TIME georgia

Georgia Man Pleads Guilty to Faking Allergy Tests

(ATLANTA) — The owner of an allergy-testing laboratory near Atlanta has pleaded guilty to faking the results of blood tests for food and environmental allergies.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release Tuesday that 39-year-old Rashaan Jackson Garth pleaded guilty to health-care fraud charges.

Prosecutors say Garth told a technician to not test blood samples that doctors sent to the Polaris Allergy Labs between September 2012 and February 2014. The lab is located in East Point, a city just south of Atlanta.

Prosecutors say Garth was trying to save money by faking the results that were sent back to patients’ doctors. They say Garth billed the patients’ health-care benefit programs despite failing to perform services he charged for.

The news release said no date has been set for Garth’s sentencing.

TIME georgia

Georgia Governor Pushes Trials Of Marijuana Derivative

Georgia Medical Marijuana
Gov. Nathan Deal gives a news conference on clinical trials of a marijuana-derived oil at Children's Hospital of Georgia in Augusta, Ga. on Tuesday, July 8, 2014. Jon-Michael Sullivan—AP

Deal said the Georgia clinical trial would hopefully be up and running by the end of the year or the first part of 2015

(AUGUSTA, Ga.) — Georgia’s governor is pushing clinical trials for a marijuana-derived drug that proponents say could help treat severe seizure disorders among children, an unlikely election-year move for a Republican in a conservative part of the country that is just beginning to warm up to medical marijuana in narrow circumstances.

Since 1996, 23 states around the country and the District of Columbia have legalized comprehensive access to medical marijuana, and two have decriminalized the drug entirely. But the South has largely resisted out of fears it could lead to widespread drug abuse and other social ills.

This year, though, six Southern states adopted laws establishing some limited access to marijuana products that have minimal or no tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes users feel high. A similar effort in Georgia failed on the last day of the legislative session, which prompted Governor Nathan Deal — a Republican up for re-election — to take action to coordinate clinical trial programs in the state.

“We all have to be sensitive to the children who have these seizures, and that is the focal point for all this discussion,” Deal said Tuesday after meeting with various representatives involved in establishing the clinical trials. “I want it to be helpful, not harmful. And I want it to be legal, and that’s why we are taking the steps to make sure we achieve all of those goals.”

Also Tuesday, another conservative state, Utah, issued its first registration card under its limited medical marijuana program geared toward those with severe epilepsy. Under Utah’s program, the marijuana extract known as cannabidiol can only be obtained from other states and with a neurologist’s consent. The extract can be administered orally.

Meanwhile, Washington was at the other end of the spectrum as Tuesday marked the first day residents of that state could buy marijuana legally without a doctor’s note.

In the South, the key to widespread acceptance has been the advocacy of parents who say their children suffering from severe seizure disorders could benefit from the use of the cannabidiol, although scientific research remains limited.

Deal said the science is not settled, which is why the clinical trials are so crucial. Under Georgia’s plan, the state through Georgia Regents University in Augusta will be partnering with London-based GW Pharmaceuticals for an expanded clinical trial. The company also has a research partnership with New York and is conducting trials in several states.

Deal said the Georgia clinical trial would hopefully be up and running by the end of the year or the first part of 2015. A separate clinical trial, which would be state-run, would require FDA approval, and it’s not yet known how long that will take, Deal said.

Valerie Weaver brought her 6-year-old son, Preston, who has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, to the governor’s event at Children’s Hospital of Georgia on the campus of Georgia Regents University. Weaver said she was hopeful the trials could help her son, who suffers from 60 to 80 seizures a day.

“It’s time we get with the program,” Weaver said, noting education is key to broader acceptance. “It’s the Bible Belt. The only thing I can tell people is to educate yourself.”

TIME Bizarre

A Boy Got Booted from a Restaurant Because He Had a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shirt

Is nothing sacred?

A four-year-old boy was kicked out of a restaurant in Georgia for sporting a sleeveless Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt deemed in violation of the “Gentlemen’s Dress Code.”

Lewis Roberts—the reptile ninja in training—chose the outfit for lunch out with the family at the Tavern at Phipps in Atlanta, local news station 11 Alive reports.

The family was told Roberts’ shirt violated dress code and when they protested to the manager that the wee ninja was only four, the manager said the dress code applies to “gentlemen of all ages.”

