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Cops issue arrest warrant in Massengale Park bash
 lhobbs  / 

Police are holding a Brunswick man responsible for the raucous party that erupted April 28 at Massengale Park, leaving the beachfront county facility on St. Simons Island waylaid with trash and damage.

Glynn County Police have issued an arrest warrant for Rashad Lamario Golden, 31, charging him with one count of disorderly conduct, Police Chief John Powell said late Tuesday afternoon. Additionally, Golden is being charged with violating the county’s public conduct and noise variance ordinances, Powell said. All charges against Golden are misdemeanors.

The party emerged out of nowhere on the afternoon of April 28, a Sunday, complete with a DJ playing loud and “profane” music, along with heavy drinking, ATVs tearing up the grass and fights. The size of the crowd caught police off guard and overwhelmed county parks maintenance crews and the regulars who normally gather at the park at 1350 Ocean Blvd. for grilling and relaxing with family and friends.

Wayne Vance, county parks maintenance manager for St. Simons Island, described it as a tumult of “wall-to-wall people” who left “trash everywhere.” Fights broke out among the crowd of several hundred people as police responded in an attempt to obtain some semblance of order. By the time police had dispersed the crowd at around nightfall, the damage was done, Powell said.

“Broken glass, food, alcohol, clothing and other items littered the park,” Powell said. “Additionally, county-owned facilities and property were damaged.”

The parks maintenance crew spent the better part of four hours cleaning up on the morning after, Vance said. Powell vowed immediately to hold accountable those responsible.

Glynn County Police Capt. Eugene Smith, commander of the department’s patrol division, conducted the investigation.

Police allege that Golden is affiliated with the party’s organizers, a group known as KMG (Kustom Made Gangsters). Police allege Golden also was responsible for hiring the DJ whose music presumably violated both the noise and public conduct ordinances. A party of such magnitude would have required a county permit, which KMG did not have, police said.

“Capt. Smith did a pretty thorough investigation and as a result, he was able to identify Golden as one of the members of this group and the one most responsible,” said Brian Scott, Chief of Staff of the Glynn County Police Department.

Attempts to repeat such a shindig at a county park will not be tolerated, Powell said.

“We welcome and encourage citizens to enjoy county-owned parks and facilities, however, the rules must be followed,” Powell said. “The purpose of the vetting and permitting process outlined in the Glynn County Code of Ordinances is to reduce the potential for disorderly behavior such as what occurred with this event.”

School system hosts Future Educators Signing Day
 lmcdonald  / 

Nearly 20 graduating high school seniors signed commitments Tuesday to enter the teaching profession. They were honored with a Future Educators Signing event at Brunswick High School that aimed to recognize the importance of their career choice.

“What you’ve chosen to do is so, so important,” said Cathy Pittman, the science and social studies K-12 coordinator in Glynn County Schools, as the students sat at a long table facing their families and friends, who cheered and snapped many photos when they picked up their pens to sign.

Michele Seals, employment staffing manager for Glynn County Schools, congratulated the students for planning to pursue a profession in education. Most of the students had completed education pathways at Brunswick High School and Glynn Academy, and after graduation they will pursue education majors at a variety of colleges and universities.

“Education is more than a profession,” Seals said. “It is a fire. It is something that can consume you, but yet can pull others to you.”

Teachers share many characters with fire, she said. They’re bold. They offer warmth. And they change the space around them.

“Fire is not afraid,” Seals said. “Move boldly toward your goals. Don’t pull back. If you’ve ever been around a fire, it’s not afraid to take over the space where it is.”

Soon after Seals finished speaking of fire, a fire alarm went off at the school, requiring everyone inside Brunswick High to evacuate, including those attending the signing ceremony.

A little more than 20 minutes later, the group reassembled to finish the event.

In her keynote address, Seals also challenged the students to move forward with the intent to illuminate the paths of those around them and to be that fire.

“Nobody has your light. Nobody has your spark,” she said. “Nobody can bring to this profession what you uniquely bring within yourself.”

Federal lawsuit filed regarding Cumberland Island dock
 wwolfe  / 

The dispute over a dock on Cumberland Island made its way to federal court Friday, while a separate lawsuit involving the same dispute moves along in Fulton County Superior Court.

