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Stories Written by Patsy R. Brumfield
Sometimes opportunity just comes out of the blue.
Today, I move on to a new adventure.
It all started late this fall, when I talked to my boss, editor Lloyd Gray, about creeping thoughts of retirement.
While I retain those amazing 40-something looks, the real clock on the wall says something rather different.
Lloyd, I said to him, I thought I’d wait until I’m 66, but now, I’m thinking I’ll do this at 65, which means this summer. He took it pretty well although he was a little surprised. People like you don’t retire, he said he suspected about me.
Noooooo, I said. I’ve got a son and daughter-in-law in Jackson, a daughter and almost son-in-law in New Orleans, and my sister’s in Pensacola. I’d like to get closer to them and maybe work part time for some Journal enterprise down in our Capital City, I suggested.
When I ran into some friends at a pre-Thanksgiving wedding, one thing led to another, which led to my contacting an old friend who was working on a project for something good.
He was entirely surprised that I would relocate to Jackson, but I told him that for the right cause, I was ready to pack and drive.
Ultimately, he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. What we’ll be doing is in its early development, but I’m excited and you’ll be hearing more about it as it grows from a flower into a strong, handsome tree in the coming months.
Of course, that means I am leaving good friends and other good folks I’ve come to know in the past 101⁄2 years in Tupelo. There are many good times to remember, and I hope, dear readers, you feel much the same way.
I’ll miss my friends at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, and I’ll especially miss the wonderful men at Goodyear on West Main Street, where they have taken scrupulous care of me and my Honda Fit. One of them was kind enough to recommend a colleague and his shop in Jackson, when I need more oil and tires.
The missing list includes my best buddy, Pamela, my sweet neighbor, Tina, and the kind folks at MidSouth Nursery, who’ve carried me through all my gardening days here.
Of course, I won’t forget my colleagues at the Daily Journal and all the fine work we’ve done together.
I’m grateful to Lloyd and our big-boss Clay Foster for allowing me to sink my teeth into serious subjects. And I deeply appreciate all the judges who’ve granted me and the Journal permission to bring our laptop computers into the courtrooms to provide our readers with in-depth coverage about cases. I hope the Journal will continue to promote that kind of reporting.
And so, it’s with a bit of a heavy heart that I wave “adieu,” safe journey, to you from my Thursday column. New Year’s Day was my last day on the job.
But take heart in knowing I’ll be around and certainly through here on occasions across the next couple of years to bring you information about my adventure.
Have a very Happy New Year, and many more happy years to come.
Patsy R. Brumfield goes off intothe Mississippi sunset today,but you can still reach her at email@example.com and read her blog, “Southfacin’ Cook,” on www.newinnola.com.
AMORY – A lawsuit over Amory Public Schools’ student drug testing was settled recently, attorneys for both sides confirm.
Last June, the parents of a 13-year-old female sued the schools with claims she was wrongly identified as positive for using crystal methamphetamine.
A federal judge granted them a temporary restraining order on the girl’s suspension from athletics and ordered her immediate re-testing.
Jamie Franks of Tupelo, who represented the parents and their daughter, said he was pleased with the resolution of the complaint.
“It’s something everybody can live with,” Franks said. “We hope this will get their attention as far as their drug testing goes.”
With the district, co-defendants were school board members and Advanced Screening Solutions LLC, which handled test analysis.
The parents’ names were not used in the federal action because it immediately would identify the minor daughter. On the lawsuit, they were identified as “T.P. and C.H.” parents of “G.H.”
In their motions to the court, they insisted their daughter had “never used or been exposed to” crystal meth.
They complained their daughter was denied her rights to due process and security against unreasonable searches when she was selected for testing under the school’s policy of random checks for extracurricular activity participants.
Brad Dillard of Tupelo, who represented the defendants, said he could not comment directly about the lawsuit’s outcome, but noted “the case was resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all parties involved.”
It officially was dismissed Monday by U.S. District Chief Judge Michael P. Mills.
By Patsy R. Brumfield
TUPELO – When an Elvis impersonator gets accused of mailing poison-laden letters to President Obama and two other elected officials, regional and national media come running.
