Wednesday, November 11, 2009

11 NOV 09: Hill or Molehill?

Happy Veterans Day to you. I thought it was a federal holiday -- but apparently the federal trial of Mark Shelnutt still will be in session. Maybe Judge Clay Land is trying to get a big holiday crowd, to break an attendance record.

Testimony began Tuesday in the Mark Shelnutt trial - and one of the main witnesses was the ex-wife of a convicted drug dealer. From what I'm reading online, that very description could bring accusations of bias. Some of Shelnutt's supporters would want me to go the Glenn Beck route, and call her a floozie.

Tamika Hill told the court she collected money from drug dealers, then gave some of it to Mark Shelnutt. At this point, the spin begins. Was it money simply to pay off an attorney's bill? Was it part of a money laundering plot? And if the money was dusted for fingerprints, how white would the dust be?

Not only did Tamika Hill testify in person - she was part of a video played by prosecutors. Hill somehow wore a hidden camera, during a meeting in Mark Shelnutt's office. Yeah, right. I'll believe that when the video appears on YouTube - and that site doesn't even have a video of Shelnutt playing music.

(WTVM suggests the hidden camera was in an ankle bracelet Tamika Hill wore. On a government informant, I suppose this camera would be legal. In the women's clothing departments at Peachtree Mall, Hill would have been arrested.)

The prosecution claims Mark Shelnutt gave Tamika Hill a list of drug suspects, and told her to get money from them. The defense claims Shelnutt showed the list to ease concern that Hill might be prosecuted. After reading these competing explanations online, I have one question - why didn't someone in the courtroom turn up the audio?

Well, let's try to answer that -- Mark Shelnutt apparently made himself hard to hear. He asked Tamika Hill about the ankle bracelet, then started whispering and wrote on notepads. For an attorney, that's highly unusual - because the only time they normally keep quiet is when a witness is testifying in court.

Defense attorneys claim Tamika Hill never was given a laundering list names of drug dealers by Mark Shelnutt. Their own recordings were played, with Hill's then-husband telling her who had drug money. With both sides pulling out trick plays, this trial already is turning into a New Year's Day bowl game.

Mark Shelnutt's defense lawyer says the prosecution is basing its case on criminals who made plea bargains, and are accusing Shelnutt to avoid long prison terms. I wonder what Mike Massey thinks of that. He was the first government witness - and he's a major in the Muscogee County Sheriff's Department.

But prosecutors accuse Mark Shelnutt of lying to the F.B.I. about receiving large sums of money. There's apparently a law that requires payments of more than $10,000 have to be reported -- which makes me very doubtful that major league baseball players fill out their own tax returns.

Outside court, Mark Shelnutt told WRBL he's "waited years" to explain his side of this story. Now wait a minute -- is this the same Shelnutt who told us last year he had only heard "rumors" of a federal investigation? [21 Aug 08] Why not speak out and put the rumors to rest? Oh wait -- that hasn't satisfied the "birthers" who oppose President Obama.

-> Tuesday was a big day for us in online poker. Check what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: We told you people in Columbus are split about the Shelnutt trial. You're welcome to keep score on the messages we receive...

The newspaper reports it being strange a few from Marks church were potential Jurors.. but not strange that Judge Land gave one of the dope dealers of this mess a lighter sentence(reduced)..

How is Land sitting as Judge at this Trail.... something sure stinks...just saying.

Prayers & Positive Thoughts for Mark Shelnutt & his Family!

Gina Colbert

Richard Hyatt's web site noted Tuesday either side in the case could have asked Judge Clay Land to recuse himself. But neither side did - not even the defense, despite the judge attending the same church as the defendant. So maybe we've uncovered the first grounds for appealing a conviction.

Let's move on to a Veterans Day complaint involving Muscogee County court. We've received at least ten messages since Sunday about the ailing father of a murdered Fort Benning soldier. They're practically all alike, and all addressed to District Attorney Julia Slater. This one is typical:

We are members and friends of the Home Of The Brave parents group. A group devoted to seeking justice for members of the armed services who have died due to non-combat related circumstances, including all to often MURDER. Lanny Davis, father of Army Specialist Richard Davis is one of our cherished members and for that reason we are asking for your time and attention to an important matter that cannot wait a moment longer.

Lanny Davis has requested that the court system of Muscogee County GA return his son's personal belongings for years now. We want to sincerely thank you for returning Richard's long lost dog tags,but as you know there were other items of Richard's recovered. They may seem small and insignificant to others but to Lanny Davis it is his path to closure. As you also know, Lanny Davis is suffering from terminal lung cancer and is not expected to live for much longer. Despite his condition he continues to ask for issues like the missing belongings of his murdered son to be returned.

As a member of the Home Of The Brave parents group I implore you to do the right thing or at the very least open an investigation into the reasons why items recovered from the scene of a murder are lost in the first place.


Bonnie Palecco

We called the District Attorney's office about this, and learned the items are NOT stored in the name of Richard Davis. We had to tell a receptionist the names of two suspects in Davis's killing -- and to be honest, we had to look up those names. No one seems to be promoting a "foundation for peace" for healing Jacob Burgoyne's mind.

We asked what sort of personal belongings are being sought, and what is being done about the e-mails. But our message for an assistant district attorney has NOT been returned since Monday afternoon. Perhaps he's personally flying the items to Lanny Davis in California - to avoid acting like Britain's Prime Minister, and misspelling words on a get-well card.

Our last e-mail today was inspired by Tuesday's big rainstorm:

I wish James Walker,of the MCSD Board, would go to a school that has portables today and change classes with the kids in the rain..Oh,I forgot,Mr Walker said,"I talked to all principals and these conditions do not exhist."....Or,perhaps Dr.Andrews would like to change classes in the rain . She said at schools where construction is going on covered walks will be built..What about schools with multiple portables,new and old,where construction is not going on? One new portable leaks so badly the carpet stays soaked after a rain. The school was told they can't fix the window that leaks because the work is still under contract with the portable supplier..So, when the mold starts growing will the supplier replace the portable?

I don't think this will console the writer -- but from what I've seen of the new Public Education Center, it's also without covered walkways. If Superintendent Susan Andrews doesn't carry an umbrella, she'll have some idea.

The remains of Hurricane Ida dropped more than five inches of rain on Columbus Tuesday. It was almost enough for kayakers to stay away from the Chattahoochee River, and paddle around Lakebottom Park.

As the rain fell, Columbus Water Works officials were before Columbus Council. They said water rates will keep going up through 2012 - so if you haven't set a rain bucket outside in your yard, stop reading this and do it before it's too late.

Let's see what else had people talking Tuesday....

+ Business Week magazine listed Columbus and Auburn among the top 12 "next recovering job markets." It claims the "first quarter of recovery" in Columbus will not occur until January - which tells me Mike Gaymon at the Chamber of Commerce needs to add one more magazine to his mailing list.

+ WRBL reported the Georgia Department of Transportation has decided against expanding Interstate 185 from Columbus to the Florida line. Police in Cusseta will celebrate this with champagne, after they collect a few more speeding fines.

+ The U.S. Transportation Department reported 86.2 percent of all airline flights arrived on time in September. But we checked online, and found the on-time arrival rate in Columbus is only 76.7 percent. It's only a matter of time before travelers start calling ASA "Always Slow Airlines."

+ WRBL reported the Kia plant in West Point will open its doors for public tours during December. Is this why Rob Doll looks like he's growing a beard - so he can sneak inside and take some notes?

SCHEDULED THURSDAY: Columbus's latest broadcasting puzzle, our promised Blog Special Event.... and oh yeah, maybe more from the Shelnutt trial....

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