The Center for a Sustainable Coast sued the National Park Service and the superintendent of Cumberland Island National Seashore for what the CSC claims is a failure by the NPS to properly execute its mission of protecting the national seashore according to the Seashore Act.

This comes because of the construction of a private dock, the development of which has been a matter of controversy on the island for quite some time. The state Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division gave the company overseeing the project — Lumar LLC — a letter of authorization in December 2005.

CSC argues both in the Fulton County case and in the federal case that the process should have gone through the state Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee before reaching the point of approval or rejection. Gaining approval through the CMPC is a public process that involves notifications published well ahead of time, and a meeting held in which public comments can be received and possibly acted upon.

CSC alleges Lumar violated the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act by building without a CMPA permit. Plans are for the development of 95 nearby acres into 10 lots.

According to the complaint, CINS Superintendent Gary Ingram signed a statement on behalf of the federal government to CRD that as an adjacent property owner, he had no objections to the dock project. CSC argues this statement increased the likelihood CRD would approve the project. CRD did approve it, and taking its lead from CRD, the Army Corps of Engineers gave Lumar a letter of permission.

CSC cites within the complaint part of the Seashore Act that states, “the seashore shall be permanently preserved in its primitive state.” It also argues the Seashore Act gives the NPS regulatory authority over bordering private land and state-owned marsh. The complaint states Ingram’s statement of no-objection was a violation of the Seashore Act’s primitive state requirement.

CSC is asking for the federal court to set aside the no-objection statement and enter a judgement that declares the NPS’ actions were an abuse of discretion and contrary to the Seashore Act.

In a statement released Tuesday, Karen Grainey, a CSC contractor, said, “The dock is the thin edge of the wedge for introducing new development on Cumberland Island.

“As evidenced by the thousands of emails, letters and public comments opposing the rezoning, the Park Service’s willingness to accommodate residential development in the heart of the national seashore is out of step with public opinion, which is in favor of honoring the legislation that established the seashore.”

Ga. Power project brings traffic delays to causeway, Demere Road
 lhobbs  / 

As westbound motorists on the F.J. Torras Causeway crested the Back River Bridge at midmorning Tuesday, they encountered a view of bumper-to-bumper traffic on the road ahead — stretching all the way to U.S. Highway 17 on the mainland.

The giant crane rising up to a towering power pole beside the road offered a clue as to the cause of the causeway delays, which began Tuesday morning and continued into the afternoon.

Westbound traffic on the causeway was restricted to one lane from roughly Terry Creek to the Walgreens, making room for the aforementioned Georgia Power crane. Work to replace aging power lines on the causeway and along Demere Road on St. Simons Island began last week and will continue for the next several weeks, Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said.

Folks can expect intermittent lane closures on the causeway and Demere Road, as well as the attendant traffic delays, for the duration of the project, Kraft said. The work is progressing from east to west, and will affect both directions of travel as the path of the power line switches from one side of the causeway to the other, Kraft said.

“Georgia Power is working to proactively replace aging wires near Demere Road and the Torras Causeway to improve the electric system and service reliability in the St. Simons area,” he said.

Exact dates and times for lane closures were not available, he said. The project was expected to continue for several weeks, but could take longer depending on the weather, he said.

“The (lane) closures will vary based on work scheduled each day,” Kraft said. “Georgia Power will need to close lanes on different sides of the road as the transmission line crosses the road, and also to allow crews to set up equipment near the road as needed.”

Georgia Power also is calling in its version of a high-wire act, shuttling in daring lineman via helicopter and dangling them onto the worksite 100 feet atop the power poles. Employing this aerial commute to work when feasible will prevent the need for even more lane closures on the road below, Kraft said.

“In addition to lessening the traffic impact, using the helicopter prevents the need for additional heavy equipment along the roadway and in low-lying areas,” Kraft said.

Work began April 29 on the stretch of Demere Road east of the thoroughfare’s intersection with Kings Way and Sea Island Road at the entrance to St. Simons Island. It required the closure of the outside westbound lane of Dermere Road in that area between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day through Saturday. Daily traffic backed up at times almost to the roundabout in the center of the island at Dermere and Frederica roads.