This past April, that’s exactly what happened in Northeast Mississippi.
Reporters packed the Oxford federal courtroom to hear federal prosecutors explain why Paul Kevin Curtis of Corinth should be held for trial.
They insisted he’d mailed threatening letters containing ricin, driven by his frustrations over not being taken seriously about his personal investigation into an alleged body parts trafficking conspiracy he claimed operated out of Tupelo’s North Mississippi Medical Center.
In the end, the government couldn’t prove any connection between Curtis and the poison ricin, which was discovered in letters mailed from Tupelo to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland.
When they had to turn Curtis loose, he told them they should look at his arch rival, Tupelo martial arts instructor J. Everett Dutschke.
Today, 42-year-old Dutschke passes time in a Lafayette County jail cell, awaiting a May trial on multiple counts in the letter scheme, as well as allegedly trying to frame Curtis.
He says he is not guilty.
The stranger-than-fiction tale prompted scores of news stories and TV newscasts. One especially lengthy feature in “GQ” magazine even got state Rep. Steve Holland in hot water with an interview laced with expressive profanities and other colorful language.
Democrat Holland is the son of the justice court judge and successfully ran for re-election opposed by Republican Dutschke in 2007.
While various layers of this hard-to-believe story may not rank high in historical significance during 2013, it was by far the most talked-about.
As 2014 approaches, Curtis continues to pursue legal action against Dutschke and wants monetary damages from the government for ruining his reputation and his personal property during investigative searches.
TUPELO – A man whose federal conviction was tossed because his constitutional rights were violated in a drug case is suing Tupelo, Lee County and others for damages.
Attorneys for Kermit Omar Rogers claim he is owed financial damages after he was arrested by officers whose search warrant did not give them permission onto his property or into his vehicle.
Earlier this week, Rogers sued the city of Tupelo, Lee County, Sheriff Jim Johnson, North Mississippi Narcotics Unit, Sheriff’s officer Samuel T. Warren and former Tupelo narcotics unit officer Paul Howell.
None of the lawsuit defendants has yet responded because the action was filed so recently.
Rogers spent 1,375 days in jail before his 2010 conviction was overturned in early 2013. Some $27,000 was seized from him and his property auctioned without giving him a chance to redeem it, he claims.
After Rogers appealed his conviction on possession of more than 50 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new hearing before U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills in Oxford.
Mills determined that authorities violated Rogers’ constitutional rights to due process and protections against illegal searches and seizures, false imprisonment and conspiracy to interfere.
Rogers sued Tupelo and Lee County claiming law enforcement agencies failed to properly train and/or supervise their officers involved in his search and arrest.
He also claims that Warren and Howell violated state laws against trespass, defamation, outrage and infliction of emotional distress.
His lawsuit seeks actual damages, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as court costs and attorneys fees.
By Patsy R. Brumfield
OXFORD – Harvey Franklin, Greenville’s former superintendent of schools, was ordered to report to prison by Jan. 6 for his guilty plea in a contract bribery scheme.
The report notice came earlier this week from the clerk’s office for the U.S. District Court in north Mississippi.
Franklin, 56, will begin serving his 76-month sentence at the prison camp at Montgomery, Ala.
He pleaded guilty Aug. 2 to three counts of conspiracy to receive a bribe while he was the school district’s top officer.
Prosecutors claimed he received nearly $273,000 in benefits from a Georgia businesswoman, whose company had a reading contract with the school system.
The woman received a six-month house arrest sentence after Franklin reportedly decided not to testify against her at trial and the government was forced into a plea deal with her.
This was my Christmas that almost wasn’t.
Yeah, I know it’s not all about the gifts. It’s about the Baby Jesus and his life for our sins. That’s a big deal.
But it’s also about sharing happiness and the fellowship of family around the lighted tree. And the laughs we get from the presents, which are just plain personal and not lavish.
And so it was with great horror that I returned home days ago to find my holiday-bedecked home the scene of a domestic invasion.
Not only had they violated my space, but they also had taken all the Christmas presents, my TV, DVD player, Keurig coffeemaker – even my garden tiller.
Tupelo Police immediately came to my aid. I compiled a detailed list of what I believed was gone, wept all the next day (thankfully a Saturday) and over a teacup of Bailey’s and soothing tones from “The Commodores.” Then I got mad.
“I’ll be danged if I’m going to let a couple of hooligans ruin our Christmas,” I told my adult children.
Yet, I never expected to see any of the stuff again.
That is, until last Wednesday, when Tupelo Police Detective Matthew Wigginton called to say he thought they’d found it.
The next day, when I joyously reclaimed my property, I realized, by gum, they had recovered virtually everything I’d lost except for some piddling jewelry and an assortment of alcoholic beverages.
I even discovered some items I hadn’t realized were gone, like the pair of beautiful Waterford champagne flutes given to me by my tasteful pal, Pamela.
Wigginton and Sheriff’s Investigator Len Schaefer helped me load the goods into my car.
Schaefer also told me the story of how the trio was apprehended. Apparently, their strong detective work tracked these folks from Macedonia to Itawamba County and Nettleton to Shannon.
There was my stuff and a lot of other folks’, too.
Usually, I tend to give suspects some benefit of the doubt, but heck, these people clearly took my stuff. They didn’t pick it up at a yard sale.
Apparently, they also have a bit of a drug problem, which hopefully the corrections system will help them lick. They certainly are likely to have sufficient time to do so before rejoining society.
I must repeat: I never expected to see my stuff again. I was over that hope, but I was really upset that these scoundrels had deprived me of the joy of seeing the look on my kids’ faces when they opened my gifts. They weren’t anything spectacular, but they were very personal.
“They’ve taken away my fun,” I told my sister, weeping bitterly the day after it happened.
Well, thanks to the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and Tupelo Police Department, my fun is restored and we spent a joyful Christmas together, as I hope all of you did.
Truly, Christmas isn’t all about the stuff.
But there is that element of joy from the giver that makes the giving special. To be deprived of that joy is hurtful.
Thanks to our intrepid law enforcement guys and gals, my hurt was cast aside and joy filled the hole.
I hope your Christmas was just as happy.
Patsy R. Brumfield writes a Thursday column. Contact her at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christmas season is a time of joy for so many of us.
Of course, a lot of folks aren’t so fortunate, especially the prisoners in our state facilities.
Naturally, being in prison is not a good thing. It is punishment, although sometimes it may look like too much punishment.
All cases are not the same, I know.
One small but important joy for some of these prisoners has been a program they call “conjugal visits,” through which for good behavior, certain prisoners can have regular, private visits from their spouses.
They only have an hour and it’s hardly the Beau Rivage, but it is what it is and certainly you’ve got to figure that they are happy for the fellowship.
Years ago, I had a friend who worked in the Mississippi prison system and he told me about one female prisoner, who’d been married 13 times.
She was incarcerated for killing her 11th husband.
Yes, she’d been married twice while incarcerated. That seems a little difficult, but somehow, she managed.
I don’t know what happened to this misguided woman, but she apparently admitted to convincing her latest-at-the-time husband to take out a small life insurance policy, for which she was the beneficiary.
Then, she proceeded to exercise such vigorous “conjugal visits” that the poor man died of a heart attack.
From what I heard, the pair claimed to take great interest in traveling and hiking through the American wilderness, even though they’d never set foot outside a prison as a married couple.
Fact is stranger than fiction.
These prisoners obviously look forward to holiday visits with their loved one.
But this week, Corrections chief Chris Epps announced – for budgetary reasons – these private visits will cease Dec. 31.
So much for a Happy New Year!
He insists that for the very few prisoners eligible for these visits, it’s just costing too much staff time.
From the side view, Epps is getting ahead of at least one legislator, who planned to try to shut down the visits.
The solon voiced strong feelings about pregnancies from these little rendezvous, despite the MDOC’s best efforts at birth control.
Experts say that if we’d spend a little more up front and ensure solid educational experiences for all our kids, fewer of them would wind up in trouble.
Turns out that we’re spending more on prisons that we do on fulfilling our community responsibilities to help raise up all our kids.
There’s a moral there. We should talk about this some more.
In the meantime, these state prisoners are finding coal in their Christmas stockings instead of that “visit” reward.
No more chestnuts roasting on an open fire, at state expense.
Patsy R. Brumfield writes aThursday column. Contact her at email@example.com or(662) 678-1596. Check out her recipes on her “Southfacin’ Cook” blog @www.newinnola.com or follow heron Twitter @Realnewsqueen.
By Patsy R. Brumfield
OXFORD – Jackson attorney Debra Brown was sworn in today as Mississippi’s first African American female federal district judge.
She took her oath administered by Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills at the U.S. Courthouse in Oxford.
Brown, a 49-year-old Yazoo City native, succeeds W. Allen Pepper Jr., who died suddenly in January 2012.
She will preside over the Greenville federal courthouse.
Brown was appointed last May by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate a few months ago.
The post is a lifetime appointment and pays $174,000 a year. She joins Mills in Oxford and Judge Sharion Aycock in Aberdeen as a district judge in the northern district.
Brown holds an architecture degree from Mississippi State University and earned her law degree from the University of Mississippi.
She’s been in private practice in Jackson some 16 years after a stint in Washington, D.C.
ABERDEEN – Attorneys for Dr. David Parvin have asked a federal judge to order his release on bond.
Parvin, 76, remains in the Monroe County Jail facing a new murder trial in the 2007 shooting death of his wife, Joyce.
“Parvin is still being imprisoned without a valid conviction,” Tupelo attorney Jim Waide tells U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael P. Mills in a brief supporting the request for bond.
Last April, the retired university economics professor was freed from a life sentence after the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed the expert testimony during his 2011 trial “was speculative and unreliable,” Waide tells the court.
MSSC overthrew Parvin’s conviction and ordered a new trial, but his bond was revoked after Parvin got into an altercation with deputies as he demanded immediate release at the Monroe County Jail.
Parvin’s new trial is expected in May before Judge Paul Funderburk.
The bond appeal to federal court follows Funderburk’s Aug. 27 denial after the state objected to the bail.
Waide tells the court the state has not proved Parvin “a special danger” to anyone and that his continued confinement violates his rights to due process.
He also insists Parvin’s continued incarceration is causing him psychological harm, as well as harms the defense’s ability to prepare for trial.
In November, the Mississippi Supreme Court denied his appeal for bond.
Prior to his 2011 trial, Parvin was free on bond.
TUPELO – Jim Bain, a former pharmacist and ex-Lee County school board member, faces up to 10 years in prison after his guilty plea Monday to selling the painkiller hydrocodone without a prescription.
Bain, 60, appeared before U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock in Aberdeen with his attorney, Ronald Michael of Booneville.
When asked if he had done what prosecutor Clay Dabbs said he did, he responded, “Yes, ma’am.”
Bain pleaded guilty to a one-count information, which is a charge from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, not an indictment, which comes from a grand jury’s hearing evidence from the government.
The difference is that with an information, the person accused and his attorney have an opportunity to work out a plea agreement with prosecutors, sometimes with leniency, rather than facing the brunt of an indictment’s charges.
Bain will not be sentenced for several months until completion of a report to guide Aycock’s decision. After the hearing, he was released on bond.
Dabbs told the court that from 2011 into early 2012, Bain “repeatedly” distributed a mixture containing a Schedule III controlled substance, hydrocodone, to law enforcement officers and a lay person.
The charge at hand stated that on Jan. 15, 2012, Bain sold hydrocodone to an individual on his pharmacy business premises after hours without a prescription, caught on video. The exchange was termed “not for legitimate medical purposes.”
Bain owned a drug store on North Gloster two blocks from the Crosstown intersection, which he had sold but where he continued to work. He ceased his work when he surrendered his pharmacy license in the wake of the federal investigation.
In exchange for his guilty plea, the government agreed not to charge Bain with anything else related to the transactions.
Aycock said the government also will make a recommendation about his sentence but that she is not bound by it.
With his guilty plea, Bain loses his right to vote, to hold public office and possess firearms, among others.
About a dozen family members and friends attended the hearing.
Bain was known as one of the region’s top independent pharmacists and was elected to the Lee County School Board in November 2010.
Speculation about him rose after his sudden resignation from the post in March 2012.