BOE Investigates allegations of segregation

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Jasper, Georgia – The Pickens Board of Education has made a public statement about allegations from a recent chorus concert.

Pickens Junior High School and Pickens High School chorus groups performed in a joint concert last evening. The district office is aware that some members of the audience have expressed concerns on social media based on their perception that a student was “separated, segregated, and alienated” during the performance.

Superintendent Wilson wants to assure the community and public that the allegations circulating on social media are serious in nature and are being investigated. The district is working with all individuals involved to ensure the concerns are resolved and that any misunderstandings are made clear. We appreciate your patience as we work through this process.

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DA Sosebee begins information campaign in schools

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District Attorney Alison Sosebee speaking to GHS students about Vaping and drug use.

ELLIJAY, Ga – The Appalachian Judicial Circuit’s District Attorney, Alison Sosebee, began her campaign today in Fannin Middle School and Gilmer High School with presentations for students about the rising trend of vaping in all forms.

Speaking to the students she shared some of the responses that authorities have begun included harsher penalties for vape devices in general, not to mention the felonies possible with controlled substances. Using drugs in the vape devices like the popular Juul brand devices is only a part of growing concerns as authorities and administrations fear for students who expect non-nicotine flavored water vapor in devices they may find friends with when in reality these devices could contain anything from Heroin to Synthetic Marijuana.

Sosebee also invited Georgia Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Dustin Hamby to speak about the Bureau’s involvement. Hamby noted that almost 90% of his cases tied to drug usage in some way. He goes on to note that he’s had three murders in his career directly related to drug usage.

Sosebee recalled the story of a case she and Hamby shared about a guy who had taken drugs with a close friend. Under the influence, he grew greatly agitated at his friend and violently murdered him without full realization. He spoke further about how little it takes to blow up into major consequences in situations like vaping unknown substances.

Sosebee also noted that they are finding that many students and users of vape devices believe them safer than regular cigarettes. She noted that not only is there zero research to support his claim, but there is also no research or regulations on vaping devices right now. No one can tell you everything that is in Vape Juice, nor if people at smoke shops are adding extra ingredients. She called the students this generations guinea pigs for testing if vaping as they would be the cases that doctors study thirty years from now to determine the actual effects that Vaping can have in both short-term and long-term effects.

Only the first day, Sosebee is expected to travel to Fannin High, Pickens High, and Pickens Middle schools in the next two weeks along with possibly adding Gilmer Middle as well.

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Sheriff investigates threats at Pickens High School

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JASPER, Ga. – Sheriff’s Detectives worked through the night following a threatening message posted on social media by a Pickens High School student.

According to the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were notified Feb. 21 by a concerned student that one of their classmates had made a threatening post on the social media site Instagram.

The sheriff’s office immediately had detectives on the case investigating the validity of the threat and following up with the student. At this time, Public Information Officer Kris Stancil of the Pickens Sheriff’s Office informs us that the child who made the threat has been taken out of school and the Board of Education “has taken appropriate steps to prevent the student from returning to school.”

However, according to the press release given by the sheriff’s office, no charges have been made yet. The investigation is continuing into this incident to determine if charges will be brought. The sheriff’s office said they will continue to take all threats seriously, even if the threat was made as a joke: “Anytime we are made aware that a threat online or in person has been made, we will investigate it and take all appropriate and necessary steps to prevent an act from occurring.”

The sheriff’s full press release is as follows:

Pickens County Georgia, February 21, 2018: Sheriff’s Detectives worked through the night following a threatening message posted on social media by a Pickens High School student.

On February 21st, deputies were notified by a concerned student that one of their classmates had made a threatening post on the social media site Instagram. Deputies immediately notified detectives and launched an investigation into the validity of the threat.

In addition to working with the student and his parents, Sheriff’s Office staff members have been working closely with the Pickens County Board of Education to ensure that all students are kept safe. In this case, the parents are working closely with investigators as well.

The Board of Education has taken appropriate steps to prevent the student from returning to school at this time. Detectives are also continuing to investigate the case to determine if any criminal charges need to be sought as well.

Threats toward the safety of our kids, even if done as a joke, will not be tolerated by the Pickens Sheriff’s Office or the Pickens County Board of Education. Anytime we are made aware that a threat online or in person has been made, we will investigate it and take all appropriate and necessary steps to prevent an act from occurring.

We are extremely grateful for the students and teachers that notified our office of this incident. Due to their willingness to speak up when something didn’t look right, we have been able to act appropriately.

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JQC Dismisses all Claims against Judge Brenda Weaver

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“No evidence has been presented to show any violation of code of Judicial Ethics by Judge Weaver. Instead, the evidence appears to show a personal dislike of the Judge.”

Last week the Georgia Judicial Qualification Commission dismissed the complaint against Appalachian Judicial District Chief Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver. 

Judge Brenda Weaver

“The complaint of Thomason, Stookey, Doss and the GCSPJ are without any basis in law or fact. The complaints are nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to enlist the JQC in their fixation upon harming Judge Weaver. The JQC will have no further part in it. All complaints are hereby dismissed.”

The complaint was submitted to the JQC by Mark Thomason, former publisher of the Fannin Focus, his attorney Russell Stookey and Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss.

In the JQC conclusions they addressed the Georgia Chapters Society of Professionals Journalist complaint that Weaver mounted an attack on freedom of the press.

“Calling oneself a “journalist” and “reporter” should not be a cover for pursuing personal vendettas.”

Stookey and Thomason with the assistance of Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss raised a complaint to the FBI to initiate an investigation.   