Located roughly in the middle of that daily traffic jam, the Ace Garden Center at 2807 Demere Road felt the effects, said store owner Dawn Hart. Numerous customers complained about the frustration of fighting the traffic to reach the garden center, she said. She suspects numerous others simply turned back or did not bother to make the trip.

The lane closures have created problems for the garden center’s employees as well, Hart said, especially during lunch breaks.

“It’s a little bit of a hardship,” Hart said. “There are probably some who are just avoiding the trip to see us right now.”

With additional lane closures likely in the weeks ahead on Demere Road, Hart hopes to make the best of things.

“Some of them are a little frustrated by the time they get here,” she said of her customers. “We’re hoping that shopping around and looking at all the pretty flowers while they are here will be put them in a better mood before they leave.”

Three plead guilty in federal drug conspiracy, one left to think about it
 wwolfe  / 

Three men pleaded guilty Tuesday to their roles in a local narcotics conspiracy in federal court in Brunswick, but U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood chose not to accept the plea of the first man who appeared before her on the day.

Derrick Bernard Johnson, 43, was indicted in both the original and the superseding indictment with conspiracy to possess with intent and distributing controlled substances. A plea agreement worked out between his defense attorney and the U.S. Attorney’s Office had Johnson pleading to that charge, as it related to cocaine possession and distribution.

The USAO also, on Feb. 6, filed a notice it was seeking an enhanced sentence against Johnson because on Dec. 11, 2015, he was convicted in Glynn County Superior Court of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Michael Scott Sapp, assigned to an FBI violent gang task force from the Brunswick Police Department, testified the investigation showed Johnson hung out around the 1600 block of L Street, where he acted as a street-level dealer of cocaine supplied by co-defendant Michael Arthur Nixon. The task force obtained a wire tap for Nixon’s phone, and Sapp said contacts between Johnson and Nixon detailed multiple cocaine purchases.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Kirkland asked specifically about a call on May 3, 2018, and Sapp said the conversations between Johnson and Nixon led to the pair meeting up at a motel off U.S. Highway 341, where investigators saw a deal go down between them. A patrol officer later conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle Johnson left in as a way to identify the people in the vehicle, and didn’t conduct a search or make an arrest.

Johnson said, in court, the phone conversation between him and Nixon wasn’t as it was portrayed in Sapp’s testimony. He was also reticent about agreeing that other aspects of his involvement, as alleged, were accurate.

Because of this, Wood said she wasn’t going to accept Johnson’s plea, because, she said, it appeared he wasn’t sure and she didn’t want him to rush into something that potentially carried with it a 30-year prison sentence.

Wood did say, however, it would be possible for Johnson to make a guilty plea later, if he chose to do that instead of progressing to trial.

Alex Dion Manor, 45, did plead guilty. He admitted to possession with intent to distribute crack, specifically on July 20, 2018. Under the superseding indictment, he was charged with conspiracy, three counts of possession with intent to distribute crack, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

The USAO also filed a notice to seek an enhanced sentence in that matter, which raised the maximum possible prison time to 30 years, and ensures a minimum of six years’ supervised release.

Sapp testified that Manor was a street-level crack distributor for the organization alleged in the indictment.

The specific act necessary for the charge that led to the guilty plea was a controlled buy from Manor by law enforcement of around 0.7 grams of crack. Sapp said there were other controlled crack buys from Manor as part of the investigation.

Timothy John Sallins, 47, pleaded guilty to the lesser-included charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distributing a quantity of cocaine. Sapp testified Sallins was a cocaine distributor supplied by Nixon. He said investigators had around 25 conversations recorded between Sallins and Nixon regarding the purchasing of a cumulative amount of around 184 grams of cocaine.

Camron Thomas, 36, pleaded guilty to the lesser-included offense of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distributing marijuana. Sapp testified that Thomas was on recorded conversations discussing marijuana purchases with co-defendant Andrew Riley.

Thomas was out on pretrial release, but the federal probation officer said that, by their calculations, the sentencing range for him would likely be around two years and six months, and three years and one month. As such, and for other reasons, Thomas was recommended for detention pending sentencing.

Defense attorney Ron Harrison said he disagreed with the probation officer’s calculations, but that he and his client decided it was the best course of action to be detained following Tuesday’s hearing, and so Thomas was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals.