Friday, January 30, 2009

SPORTS>>Lady Jackrabbits survive

Leader sports editor

Even when the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits fell behind by eight points early to Stuttgart on Wednesday night, no one really believed they wouldn’t come back.

And when they finally took the lead after a 7-0 run in the second period, it seemed order had been restored. But Stuttgart wasn’t about to roll over for anybody, even big, bad 2-4A perennial power Lonoke. Not even when the Lady ’Rabbits scored 12 straight points in the third period and led by seven with seven minutes left in the game.

The Lady Ricebirds kept firing and connecting and eventually forced an overtime. It was at that point that order actually was restored as Lonoke escaped with a 61-53 win to move within a game of Bald Knob.

“It was exciting if you were in the stands,” said Lonoke coach Nathan Morris, whose Lady Jackrabbits improved to 17-4 overall and 8-1 in league play. “It wasn’t for us coaches. We were a little sluggish early. (Stuttgart) is not the kind of team people want to play down the stretch.

“Fortunately, we’ll be able to draw on this one in late February and early March.”

It took the heady, experienced play of juniors Michaela Brown, Ashleigh Himstedt and Ashia Scribner, along with a couple of big assists from sophomore Cara Neighbors, to pull this one out of the fire. Scribner led the way with 21 points and 17 rebounds, but Lonoke still had to withstand the torrid shooting of Stuttgart’s Kayla Robinson, who led all scorers with 24 points. The Lady Ricebirds knocked down 5 of 12 from beyond the arc, but Lonoke used an eight-rebound advantage and five fewer turnovers to get off 13 more shots, just enough to hold on.

After Himstedt hit a baseline shot to open the final period, Lonoke led 45-38, and it seemed that the Lady ’Rabbits might finally squelch Stuttgart’s upset bid. But Lonoke committed three of its 11 turnovers over the next three minutes, and the Lady Ricebirds stormed back to take a 47-45 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Twice over the next two minutes, Stuttgart went ahead, but each time, Lonoke responded. Emily Shoemaker got a rebound basket to knot it at 49 with 2:32 left, and Scribner hit a 10-footer in the lane with 24 seconds to send it into overtime.

Robinson opened the extra period with an end-to-end drive off a rebound to give Stuttgart the lead again 33 seconds into overtime. But it was Stuttgart’s last points of the game. Neigbors got a steal and a breakaway bucket to tie it with 2:46 left. The Lady Ricebirds twice had chances to reclaim the lead, but missed on a runner, then missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Scribner’s putback basket at the two-minute mark gave Lonoke the lead for good, though Stuttgart missed a game-tying lay-up at the other end. Neighbors gave Lonoke some breathing room by knocking down a six-footer along the baseline to make it 57-53 with 1:20 left. Brown finished it off by going 4 of 4 at the line over the final 41 seconds.

“We’ve had kids that have been in that position before,” Morris said. “Michaela has been in that game 20 times over and so has Asiah. Ashleigh, maybe 15 times. It’s no secret that we’re going as far as our guards and Asiah inside take us, as long as they stay cool under pressure.

“When you see Michaela bite that lower lip, you better get out of the way, because she’s fixing to take to team to where it needs to be.”

The Lady Ricebirds stormed out to a 14-6 lead and out-rebounded Lonoke 9-3 in the first period. The Lady Rabbits trailed by three after one and the teams went into the locker room tied at 27.

Though Lonoke began to assert its dominance on the glass, Stuttgart used a 9-4 run to start the third period to take a 36-31 lead. But Lonoke used two lay-ups and a free throw by Scribner and Himstedt’s nifty baseline drive and two free throws to stage a 12-0 run and take a 43-36 lead. The Lady Rabbits led 43-38 after three quarters.

Himstedt added 14 points while Neigbors had 11. Brown scored nine points and dished out three assists while Lauren Harper had three assists and three steals. Shoemaker scord four points and pulled down five rebounds.

Lonoke made 24 of 59 shots overall, 2 of 12 from beyond the arc. They made 10 of 11 free throws in the second half to finish the night 11 of 15. Stuttgart was 19 of 46 from the field, 10 of 13 from the stripe.

Lonoke traveled to Southside Batesville last night. Next Friday, the Lady Jackrabbits host Bald Knob in what well could determine the 2-4A championship.

SPORTS>>Lonoke boys show up flat as Ricebirds take over first

Leader sports editor

Lonoke’s game with Stuttgart started 24 hours late due to bad weather on Tuesday.

