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NFL player visits Head Start students
 lmcdonald  / 

A preschool class at Head Start was interrupted during lunch Monday by a surprise guest.

The young students didn’t seem to mind putting down their forks and abandoning their lunches, though, when Tracy Walker, a defensive back for the NFL Detroit Lions, came towering into the room and greeted the class.

Walker, a Glynn County native and Brunswick High graduate, visited the Head Start location Monday that he too attended long ago, well before he achieved success on the football field.

He read to students and posed for pictures with the classes and with their teachers.

“They definitely enjoyed it,” Walker said afterward. “And I think it’s a blessing to be able to come here and be able to interact with the young kids, and basically seeing where I came from when I was small like that and now seeing where I am.”

Head Start is a federally funded preschool program for 3, 4 and 5 year olds.

Walker, 23, graduated from Brunswick High in 2013 and went on to play college football at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. He started playing for the Detroit Lions in 2018.

His family lives in Glynn County still, and Walker said he rarely has time to come home.

“So when I’m home, I try to make the best of it and utilize my time very wisely,” he said.

His grandmother, Bernadette Humphreys, encouraged Walker to visit his former preschool and spend time with the students.

“She just wanted me to come talk to the kids, so I agreed, to give back,” Walker said. “When I come home, I try to give back in some type of way.”

He hadn’t been back to the Head Start since he was a child, but Walker said he was glad to have the opportunity to put smiles on the students’ faces.

“It was a great thing to do,” he said. “I’m just happy to be able to do the things that I do on a daily basis.”

Glynn County Animal Control personnel assist in Candler County dog hoarding case
 tcooper  / 

Glynn County Animal Control staff answered the call this weekend to help catch and care for more than 160 German Shepherds in Metter.

According to the Candler County Sheriff’s Office, 167 dogs were being kept on a property south of Metter.

“It was a heavily wooded property, and the dogs were in group pens made of chain link fences,” said Glynn County Animal Control Manager Tiffani Hill. “We saw some dog houses and food troughs, and watering utilizing an irrigation-type watering system. However, I know that Atlanta Humane Society and Metter animal control had been going there for a few days to provide care, so I can’t say if that was the condition they found them in.”

Of the 167, 163 were picked up by pet rescue groups, one escaped and three were euthanized, according to the Candler County Sheriff’s Office.

Hill and Glynn County Animal Control officers Gerald Rewis and Daniel Mayne volunteered to help on Sunday. They worked with animal control officers from Chatham, Tattnall and Laurens counties, along with the Atlanta Humane Society.

Aside from some shelter equipment they took with them and brought back — catch poles, leashes, rubber boots and gloves — the trip was an independent enterprise, Hill said.

“We volunteered our time, and we were met by officers from the other counties,” Hill said. “... We have to be careful with how Glynn County resources are used.”

Hill, Rewis and Mayne spent around six hours in Metter, three of those chasing dogs and the rest assisting a veterinarian.

“I would say we spent a total of three hours catching dogs in knee-deep mud,” Hill said. “We helped them to go into the pens and catch the remaining dogs they had not pulled out the night before and assist the veterinarian with the quick (health) assessment and taking photos, and to put them in crates.”

According to Hill, Metter animal control officer Tom Condrey asked for assistance in cleaning up the mess.

“I’ve known Tommy since I first started in animal control 15 years ago,” Mayne said in a news release. “When he called me directly asking for help, I knew we had to go up there.”

In an email to The News, Candler County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Justin Wells said law enforcement found out about the situation when Sheriff John Miles received information that led him to suspect the property owner, Angela Felinda Powell, was allegedly engaging in cruelty to animals.

Miles put investigators on the case, who obtained a warrant and subsequently arrested Powell. She is charged with felony cruelty to animals as of Monday, but more charges are likely on the way, Wells’ email said.

“The case is still very much an active investigation,” Wells said in the email. “We may not know the full extent of the charges until we can get a further grasp on some of the conditions of the animals. However, we fully anticipate more charges on Powell.”

Already, the Atlanta Humane Society has managed to arrange places to send all 163 remaining dogs, said society spokeswoman Christina Hill.

“It’s an incredible outpouring of support from the rescue community to provide a place for those pets to go,” Christina Hill said. “With that many dogs, you can’t house them all in one facility.”

Despite the challenge, Georgia rescues and other humane societies were up to the task. Atlanta’s humane society is still working on a list of the number of groups involved and doesn’t have a final count, but Christina Hill said it was “many, many, many.”