After being contacted by local media, a spokesman for the restaurant issued a statement clarifying that the “Rule does not apply for children and ladies—for gentleman (sic) only. It was an embarrassing misunderstanding on our part. She’s a manager in training who had a gross misunderstanding of our policy. We apologize and are reaching out to the family.”

The Roberts family was happy to accept the apology and said they’ll dine at the restaurant again.

Turtle power.

[11 Alive]

TIME Crime

Police Say the Hot-Car Toddler Died While His Dad Was Sexting

Justin Ross Harris
Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, sits during his bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court, Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Kelly J. Huff—AP

Detectives say man sent explicit messages to women as son died in car

On Thursday a judge denied bail to Justin Ross Harris, a man whose 22-month-old son died after being left in his hot car, after finding probable cause to charge him with felony murder and child cruelty. Harris, of Cobb County, Georgia, has pleaded not guilty.

At the hearing, detectives shared incriminating evidence that had been found on Harris’ computer, tablet and smartphone. Lead investigator Phil Stoddard testified that Harris had been sending explicit text messages to six different women through an app called Kik — including a picture of his erect penis to a 16-year-old girl — while his son Cooper Harris was trapped in the car for hours and subsequently died. According to Stoddard, Harris may also be charged with sexual exploitation of a minor.

Detectives also found evidence on Harris’ computer that he had been reading articles on a Reddit page called “child-free”— a thread for people who do not have or want children — in the months leading up to the incident. Harris had also twice watched a public-service-announcement video that dramatized the results of leaving an animal in a hot car. The last time it was watched was only five days before his son died on June 18. Detectives say that Internet searches also revealed Harris was looking for tips on how to survive in prison.

Harris’ wife Leanna explained to police that they had watched the video after she saw a public-service announcement reminding parents not to leave children in cars, CNN reported.

During the hearing, detectives also claimed that Harris was exhibiting strange behavior after he had been interrogated. In the interview room, his wife asked him what he told police. “And she looks at him, and she’s like, ‘Well, did you say too much?’” Stoddard testified.

The Cobb County medical examiner’s office has said that Cooper’s cause of death was “consistent with hyperthermia and the investigative information suggests the manner of death is homicide.”

Cooper’s funeral was held in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday.

TIME georgia

Judge Refuses to Grant Bond for Georgia Dad Charged With Murder in Toddler Son’s Hot Car Death

(MARIETTA, Ga.) — Judge refuses to grant bond for Georgia dad charged with murder in toddler son’s hot car death.

TIME Theater

Opera Singer Fired After Homophobic Slurs Posted to Facebook Page

Singer performs during dress rehearsal of Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin at Vienna's State Opera
Singer Tamar Iveri performs on stage as Tatjana during a dress rehearsal of Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin at Vienna's State Opera March 3, 2009. Herwig Prammer—Reuters

She has placed the blame on her "very religious" husband

A seasoned opera singer from Georgia — the country, not the state — has been dropped from a major Australian opera company’s upcoming production of Otello in response to homophobic posts that appeared on her Facebook page.

Eighteen months ago, soprano Tamar Iveri’s account included some choice words regarding an anti-homophobia rally in Tbilisi, the capital of her homeland. These included comparisons between homosexuals and “fecal masses” and praise to compatriots who spat at the parade.

Long story short: a lot of people were upset, and some were upset enough to start an online petition encouraging the Australian government to kick her out of the country, and now Opera Australia has chosen to terminate her contract. She won’t be in next month’s production of Otello in Sydney, and a Brussels-based opera company has also excused her from its production of A Masked Ball next year.

Iveri, meanwhile, maintains her innocence, blaming her “very religious” husband for hacking her Facebook and posting the comments himself.

TIME States

Georgia Toddler Dies in Hot Car

The father of the 22-month-old was supposed to take him to day care on Wednesday, but went straight to work instead, leaving the child strapped in the hot car

An Atlanta-area toddler died Wednesday after being left in a car for hours, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The death comes amid a statewide campaign led by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to prevent child deaths in hot cars over the blazing summers.

The body was found Wednesday afternoon after the child’s father realized the 22-month-old had been strapped in a car seat all day. The dad was supposed to take the child to day care on Wednesday morning, but went directly to work instead. The high in Cobb County, the suburb where the child died, was 100 degrees.

The father stopped at a shopping-center parking lot to seek help, but the child did not survive. Authorities are reportedly questioning the father.