But all indications were that the Jackrabbits never did show up for it. The Ricebirds completed a regular-season sweep of Lonoke with a 64-46 dismantling of the Jackrabbits on Wednesday night at Lonoke.

The loss in the battle for first in the 2-4A Conference dropped Lonoke to 6-3 (13-5 overall), while Stuttgart improved to 7-2.

“Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom,” said Lonoke head coach Wes Swift, who quietly watched his club go through the mo-tions against Stuttgart. “I kind of sensed that was what was going on. We had poor practices on Monday and Tuesday and that fed into the game.

“It was for first place, and you expect the kids to be ready. I probably learned a lesson last night. Every team is different. I obviously didn’t have them motivated.”

Leading scorer Clarence Harris was held scoreless on a night when the Jackrabbits made only 17 of 51 shots and launched 24 from beyond the arc. Only six of those went in. Their free throw woes continued, too, as they went 6 of 17 at the stripe.

But maybe the real disappointment for Swift was the continued defensive breakdowns. Swift had emphasized defensive commitment after the Jackrabbits gave up 63 points in back-to-back games two weeks ago. On Wednesday, Stuttgart ran past Lonoke all night long, making 18 lay-ups, 10 of which came on fast breaks off missed shots at the other end.

“How much talent does it take to get back down the floor?” Swift said. “All night long, they did that to us. I think they saw in our first meeting (a 49-48 Stuttgart victory) that our transition defense was a little slow.”

Those breakdowns led to 61 percent shooting for the Ricebirds, who made 25 of 41 shots. They also dominated the boards for a 31-24 rebounding advantage.

Despite making only 5 of their first 15 shots, the Jackrabbits trailed only 13-12 after one period. Lance Jackson’s two free throws with 5:25 left in the first half gave Lonoke it’s final lead of the night and Stuttgart took advantage of the Rabbits’ seven-minute scoring drought to launch a 15-0 run into the third period.

Michael Howard’s weave through the lane ended that run, but by then, Lonoke trailed 30-19. The Jackrabbits never got it back under 11 points. The lone bright spot was Dontrell Richard’s four second-half three-pointers. The first of those closed Stuttgart’s lead to 40-29 with 1:40 left in the third.

But it was Lonoke’s final hurrah as Stuttgart exploited the Jackrabbits’ defense for six consecutive easy baskets to put the game out of reach at 55-30 with 5:51 left in the game.

Stuttgart got big games from Cody Burnett, who led the way with 19 points, Glen King (17 points) and DeSean Osby (12 points).

Richard led Lonoke with 12 points, while Pierre Smith scored 11 and grabbed five rebounds. Howard added 10 points. Of Lonoke’s 17 field goals, only three had assists.

Post man Juice Lambert scored only three points, but he looked a lot more comfortable on the blocks in his fifth game back from injury. He made some nice post moves, but couldn’t get his shots to fall.

“He’s coming along a lot better,” Swift said. “We’re still trying to adjust our style of game to him. Without him, our guards are trying to get to the rim. We were throwing it in to him but then we were doing a lot of standing around on the perimeter. Stuttgart doubled down on Juice and he had no one to kick it back out to.”

Despite the fact that his Jackrabbits are continuing to search for senior leadership a year after winning the 4A state championship, Swift is conceding nothing.

“We are never going to give up,” he said. “We’re going to prepare for Southside (last night) and we’ll expect a much better effort. It’s never too late to start doing things right.”

SPORTS>>Family affair

By Jason King
Leader sportswriter

There are several new faces on Abundant Life’s girls’ basketball team this season, but few new names.

That’s because Lady Owl seniors Brittany Sharp, Andrea Venus and Hannah Pastor have been joined by their sophomore sisters.

And they’re not just teammates, they’re courtmates as well. While the seniors make up an experienced core of returning starters at the Sherwood school, Carmyn Sharp and Sydney Venus have earned starting spots, while Sarah Pastor has seen significant time off the bench.

“It is extremely unique,” said Lady Owls coach Justin Moseley. “In my time here, I’ve not had a set of sisters other than these three. When they were seventh and ninth graders it was different then because they were in there practicing with us. But the seventh-grade girls weren’t real contributors on the junior high team.”

The Lady Owls are currently in the thick of the 5-2A North Conference chase, and have amassed a 20-9 record so far this season, the best in the program’s history.

Despite the two-year difference in their ages, it can be hard to tell which ones are the big sisters. The younger of each of the sets of sisters is taller than the elder. The Venuses provided the most striking example. Andrea is just 5-3, while little sister Sydney towers over her at 5-8.

