Crime

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Suspect in bicyclist case arrested; girlfriend charged with evidence tampering

Posted By on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 9:10 AM

Atlanta Police early this morning arrested the man accused of intentionally striking a bicyclist in Piedmont Heights, leaving him severely injured and outraging the bicycling community. An APD spokeswoman confirms that says police officers arrested Joseph Alan Lewis, 19, at the Zone 2 precinct around 1:30 a.m..

The arrest follows last night's announcement by police that Lewis owned the red Dodge Nitro that struck bicyclist Greg Germani on June 9 while he was pedaling in northeast Atlanta. Though it is not yet confirmed what charges Lewis will face, police last night said the suspect was wanted for criminal attempt to commit murder and serious injury with a vehicle.

APD Lt. Rod Woody last night also said police have arrested Shanelle Woodard, who they say is Lewis' girlfriend, for tampering with evidence in the case.

The bicycling community and supporters of Germani, the creator of the popular Atlanta Time Machine website, helped raise more than $30,000 to build a reward fund. Woody says a tip provided to Crime Stoppers helped lead them to the Nitro on June 23. The information allowed officers to "locate and collect a good amount of evidence from that vehicle," which was parked at an apartment complex located near the crime scene.

Over the past few weeks, CL has received numerous inquiries about the case's progress, especially after officers located the Nitro. Woody says two detectives have spent the past 37 days working "nonstop" on the case. The detectives had to collect evidence and follow leads before moving forward, he says.

Last night, Woody said APD thought Lewis was in the area and knew that law enforcement authorities were looking for him. The department urged him to head to the nearest precinct and turn himself in.

Germani is currently recovering at a private hospital. According to a Facebook update by his girlfriend, he has limited speech abilities at the moment. Friends and supporters have organized an Aug. 2 benefit for Germani at the Star Bar.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

DragonCon co-founder's social media activities to get closer look by Gwinnett DA

Posted By on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Ed Kramer in 2008
Last we heard from Ed Kramer, the DragonCon co-founder was under house arrest in Duluth as part of a plea deal that ended a long legal battle related to child molestation charges.

Recently, the sci-fi aficionado, who last year finally severed all ties with the popular Labor Day weekend convention, started using social media, including Twitter. A comics website wrote about Kramer's new online profile. Now Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter says he plans to examine Kramer's activities on the sites. Reports Tyler Estep of the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Representing himself as a Brooklyn, N.Y.,-based editor, writer and producer, Kramer has tweeted more than 50 times recently, primarily sharing links to news stories covering topics like human rights, jury bias and social media best practices.

As of Wednesday, he followed more than 1,900 people — including a Twitter user who identified herself as a 14-year-old girl from Brisbane, Australia.

That, Porter confirmed Wednesday, could represent a violation of the plea agreement, which bars Kramer from having any contact “either direct or indirect with any person under the age of 16.”

“(It’s) certainly possible,” Porter said in an email. “I’m looking into this.”

Violating the agreement, Estep says, could result in Kramer serving 60 years in prison. We reached out to a phone number connected with McNeill Stokes, the attorney who represented Kramer. We'll update if we hear word.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Transgender woman attacked in L5P, video shows (Update)

Posted By on Thu, Jul 3, 2014 at 4:05 PM

A video that circulated on social media last night showing a man push and stomp on an apparent transgender woman in Little Five Points has people calling for action and Atlanta Police looking for more information.

The short video is one of several of an apparent altercation that took place outside Stratosphere Skateboards and Aurora Coffee on Moreland Avenue. The clips were posted on Tuesday night by Vine user TriAngle SquarE and can be viewed here. The Georgia Voice's Patrick Saunders has also spliced together the videos. (Warning: The clips contain language and violence.)

In the clips, the victim appears to be arguing with a group of unidentified people. The final video depicts an unidentified male shoving her to the ground and then stomping at least once on her face or her shoulder. It is unclear what happens afterward. Twitter user "8081Meel" clams he witnessed the incident:


CL Music Editor Chad Radford was working in the coffee shop when the verbal dispute began but did not witness the physical assault. He said he later saw the victim walking near Findley Plaza and asking people for change.

We should note, as Project Q did, that we don't know the victim's name at the moment or if the person identifies as transgender. An email to Stratosphere Skateboards has not been returned. An employee of Junkman's Daughter told the Georgia Voice that the woman might have been homeless.

