Thursday, July 16, 2009

16 JUL 09: Where is the Outrage?

Mark Shelnutt went to federal court hoping to have his 40-count indictment dismissed. Instead, he learned Wednesday all 40 counts will stand, but a couple will be modified. Plenty of court records probably could use that - so ordinary people can read and understand them.

Federal Judge Clay Land rejected a motion by attorney Mark Shelnutt's lawyers to dismiss the indictment on grounds of "outrageous government conduct." Clearly this grounds belongs with more appropriate cases - like what the Governor of South Carolina did in Argentina.

Defense attorneys tried to cite several cases of outrageous government conduct. One claimed drug suspect Torrence Hill threatened to kill Mark Shelnutt, after becoming a government informant. If that's true, Hill might be recruited for the C.I.A. after serving his sentence.

(Torrence Hill reportedly threatened to kill a federal prosecutor as well. Isn't this amazing? Federal drug suspects can be as fair and balanced as cable TV news anchors.)

But defense attorneys also argued the federal government threatened Torrence Hill into making statements against Mark Shelnutt. I thought this sort of thing happened all the time - except with Shelnutt's clients, it's called plea-bargaining.

We mentioned Wednesday the claim that prosecutors recorded a conversation with Mark Shelnutt without his knowledge. But Judge Clay Land ruled Shelnutt actually DID know part of the discussion was recorded. This point was easy to settle, by hearing three little words on tape - "Yes, it's on."

For months Mark Shelnutt contended (including once to us) he was never told he was under investigation. Judge Clay Land ruled federal prosecutors never had to tell Shelnutt that. Sometimes a series of well-placed rumors can be sufficient....

Mark Shelnutt said little after Wednesday's hearing, except to tell WRBL he's confident about his upcoming trial. Then again, what else do you expect him to say? If he expected to lose, he would have pleaded guilty several weeks ago.

Judge Clay Land's decision means the trial of Mark Shelnutt is on, for early September. This seems awfully fast, considering he was indicted in late May. Are Republican prosecutors trying to hurry this case along, before President Obama learns about a Democrat in trouble and replaces them?

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION returned at midday Wednesday, spurred by this e-mail:

Have you had a poll on if the city needs a crime prevention director?

No, we haven't -- but now we do. Does Columbus need someone under the Public Safety Director/Mayor, focused on nothing but preventing crime? Or do shows like CSI show tracking down the criminal is a lot more fun and entertaining?

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <--

BLOG UPDATE: Ooh boy, this could get me in trouble. But when we called up the Steve Harvey Show "Hoodie Award" barbecue ballot Wednesday, we found Chester's Bar-B-Q was up against Gates and Sons of Kansas City. Really now -- how can a downtown Columbus restaurant take on a legend of my home area? Columbus State's basketball teams know better than to play at Kansas....

Barbecue connoisseurs know Kansas City is famous for its restaurants. Gates and Sons is one of the biggest names -- and unlike Chester's Bar-B-Q, it has locations all over the Kansas City area. Chester's doesn't even dare to have a location within one mile of a Country's.

On top of that, Gates and Sons has a wider variety of barbecue - including beef, turkey and even mutton. Chester's Bar-B-Q has a menu that's mostly pork. And for one day, the spelling of "pulled pork" was changed to polled.

Don't get me wrong - I've had Chester's barbecued chicken, and it was bony but good. But claiming to be better than Gates and Sons is something else completely. We'll see how the voting goes - but based on community size and all the other factors, this looks like a Gates lock-up.

Let's see what else seemed interesting, on the anniversary of my father's birth in the Kansas City area:

+ Russell County officials refused to issue an arrest warrant for Hurtsboro Mayor Rayford Tapley. Former Constable Robert Schweiger wanted him arrested for obstructing justice, and now says he'll ask for criminal charges to be filed. Is it safe to assume the new mayor's honeymoon is over?

(A Columbus accountant apparently has been auditing the Hurtsboro city records since February. Ben Vance says the audit won't be finished until October. Eight months, for a town as small as Hurtsboro?!? It makes you wonder how many city employees and friends have money stuffed under their beds.)

+ The Georgia unemployment rate for June hit a record 10.1 percent. The late-night news interviewed one recent college graduate who works at a Columbus sandwich shop, even though he has a philosophy degree. It's sad to know think-tanks aren't hiring philosophers the way they once did.

+ WALB-TV in Albany reported the number of daily flights from Southwest Georgia Regional airport has been reduced to three, because Atlantic Southeast Airways is putting pilots on furlough. The Columbus airport still stands at four per day - but with one round-trip ticket to Atlanta costing $459, as we discovered Wednesday night, the pilots might want to take side jobs as shuttle drivers.

(Georgia legislative leaders announced state lawmakers will take one furlough day a month through December. This surprised many people, who didn't realize House and Senate members have been holding regular secret meetings since April.)

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.29 a gallon at Summit, 15th and Veterans Parkway.... Dragnet reruns at 5:30 p.m. ET on WRBL's channel 3.2.... Columbus Lions jerseys for half-price at the season-ending party (please ignore the Reading Express railroad marks on them)....

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 625 (+ 23, 3.8%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

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