“She’s bigger than me, but that’s okay,” Andrea said. “Size doesn’t matter. God gave us this amazing group of girls. We have this awesome group of big sisters, and also, we have a big group of little sisters, because they’re bigger than all of the older sisters.

“They’ve come up and played their role as sophomores. Two of them are starters now, so they’ve played an amazing role.”

Sydney said that while she and Andrea have the inevitable sibling spats on occasion, it’s been fun.

“We fight sometimes — almost all the time — but I enjoy it,” said Sydney. “It’s been a good experience.”

Brittany Sharp has been a three-year starting guard for the Lady Owls, and now has a familiar face on the low block in younger sister and starting post player Carmyn.

“I think it’s pretty cool — not a lot of teams have what we have,” Brittany said. “We’ve played together forever and we’re going to graduate together, and they will all graduate together, so it’s kind of cool.”

Like Sydney, Carmyn said the experience of playing with her big sister has been well worth the occasional problems.

“Brittany and I yell at each other on the court a lot,” said Carmyn, “but I have been blessed to have my older sister play with me. They’re leaving this year, which makes me sad, but we will still be a good team when we come back.”

All three sophomores will have big shoes to fill, but none more so than Sarah Pastor. Hannah has been a two-sport star at Abundant Life, landing state titles in the 200-meters and the triple jump in track and leading the Lady Owls in scoring last season.

“Andrea, Brittany and I have had to step up and be more mature, even though it’s really fun to goof off with our younger sisters,” said Hannah. “We’re the only seniors, and the rest are sophomores. I feel like we are all really close. This is one of the closest teams we’ve had, because we are sisters, and it just brings everybody else closer together. We’re a bonded team.”

The Pastors get along well until things on the court get chaotic, according to Sarah.
“It’s interesting,” Sarah said. “If the moment is intense, we kind of bite at each other’s heads. So most of the time, we’re pretty close.

“The rest of the team is like the family. In my head, when I think of the girls, there are the sisters and the family. We have a family bond, and it’s also a bond through Christ.”

Post player Savannah Lancaster is one of that family. Lancaster said that while she and the rest of the team may not have a blood kinship, it still feels that way.
“We may as well be,” said Lancaster. “If we’re not with them here, we’re usually with them some other place. We live at each other’s houses, so we’re pretty much sisters anyway.”

The same goes for teammate Jennifer Thomas.

“They have their sister bond, and we all have our team bond,” said Thomas. “I know I could go to any of these girls and tell them anything, and they would give me great advice.”

The novelty of having three sets of sisters playing for him aside, Moseley is just thrilled to have such a strong group of players.

“They’re close, and they have times when they get on each other’s nerves,” Moseley said. “But they’ve done real well with it, and we’ve got four other girls that are close with them as well, so it’s almost like they may as well be sisters to them too.
“They all contribute, and they’re all different. It’s weird how they are all different from each other, but they fill in all the roles that we need.”

SPORTS>>All-Stars named for volleyball, football games

The Arkansas Activities Association has released the rosters for both the football and volleyball All-Star games this June in Fayetteville.

Quarterback Rollins Elam and linebacker/receiver Joel Harris of Lonoke, lineman Matt Jackson of Cabot, lineman Michaiah Davis of Jacksonville and lineman Tyler Wahlin of Beebe will play on the East squad in the June 26 All-Star game. Kick off is set for 7 p.m. at Razorback Stadium.

Former Des Arc and incoming Searcy head coach Tim Harper will join former Lonoke head coach Jeff Jones as assistants on the East squad, which will be coached by Little Rock Catholic’s Ellis Register.

The volleyball game will feature two area players — Cabot’s Morgan Young and Sylvan Hills’ Courtney Luth.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

EDITORIAL>>No honor for patriots

State Rep. Lindsley Smith’s only error was asking the Arkansas legislature to reflect upon philosophy and history because it almost inevitably will get it wrong. The legislature doesn’t do history and philosophy.

Smith introduced a resolution proposing to memorialize the patriot Thomas Paine one day a year, not an official holiday but a day on which people might reflect on the contributions that the great pamphleteer made to the republic. The resolution failed two years ago and Smith hoped that lawmakers might be wiser and more reflective in 2009. She seemed to be right because the House of Representatives adopted the resolution handily last week.

But in a Senate committee Monday two supporters who would move the resolution to a vote could not be found. Rep. Randy Laverty said he was troubled by some things that he had read indicating that Paine became an atheist. He did not think the state should be honoring an atheist.

