Author: Jason Johnson

Atmore woman files protection order against Steve Nodine

A woman in Atmore has filed a restraining order against embattled former Mobile County Commissioner Stephen Nodine after he allegedly attempted to contact her in ways that were annoying, harassing, stalking and threatening. The “petition for protection from abuse” was filed by a woman named Tina M. Canterbury in Circuit Court of Escambia County on Thursday. In the document, Canterbury indicated she was in a “former dating relationship” with Nodine. While there aren’t many details in the document, Canterbury claimed Nodine contacted her via text message on several occasions to let her know he was “in Atmore” and had...

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Teen charged in 2015 shooting gets 25 years

After pleading guilty to attempted murder in the 2015 shooting of a random motorist on Dauphin Street, 17-year-old Michael Williams was sentenced to 25 years in state prison Thursday. Williams was one of seven juvenile suspects who was charged in relation to the shooting of Maria Williamson, 26, who reported being ambushed by a group of young males near the interaction of Dauphin and Monterrey while she was driving home from work in June 2015. One of the two suspects tried as adults for their role in the attempted carjacking, Williams was identified as the shooter and has since...

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MPD officer dies in single-vehicle accident

It’s been a difficult day for police officers in Mobile after losing one of their own to a single-vehicle accident in the early hours of Thursday morning. Chief Lawrence Battiste confirmed earlier that Sgt. Jeremy Franks — a 19-year veteran of the Mobile Police Department — lost his life in an accident on Tanner Williams Road sometime around 1 a.m., Oct. 19. He was not on duty at the time. “[Sgt. Franks] always served with dignity and pride, and he represented his city and this department extremely well,” Battiste said. “He really helped this department grow and move in...

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MCPSS mulls ‘open zone’ school at Murphy High

The Mobile County Public School System is weighing an idea to convert Murphy High School into an “open zone” school — opening up the midtown institution to children across the county while limiting the population based on academic performance and conduct. While no proposal has been finalized, school officials believe repurposing Murphy as a school focused on college prep could attract students throughout the district while diverting others to schools in the heart of Mobile plagued with stagnant or declining enrollment. “There’s a lot of movement right now out to the rim of the city,” Superintendent Martha Peek said. “Population...

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Nick Matranga seeks dismissal from predecessor’s lawsuit

When former Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie was convicted of improperly disseminating the email addresses of tens of thousands of local motorists, the decision required a jury to find that she did so while acting as an employee of the state of Alabama. In fact, one of the ways Hastie attempted to appeal her conviction was by arguing that federal prosecutors failed to prove she was an agent of the state during her trial — an idea the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has since rejected. While Hastie’s criminal cases are over, she still faces a pending class action lawsuit brought on behalf of motorists whose email addresses she turned over to Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s campaign in 2013. When it was filed in 2015, the lawsuit named Hastie as a defendant both as an individual and in her official capacity as the license commissioner. Now Mobile County Revenue Commissioner, Hastie is still named individually but the official capacity claim was inherited by her successor, current License Commissioner Nick Matranga. As is usual in claims against public officials, Matranga quickly sought to be dismissed from the lawsuit. In response, the plaintiffs’ attorneys have argued that Matranga is not an employee of the state but of the Mobile County Commission, which — unlike employees of the state — can be sued in federal court and could potentially have a financial liability...

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Family critical of MPD investigation into bizarre death

Mobile Police have concluded their investigation into the death of a man found deceased in a car owned by a local attorney, but with autopsy and toxicology reports pending, 28-year-old Garrett Smith’s family has been critical of the department’s handling of the investigation. Smith was found in the driver’s seat of a dark gray BMW 328i parked along the side of the road near the intersection of Dauphin Island Parkway and Magnolia Lane Aug. 14. The car belonged to criminal defense attorney Michael Wing, who was seen traveling with Smith the day he died. Garrett Smith’s brother, Michael Smith, previously expressed concern over a number of perplexing details about Garrett’s death. In addition to the location where his body was found, Garrett didn’t have on shoes and didn’t have his keys, his wallet or the cellphone he normally “didn’t go anywhere without,” according to his brother. There’s been no confirmation of where Wing was when first responders found Smith’s body in his car, but a passerby named Pamela Wallace described a man around Wing’s age with a similar white hair color as being “kind of hysterical” when she happened upon the scene. A police report indicated Wing’s BMW was collected at the scene along with a laptop and “a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana.” While an attorney representing Wing has previously said he cooperated with investigators, he...

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Courts warn funding cuts could have ‘frightening consequences’

Last month, Mobile County set aside nearly $400,000 to cover funding shortfalls in local courtrooms over the next year — a voluntary appropriation to a state function that will keep one of Alabama’s busiest judicial circuits from losing 35 percent of its staff … for now. Despite the names, Mobile County’s District and Circuit Courts are state entities that employ state personnel who process criminal and civil actions for the state. Alabama’s 41 judicial circuits — including the 13th Circuit in Mobile — are overseen by the Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) and their funding is derived primarily from appropriations...

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Alabama settles Gulf State Park lawsuit

After nearly three years in court, the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) has settled the lawsuit it filed against the state of Alabama over its use of $58 million of BP monies to rebuild a hotel and “convention center” at the Gulf State Park in Baldwin County. Specifically, the lawsuit was filed against trustees representing a number of federal departments tasked with approving early restoration projects for Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) funds after the 2010 oil spill. In their most recent decision, the trustees allocated $58.5 million to the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project. Of that, around $48 million...

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