly made. "Count Sixteen of the indictment alleges that, on or about January 19, 2012, Foster and Askins "aided and abetted by each other, did willfully and knowingly make and cause to be made materially false, fictitious, and fradulent statements and representations..and represented to the UCDD Executive Committee of the Board of Directors...had discussed and intended to approve the transfer of UCDD funds to CRDC for the purpose of the Living the Dream project at the February 16, 2010 UCDD Executive Committee Board meeting.... whereas in truth and in fact as Askins and Foster then and there well knew and believed, the UCDD Executive Committee had not discussed nor intended to approve the transfer of UCDD money to CRDC for the Living the Dream project on February 16, 2010."

"The defendant (Foster) requests that the prosecutors:

"State with specificity how Foster "then and there well knew and believed the UCDD Executive Committee had not discussed nor intended to approve the transfer of UCDD money to CRDC for the Living the Dream Project on February 16, 2010; State with specificity how Askins "aided and abetted" Foster; State with specificity how Foster "aided and abetted" Askins". Basic fairness dictates such a disclosure at this time."

In his motion for a severance, Hardin claims a joint trial with Askins and Webb would be prejudicial to Foster.

A memorandum in support of the motion is summarized as follows:

" Even a cursory review of the allegations reveals that the indictment is directed at the alleged multiyear criminal acts of Askins and Webb, with the result that the indictment devotes the vast majority of its verbiage to those defendants. Foster is discussed in only the final count of a sixteen count indictment and his alleged participation in the alleged crimes of Askins and Webb is miniscule or non- existent in relation to both the amount of alleged wrongdoing of those defendants and the time span of that wrongdoing."

"A joint trial of all three defendants will unavoidably be prejudicial to Foster for at least two reasons. First, if Foster is tried jointly, he will be inescapably associated in the minds of the jury with the voluminous amounts of material that will be presented against Askins and Webb. Any jury would have great difficulty in trying to separate out the miniscule amount of evidence pertaining to him from the huge amount of evidence that will be presented against Askins and Webb. Thus, Foster will be prejudiced by the "spillover" effect of the evidence against Askins and Webb."

"Second, Foster wishes to have a prompt disposition of this charge, and because the prosecution's case against Askins and Webb involved so many more counts, so much more evidence, and, likely, so many more pretrial disputes than the prosecution's case against him, Foster will not be able to enjoy his constitutional and statutory right to a speedy trial. The State court and Federal court defense of Askins will engender lengthy delays, and, without severance, Foster will not go to trial for many months or even years."

As WJLE reported previously, the cases against Askins, Webb, and Foster are currently set for trial on May 20, 2014 in U.S. District Court in Nashville.

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