JQC, “The FBI investigated the allegations raised by Stookey and Thomason but found no wrongdoing.”

On June 15th Atlanta Attorney Gerry Weber, representing Russell Stookey and Mark Thomason, sent a demand letter and Ante Litem Notice to Judge Brenda Weaver, District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee and Pickens County Board of Commissioners.

Part of Weber’s summary of claim, “This case has already garnered national attention. It involves breathtaking abuse of power by a Judge, prosecutor, and law enforcement who manipulated the criminal justice system to wage a personal vendetta against a local newspaper publisher and his attorney.”

Weber’s claim for damages conclusion, “Further accounting for damages stemming from the emotional distress in false arrest and malicious prosecution and for the punitive damages due to egregiousness of the actions leading to the arrests, Stookey’s and Thomason’s damages exceed 1,000,000.”

How far will this case go considering the FBI and JQC have closed their investigation both dismissing the possible charge of wrongdoing.

Click to read “Fannin Focus Publisher Mark Thomason Arrested, Journalist or Vendetta?

 

Press Release

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Detectives are working with the GBI to investigate an apparent murder suicide in Pickens County

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On Tuesday, March 21st, deputies responded to an address on Burgess Road West in Jasper Georgia. The caller had advised that he had found his tenant in his home and he was not conscious. After arriving, deputies found 2 individuals in the home that were deceased.

During the initial investigation, it appears that a Mr. Perry Wayne Hightower killed Ms. Brenda Castleberry and then committed suicide. Hightower, 59 years old, was in a relationship with Ms. Castleberry, 62 years old.

The caller revealed that he had went to the home with a family member of Ms. Castleberry after they had not heard from her for a short period of time, which was rare.

At this time, the case is still being actively investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and detectives with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office. No additional details are available regarding the case at this time.

Culbreth Arrested for Inappropriate Contact with Students

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Mr. Daniel Culbreth, a teacher and Football Coach for Pickens County, has been arrested by authorities relating to Inappropriate Contact with Children.

According to Captain Kris Stancil of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, authorities began an investigation last week after receiving information from a citizen who had “overheard or overseen” questionable contact involving Culbreth. Following up on warrants issued for copies of conversations across SnapChat, a popular modern application for Social Media, authorities have found numerous contacts involving questionable content of conversations as well as nude photos being both sent and received.

Stancil did state at least five students have been identified so far ranging between 16 and 17 years of age and at least one possible instance has involved physical sexual activity. However, Stancil declined to give an actual total number involved due to the continuing investigation and evidence leading them to believe still more students could be involved.

While investigations like this can sometimes take much longer before an actual arrest is made as Stancil stated, “typically we would love to wait until we have been able to execute all warrants and gather all the data,” the Sheriff’s office moved quickly to make an arrest this time “because he was a teacher and we had confirmed that he was having physical contact and cyber contact with the students, we couldn’t leave him in a classroom setting. Our number one priority is the safety of the students so we had to move forward on that.”

On October 6, Culbreth was arrested on school property after he returned from a football game, though Stancil stated he was taken into custody out of sight of students and staff without incident. The arrest could culminate in additional charges or even changes to the current charges, Computer Exploitation of Children and Sexual Assault by Persons with Supervisory Authority, as the investigation continues.

When asked, Stancil stated current evidence leads authorities to believe this action has been going on several months, one potential involvement could include a student from last year now in college, and that he was alone in this actions. The investigation could continue to uncover more information or previous action as it expands to other social media sites and personal electronics and devices. This continuation is to further explore how far the contact went. When asked, Stancil stated there is no evidence at this point to indicate Culbreth saved the images or posted them to any websites or that he forced himself physically onto any students, but the investigation was ongoing.

Culbreth was previously arrested one charges of DUI last year. FYN attempted to ask Board of Education Attorney Phil Landrum about the incident and the Board’s response. While Landrum confirmed the Board does not automatically terminate a teacher due to DUI, he did state that discipline for the infraction was handled internally in the School System. However, Landrum declined to comment on what discipline was enacted.

Being a Coach for the School System as well, FYN asked Head Coach Chris Parker about the incident. The only comment Parker would make was that he was unaware of the actions and that Culbreth was, “Obviously, no longer on his staff.” His focus, he stated, was on his players now, and getting them ready to play.

Considering the students, Stancil assured FYN that students involved were being monitored closely by the school system and the Sheriff’s Office was offering any assistance be it Resource Officers, Sheriff, Deputies, or any Command Staff in participation for the school and the students safety they could possibly offer.

Stancil also went further to urge parents to get more involved in their child’s social media, who they are “friending,” and what sort of contact is taking place especially if they have “friended” Culbreth. He also urged parents to get online and check out the Georgia Buraeu of Investigation Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The Sheriff’s Office is also urging people who believe their children were involved with Culbreth to contact their Criminal Investigation Division at 706-253-8935. He offered assurances to any who step forward that the Sheriff’s office would protect not only their identity but also their story and integrity, and that even if they feel evidence is gone or has been destroyed, there are ways of recovering evidence.

Culbreth has already been to his first appearance in court today, October 7, for the issue to begin basic court proceedings including discussion of a possible bond hearing, his rights, and the coming litigation.

Click Here to read the Sheriff’s Office Media Release or check below to listen to the full Press Conference held by Captain Kris Stancil.

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Ethics and Advertisements 8/25/16

GMFTO

BKP looks at an article about the Ethics and a Complaint he logged for campaign finances in Fannin’s recent elections.

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