In late May, Deal launched the “Look Again” campaign, a partnership with early-education officials to warn adults that in “minutes the inside of your car can become a death trap for a child.”

[Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

TIME Death Penalty

Georgia Convict First to Be Executed After Botched Oklahoma Lethal Injection

Death row inmate Marcus Wellons is seen in an undated picture from the Georgia Department of Corrections
Death row inmate Marcus Wellons is seen in an undated handout from the Georgia Department of Corrections. Reuters

Convicts in Florida, Georgia and Missouri were set to die within a 24 hour period for the first time since the botched lethal injection in Oklahoma last month

Updated on 06/18/2014 at 12.01 a.m.

(JACKSON, Ga.) — A Georgia inmate became the 1st executed convict in the U.S. since an execution-gone-awry in Oklahoma led to a defacto national moratorium on the practice seven weeks ago. The state used one drug in the execution.

A group of convicts were set to be put to death in three state over the next 24 hours.

With Georgia’s inmate executed, the other convicted killers set to die by lethal injection are from Florida and Missouri.

The states had all refuse to reveal the source of their the drug cocktail to be used in the executions or if those drugs have ben tested. Lawyers for two of the men have challenged the secrecy surrounding the drugs.

States with the death penalty have long grappled with how to continue executing prisoners in a humane way. After the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in late May, human rights activists have upped the urgency of their call to force states to release information about the drugs used to kill prisoners.

In Georgia Tuesday night, Marcus Wellons was scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. ET for raping and murdering his 15-year-old neighbor in 1989. However, two hours later, the Associated Press reported that “officials were waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on an appeal.”

Just after midnight CT, John Winfield, who shot three women in the head in 1996 killing two and blinding the third, is scheduled to be executed in Missouri.

Finally, John Ruthell Henry is set to die at 6:00 p.m. ET in Florida on Wednesday. Henry was convicted of stabbing his estranged wife to death just before Christmas, 1985, then murdering her five-year-old son from a previous marriage days later. Testing has shown that Henry has an IQ of 78, the AP reported. The state says that anyone with an IQ over 70 does not qualify as mentally disabled.

[AP]

 

 

TIME justice

Court: Warrantless Cell Location Tracking Is Unconstitutional

A federal appeals court has for the first time said law enforcement can’t snoop on phone location records without a warrant

A federal appeals court has for the first time ruled that law enforcement must have a warrant in order to track a person’s location data from nearby cell phone towers.

“There is a reasonable privacy interest in being near the home of a lover, or a dispensary of medication, or a place of worship, or a house of ill repute,” the three judges of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a unanimous opinion Wednesday. “That information obtained by an invasion of privacy may not be entirely precise does not change the calculus as to whether obtaining it was in fact an invasion of privacy.”

The ruling is a landmark victory for privacy activists.

“This opinion puts police on notice that when they want to enlist people’s cell phones as tracking devices, they must get a warrant from a judge based on probable cause,” said American Civil Liberties Union Staff Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler. “The court soundly repudiates the government’s argument that by merely using cell a phone, people somehow surrender their privacy rights.”

The case was originally brought in Miami by Quartavious Davis, who is serving more than 160 years in prison for several violent armed robberies. Davis appealed after phone location data was used as evidence in his case, but a judge declined to vacate his sentence, finding that the police acted in “good faith” in their investigation.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet issued a ruling on the question of law enforcement access to suspect cell phone location data. However, in a 2012 opinion — upon which the 11th Circuit judges based their opinion delivered Wednesday — the court found that using a GPS tracking device to follow a suspect’s location does constitute a search and thus Fourth Amendment considerations apply.

TIME Education

This Facebook Post Got 2 Dozen Middle Schoolers Suspended

Georgia students face suspension for commenting on a Facebook post that encouraged breaking the dress code

About two dozen middle school students were suspended over a Facebook post encouraging peers to break their school’s dress code, parents told Atlanta’s WSB-TV 2 News.

A Sunday Facebook suggested that students should violate the dress code by wearing the color red the next day at school. All two dozen students who either shared or commented on the post were suspended, even if they didn’t say they were agreeing to the plan. Some students were given the boot for up to 10 days.

Parents told WSB-TV that “the principal called the students’ actions a terroristic threat.”

School administrators will decide if the suspended students are to be punished further.

[WSB-TV]

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