“When we were finally processing the last of them, we had placement for all of those,” she said.

Tiffani Hill vouched for how smoothly finding homes for the dogs went.

“Throughout the whole time we were there, it was very well organized,” Tiffani Hill said. “There was a lot of attention paid to showing compassion to the dogs. We were proud to be asked to be part of the effort. Around 11 o’clock there was a line of trucks of rescue groups waiting to come in and pick up dogs. It was really an amazing sight.”

Seeing all the groups in action, she said, put her somewhat at ease.

“I am very glad that we have not encountered a situation like that in Glynn County, at least not in the history of the shelter I know of. But I know if we do, we’ll get the same response as far as help from out of the area, and that’s comforting,” Tiffani Hill said.

S.C. joins stayed lawsuit against seismic air gun testing
 wwolfe  / 

A lawsuit in federal court in South Carolina — of which Georgia group One Hundred Miles is a plaintiff — continues to see action despite an order in late December that put the matter on hold until the end of the partial federal government shutdown.

Several environmental advocacy groups, including OHM, brought the suit against Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the National Marine Fisheries Service to block Trump administration efforts to open up the Atlantic coast to seismic air gun testing ahead of possible offshore drilling for oil and natural gas.

Monday, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a motion to intervene to bring in the Palmetto State as an intervenor plaintiff in the matter. According to the documents filed by the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, “Seismic air gun surveys would irreparably harm marine life, in large numbers and with a large impact, and the communities and businesses that use and enjoy this marine life and rely on it for their economic livelihoods.

“The seismic surveying authorized by the defendant NMFS is in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.”

Bringing the lawsuit originally, on Dec. 11, were OHM, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, North Carolina Coastal Federation, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, the Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation.

On Dec. 20, several states filed to become intervenor plaintiffs, including Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Virginia. The next day, several companies and industry groups filed a motion to join the suit as intervenor defendants. They include the American Petroleum Institute, CGG Services, GX Technology Corporation, the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, Spectrum Geo, TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company and WesternGeco.

Spectrum Geo, GX Technology Corporation, CGG, TGS-NOPEC and WesternGeco each received authorizations from the federal government in early December to conduct seismic testing. Those authorizations do not become active, however, until the companies advise the government that they would like them to become active. The companies have one year to take advantage of them.

Dec. 21, when the proposed industry intervenors filed, was also the first day of the government shutdown. Attorneys for the NMFS filed a motion to stay the matter until the restoration of funding to the Justice Department and other executive branch agencies.

On Dec. 28, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel ordered the case stayed, adding that once funding is restored, the federal agencies have 13 days to respond to the states’ motion to intervene. Gergel also merged into this case a similar one filed by a number of South Carolina municipalities against Ross and the NMFS.

Gergel has yet to set a deadline to respond to the motions by the proposed industry intervenors or the state of South Carolina, but those deadlines are likely coming after the end of the government shutdown.

Other federal court matters

In cases brought Monday before the U.S. District Court in Brunswick, Paula Padgett received a sentence of three years’ probation after pleading guilty July 12 to one count of making a false statement to a federal health care program.

According to the criminal information document filed against her, and statements made in court, Padgett filed hundreds of medical travel refund requests to the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs at the U.S. Department of Labor from 2013 to 2017, equalling around $21,000.

The actions came to light as part of a massive health care fraud investigation that dealt with 58 federal districts and resulted in 601 charged defendants.

Friends, coworkers and family testifying on Padgett’s behalf talked at length about her trustworthiness, dependability and ethics — that she could be relied on to do the right thing. They also described the number of tragic events in her personal life that she weathered and handled.

The federal prosecutor said that as far as it concerned the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Padgett’s “aberrant conduct” was not consistent with the way she otherwise lived her life, and agreed with the probation officer’s report that she didn’t merit prison time.

U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood explained to Padgett that she was “in very rare company” as one of the few criminal defendants to walk out of that courtroom without having to spend time in prison.

A defendant in another case also didn’t have to go in for prison time, but that was because she already served her sentence awaiting disposition of the case. Amy Manson pleaded guilty Sept. 12 to illegal use of a phone in the Glynn County drug shed matter — Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Josephson said she was recorded making calls to codefendant Kenneth Leon Bradley, and was present with codefendant Troy Crosby for several cocaine deals.

But because her state charges were dropped, Manson spent more than a year in confinement that counted to her federal time. Considering that amount of time served was both within the suggested sentence length and similar to the sentence given to a codefendant facing similar allegations, Manson received a sentence of time served, plus one year supervised release.