The man who shot the video, who asked to be identified only by his Vine account name "TriAngle SquarE," tells CL that he thinks the incident was not rooted in trans-misogyny.

"I believe the videos are out of context and make it look much more intense than it actually was," he says. "It had nothing to do with a man or woman. It had nothing to do with bullying."

Continue reading »

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

APD, family seek help in student murder case

Posted By on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Darius Bottoms grandmother Lenora Flanagan and mother Myeka Jennings are pleading with the public for tips about his murder.
  • Maggie Lee
  • Darius Bottoms' grandmother Lenora Flanagan and mother Myeka Jennings are pleading with the public for tips about his murder.
Atlanta Metropolitan College student Darius Bottoms stopped his white Hyundai Elantra short of the crosswalk at the intersection of Sells Avenue and Legacy Drive in southwest Atlanta at around 4:15 a.m. on June 13, and asked his passenger if he knew the man in the crosswalk. The passenger didn't. Neither did Bottoms. The 18-year-old decided to turn and drive the other way. He put the car in reverse, but never made the turn. Multiple gunshots were fired at the vehicle; the one that pierced the windshield killed Bottoms. Atlanta Police need assistance finding answers.

"We want the public's help," said Atlanta Police Department Detective David Quinn. "We have leads, we have people that have come forward, people that are scared for their lives that are talking to us in clandestine places all over this city. We feel we're getting close, but we need that extra hook."

Even in the predawn time of the murder, said Quinn, someone had to have seen something. Right now, they don't have a description of the gunman who shot Bottoms, whose aunt is Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms.

"My grandson never hurt anybody," said a tearful Lenora Flanagan, pleading for anyone with a tip to speak up and lamenting the frequency of shootings in Atlanta.

"Something's got to happen," she said. "The good children are being taken away and the bad ones are going to jail, and that's not right. It's a genocide of our young men."

Anyone with any information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477. Crime Stoppers passes the information on to the police and callers can remain anonymous. A reward of up to $2,000 is available for information leading to an indictment.

"We want you to say, 'Not another Atlanta youth gets killed this summer,'" said Quinn.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Did APD locate vehicle involved in bicyclist assault?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Greg Germani, seen while exploring the city by bike and photographing locations for the Atlanta Time Machine, in 2005
  • CL File
  • Greg Germani, seen while exploring the city by bike and photographing locations for the Atlanta Time Machine, in 2005
Atlanta Police last night impounded a red sports utility vehicle that matches the description of the car that they say intentionally hit bicyclist Greg Germani in northeast Atlanta on June 9.

According to APD spokesman John Chafee, investigators were following up on a tip when they located a red Dodge Nitro - the same vehicle that police say struck Germani, the creator of the popular Atlanta Time Machine website. The SUV also had damage on the vehicle, investigators say.

"Our crime scene unit has processed the vehicle for evidence and we are working to determine whether this is the suspect vehicle or not," Chafee said.

Police say Germani was pedaling in Piedmont Heights when he was struck by a red SUV after he and the driver had a verbal altercation. The bicyclist sustained a brain injury, among other injuries. Since then he's been in stable condition in Grady Memorial Hospital surrounded by family. The bicycling community and other supporters have demanded justice and helped push a reward fund to nearly $30,000.

The APD spokesman did not have details on where the SUV showed damage. He also said APD had not yet said where the Nitro was found. However, WAGA-TV's Morse Diggs says the vehicle was found inside the parking garage of an apartment complex near Piedmont Heights. Diggs' video shows the Nitro with damage to its hood. He also reports that residents told him they recall the SUV, which had no license plates when it was towed, having Michigan tags.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reward to find driver of SUV that allegedly struck bicyclist grows to nearly $17,000

Posted By on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Greg Germani, seen while biking and photographing the city for his website the Atlanta Time Machine, in 2006
  • CL File
  • Greg Germani, seen while exploring the city by bike and photographing locations for the Atlanta Time Machine, in 2005
The reward fund to find the driver whom police say intentionally hit bicyclist Greg Germani has swelled to nearly $17,000.

In the days since Germani, the creator of the Atlanta Time Machine website, was struck in Piedmont Heights, more than 150 people have contributed to the fund aimed at generating leads in the Atlanta Police Department's search for the suspect.

