Friday, March 11, 2011

11 MAR 11: Tony's Reward

It was mid-afternoon Thursday when I learned about the plea bargain in the "Rec-Gate" case. I read Tony Adams and Herman Porter had pleaded guilty, and one thought immediately came to mind. Did Edward DuBose know about this - and how could he possibly let this happen?

Former Columbus Parks and Recreation Director Tony Adams pleaded guilty Thursday to two felony counts of "conspiracy to defraud." Violations such as this only make the conspiracy theorists feel more like know-it-alls.

Parks Department colleague Herman Porter pleaded guilty to three charges of misdemeanor theft. He was accused with Tony Adams of diverting city money from the Georgia Blazers AAU basketball team into a private bank account. Send too much money downstream, and you might eventually head up the river.

A third guilty plea was entered Thursday by William Fox of East Marietta Basketball. Prosecutors claimed Fox paid kickbacks to Tony Adams and Herman Porter from referee fees for local basketball tournaments. This claimed probably stunned a lot of sports fans - who think referees receive the kickbacks to play favorites.

But Muscogee County Judge John Allen did NOT sentence the three men to jail. Under the plea bargain, all received at least three years of probation. Tony Adams also must perform 50 hours of community service - which means he can take his coaching expertise to the Columbus Lady Wings this spring and summer.

The Ledger-Enquirer reported there were tense moments in the courtroom, as the plea bargain became final. Prosecutor Alonza Whitaker warned Tony Adams's attorney at one point a trial would go forward if a deal could not be reached. And you thought Georgia Blazers games were the only times when adults engaged in trash-talking.

But outside the courtroom, Alonza Whitaker suggested prosecutors wanted a settlement. He said most of the money diverted to the Georgia Blazers account actually was spent on young athletes. So the three suspects apparently were a bit more ethical than Cam Newton's father....

Alonza Whitaker also expressed concern about the impact a Parks and Recreation trial might have on Columbus. The prosecutor noted some people thought the case had racial motives. And what do you know - an African-American prosecutor and an African-American judge made that Caucasian guy from Marietta pay.

Attorneys on both sides seemed to agree Tony Adams and Herman Porter desired to help young basketball players - but they came up with an illegal way to do it. So it's back to bake sales outside the front door at Winn-Dixie....

Defense attorney Shaevon Thomas told WRBL the "Rec-Gate" plot was "one of those Robin Hood kind of things." But from what I could tell, the Georgia Blazers never received any donations from the Bradley-Turner Foundation.

Buried at the bottom of the newspaper story was a detail I never knew. The city auditor told Tony Adams about what he found in Columbus Parks and Recreation last March -- two months before the audit was given to the mayor. No wonder Adams's attorneys submitted a quick reply to it, when the mayor demanded one. It was like a basketball player waiting at the other basket all the time.

So as the "Rec-Gate" scandal is confirmed as a scandal and the smoke clears, where is the Georgia Blazers basketball team? Out of business, apparently. Its web site hasn't been updated since last June -- as if the players boarded the same team bus to nowhere as the Columbus Life.

And there's one key piece of unfinished business from the Parks and Recreation audit. Where is the commitment from the new Columbus Council to add shuffleboard courts at recreation centers? Older people should have the privilege of sliding toward the end of life....

More scoops about hoops caught our attention Thursday....

+ We confirmed Piggly Wiggly will NOT bring back the "My Bracket is Money" contest, based on the NCAA men's basketball tournament. You'll recall this blog came close to winning a $1,000 shopping spree last spring. Now I'll have to take on basketball addicts across the country - including the people who actually paid attention to those games in early December.

+ The Harlem Globetrotters played/performed at the Columbus Civic Center. The Howard Johnson's motel welcomed the team by offering a "Globetrotters big fan" room rate of 50 dollars. Aw, c'mon - who follows the Globetrotters around, like they're the Grateful Dead? Well, other than the Washington Generals....

+ The Southeastern Conference men's basketball tournament began in Atlanta, with Georgia eliminating Auburn 69-51. The Tigers finished a season so dreadful that a few fans might give "Al from Dadeville" the home address of Coach Tony Barbee.

+ Russell County Sheriff's officers told WTVM the McDonald's restaurant in Ladonia may be closed for months. Wednesday night's damage apparently started with a grease fire. Grease? At a McDonald's?!?! What a shocking theory....

(People were in the restaurant when the fire started, but they escaped quickly -- proving you can move fast, despite eating fast food.)

+ The Georgia Legislature gave final passage to a bill shrinking the HOPE scholarship program. College students will have to return to purchasing their own textbooks - or enjoying the thrill of buying a "used book," only to discover the last student marked it in all the wrong places.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: Has something (or someone) stopped working in Hurtsboro?....

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