On June 9, police say, Germani was intentionally struck while pedaling in the northeast Atlanta neighborhood by a red Dodge Nitro after he and the vehicle's driver had a verbal dispute. Germani ultimately become wedged under another vehicle, where he was left with serious injuries. The early evening incident sparked an intense call by the community to locate the driver of the SUV, whom witnesses described as a black male under the age of 30.

Germani was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he was last reported in stable condition. Greg's brother J.R. Germani told CL on Tuesday night that he's being treated for a brain injury and fractured vertebrate. In addition, Germani suffered a broken nose and "a couple" of broken ribs.

"It's been a long haul. A long arduous process," he said.

Germani's girlfriend Beth Ann Harrill is posting updates to her Facebook page and Atlanta Time Machine's community page on the social network.

In Harrill's most recent update, she says Germani is surrounded by cards and letters and that his family is trying to create an environment that "reminds Greg of all the things he loves." That includes "family photos, a Ray Price album cover... and a truly remarkable painting of a clown (flea market buy)" that Germani keeps in his workspace.

Reaction to Germani's injuries has been "overwhelmingly positive," his brother says. He thanked the website's fans, Germani's friends, and the community for the support, including the people who sprang to Greg's rescue.

"We're lucky it happened on a street with a lot of obviously caring people," he said. "A lot of them get lost in shuffle with all of this."

An APD spokesman said the investigation remains open and that officers have received - and are following up on - a number of tips. Police anyone with information that could help to contact Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-TIPS. He or she can remain anonymous.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Update: Death-row inmate Marcus Wellons executed following last-minute delays, emergency appeals

Posted By on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 at 12:16 AM

Georgia death-row inmate Marcus A. Wellons has been killed in the nation's first execution conducted since a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma two months ago.

The Georgia Department of Corrections declared that Wellons had died at 11:56 p.m. late Tuesday night at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Jackson, Ga., located nearly 50 miles southeast of Atlanta.

DOC officials had originally scheduled the 59-year-old prisoner's execution for 7 p.m. last night. But minutes before his scheduled death, Wellons' attorneys Gerald King and Mary Elizabeth Wells filed several requests for a stay of execution with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a stay of execution given the "troubling and substantial constitutional issues" surrounding the case. Georgia officials had also submitted paperwork requesting that the court rule against the inmate's petitions.

More than three hours later, Wellons' lawyers informed news outlets that the U.S. Supreme Court denied the inmate's stay request. Without the court's intervention, Georgia's corrections department proceeded with his execution - the first to take place in the country since Oklahoma prison officials bungled the lethal injection of death-row inmate Clayton Lockett on April 29.

DOC officials lethally injected Wellons using pentobarbital that was obtained from a compounding pharmacy. His execution marked Georgia's first state-authorized killing since a law passed in 2013 that allowed the state's corrections department to keep secret the identity of its drug suppliers.

In 1993, Wellons was found guilty of raping and murdering of India Roberts, a 15-year-old high school sophomore who lived near his girlfriend's home in Cobb County, 25 years ago.

Wellons tried to appeal the execution through several different legal avenues. But his lawyers' efforts ultimately fell short. He was denied clemency on Monday. The Supreme Court of Georgia yesterday denied both a stay of execution and a motion to intervene in the appeal of death-row inmate Warren Lee Hill.

"He's believing that God is going to intervene and that's the hope that we all have," Dwight Wellons, his youngest brother, told NBC News yesterday.

Less than an hour before his scheduled death, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an emergency appeal that attempted to challenge Georgia's controversial lethal injection secrecy law. His lawyers argued that the state's failure to provide that information about his execution drugs violated Wellons' Eighth Amendment rights to avoid cruel and usual punishment. Charles Wilson, one of the courts judges, expressed his "serious concerns" about the secrecy law following Lockett's mishandled death.

"Appellees refuse to disclose the provenance - and true nature - of the substance with which they will inject Mr. Wellons to end his life," King and Wells wrote. "Nor will they confirm the qualifications of the personnel whom they have delegated to carry out his execution, including those who will place the catheters into his veins."

Following his death, media witnesses told reporters that nothing appeared to have went wrong with Wellons' execution aside from one guard fainting. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Adam Ragusea reported that lethal injection observers said the procedure took a longer than expected and noticed Wellons twitch one time.

Two other death-row inmates, John Winfield in Missouri and John Ruthell Henry in Florida, are scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Surveillance video shows vehicle that allegedly hit bicyclist

Posted By on Fri, Jun 13, 2014 at 1:52 PM

Atlanta Police have released a short home surveillance video that they say shows the red Dodge Nitro that they think intentionally hit bicyclist Greg Germani in Piedmont Heights on Monday evening. APD investigators think Germani and the driver, who has been described only as a black male under the age of 30, had a verbal dispute before he was struck and seriously injured by the car.

Germani was last reported in stable condition at Grady Memorial Hospital.

People with any information about the case can contact the Crime Stoppers Atlanta tip line at 404-577-TIPS (8477) or online at www.crimestoppersatlanta.org. You can also text CSA and the tip to CRIMES (274637), APD says.

"Persons do not have to give their name or any identifying information to be eligible for the reward of up to $2,000 for the arrest and indictment of the suspects," police say.

Another fund has been set up in cooperation with neighborhood residents to raise even more cash to find the suspect, Decaturish reports. The initial fundraising goal is $5,000 but could increase.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Q&A with Peggy Denby as Midtown public-safety advocate rides into sunset

Posted By on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 12:51 PM

Earlier this month, the Midtown Ponce Security Alliance announced that Peggy Denby and her husband Don Jones, two of the key leaders of the public-safety organization, were retiring after more than 10 years of fighting prostitution, drug dealers, and homelessness in the neighborhood. Denby has earned applause for helping cracking down on crime - and taken her share of criticism for some of her views and MPSA's aggressive approach to combatting crime. CL's Maggie Lee spoke with Denby about her work, critics, and what still needs to be done. This interview has been edited and condensed.

CL: You moved to Midtown in 2001 and started the MPSA in 2003. Why?

D: Because of what we saw here.

CL: Describe that for me.

D: The streets were filled with hookers and drug dealers, and I mean literally filled with them 24/7. Which was somewhat disconcerting, having moved from another part of town where we didn't, I'd never seen any of that. It took us a while to figure what it was, then we had to decide what we were going to do about it.

CL: So why did you decide to take the approach you did with this organization you started?

D: We had two choices. One was to leave but we wanted to be here, we liked the area until we saw all that ... So we found out about a security group ... We started going to those and there were a lot of people there and we realized everybody was aware of all these problems but didn't know exactly what to do about it. And from those meetings came the idea to form an organization where we could collect money and hire off-duty police officers so that's what we decided to do: to come up with the 501(c)4. The rest is history as they say.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Community seeks solutions, healing after attack on two transgender women

Posted By on Wed, Jun 4, 2014 at 12:15 PM

I think there is a stereotype, theres prejudice around folks that dont fit within a box or who dont look the way society says, says Everette Thompson, an activist for transgender equality.
  • Maggie Lee
  • "I think there is a stereotype, there's prejudice around folks that don't fit within a box or who don't look the way society says," says Everette Thompson, an activist for transgender equality.
In the wake of a MARTA attack that left one transgender woman naked and the unwilling star of a viral video, a group of activists that seeks a safe environment and good policing for all Atlantans is renewing its call, this time on behalf of people like Janell Crosby.

"There's things the community can do, but also there's things we want to put forth ... that the city, MARTA and APD can do," said Everette Thompson of the Solutions not Punishment Coalition, or SNaP Co, ahead of a Tuesday night forum at the Philip Rush Center in Candler Park attended by about 70 people.

Crosby and friend Tyra Woods were victims of an attack captured on cell phone video on May 20 on a MARTA train. SNaP Co, which fights for street-level survival sex workers, with special attention to transgender persons caught in the business, called the MARTA attack a "horrifying display of transphobia and violence."

MARTA Police made no arrests on the scene but have since arrested two men and charged them with disorderly conduct. They've also been suspended from the transit system.

SNaP Co is specifically agitating against any kind of long jail sentence if the charged men are found guilty, preferring restorative justice. Discussion on Tuesday night centered more on how to make all Atlantans, especially transgender persons, feel assured of professional policing and simply welcome in the city and on the train.

"Rather than picking up the cell phone and videotaping it for Worldstar, what can we do?" said Simaya Fogle of Atlanta, one of the attendees at the forum. She and others suggested trans and non-trans solidarity, via a campaign, or training for people who want to help - but don't know how - when they see anti-trans harassment.

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