That would be no reason not to honor a man if he made an important contribution to the nation’s founding, as Paine did, but is not quite accurate. Back in Europe after the American Revolution, Paine became increasingly disillusioned with the official church and indeed all organized religions, which he did not believe promoted universal virtues. Instead, he embraced deism, a philosophy if not a spiritual doctrine that was popular among the founding fathers in America, including Ben Franklin, James Monroe, John Adams and perhaps Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, all of whom uttered some deist thoughts from time to time. This is what Paine wrote in The Age of Reason about the beliefs that got him into so much trouble with monarchs and clerics:

“[T]he only true religion is Deism, by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues – and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter. So say I now – and so help me God.”

But Rep. Smith did not propose to canonize Paine anyway, only to recognize what he did for the universal cause of liberty and for the formation of this nation. Common Sense, a pamphlet circulated early in 1776, stirred the colonies into revolt and influenced the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Generations of youngsters studied Paine in American literature and, when such techniques were still in vogue, had to memorize the opening lines from Crisis, which was published in the first winter of the revolution:

“These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”

General Washington had Crisis read aloud to the enlisted men in the beleaguered Revolutionary Army at Valley Forge in hopes that it would stir them to fight on against the mounting odds in the war against the British.

After fighting in the revolution, Paine returned to Europe, where his writings against monarchies and tyranny inflamed the continent and propelled the revolution in France. Jailed by the tyrant Robespierre, Paine eventually won his freedom with the intervention of James Monroe. His old friend and admirer Jefferson, president by then, sent word that he should return to the country whose birth he had helped midwife.

He died in New York, never having achieved the stature and worth that would merit a salute by the Arkansas Senate.

TOP STORY>>Winter weather closes schools, causes wrecks

Leader staff writer

A six-vehicle pileup involving four 18-wheelers and two cars along Interstate 40 near Lonoke around 5 p.m. Tuesday closed the interstate for more than an hour. No one was killed, but there were injuries reported.

The threat of winter weather continued through Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

The National Weather Service called for below-freezing temperatures to hit the area Tuesday night along with up to an inch of freezing rain and snow possibly causing a multitude of problems this morning.

The weather service predicted that most drivers would encounter slushy roads again on Wednesday morning, but expect the bridges and overpasses to be dangerously icy. The winter weather hit the top one-third of the state pretty hard Monday and Tuesday. By late Tuesday, most of Springdale was without power.

From 3 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Tuesday, the State Police responded to 214 accidents or crashes, with 83 happening in central Arkansas.

So far, three individuals have died in two weather-related crashes: Two in a single crash in Pulaski County Tuesday morning and one in Benton County Monday afternoon. The state police have not released the names of those killed.

Even those responding to accidents Monday night to help ended up in accidents. The Jacksonville Fire Department had a fire truck and an ambulance slid into the rail while responding to help motorists stranded on I-440 and Hwy. 67/167 at the southern edge of Jacksonville, and then a state trooper’s vehicle slid into the fire truck. Luckily damage to all three vehicles was minimal.

Tuesday’s anticipated ice storm stayed about 20 miles farther north than expected and some warm air snuck in from Tennessee, raising area temperatures to 34 or 35 degrees for most of the day instead of the expected 29 to 30 degrees.

That meant fairly clear roads Tuesday morning, but Monday evening was a different story with the State Police in Troop A, which encompasses Pulaski, Lonoke and Faulkner counties, responding to 83 vehicle accidents.

“Our power outages are concentrated in the northern tier of Arkansas,” explained Rob Roedel, a spokesman for Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. He said that about 100,000 cooperative members were without power by Tuesday afternoon.

Roedel added that 10 of the state’s 17 electric-distribution cooperatives have power outages, including First Electric.

First Electric Cooperative, which provides electricity for 84,000 customers in 17 counties in central and southeast Arkansas, had about 1,400 customers without power as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Most of those without power are in the communities of Brownsville, Drasco, Edgemont, Pangburn, Pearson, Rose Bud and Tannenbaum in Cleburne County. 

The winter storm closed the Pulaski County Special School District and other area schools on Tuesday.

TOP STORY>>New commander arrives at LRAFB

Leader senior staff writer

After nearly two years of activist leadership, Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz Jr., 19th Airlift Wing commander, will relinquish command to Col. Gregory S. Otey.

Otey, the former Air Force Expeditionary Center vice commander at Fort Dix, N.J., takes over in a change-of-command ceremony here today.

Schatz is headed for the Pentagon, where he will be deputy director of joint operations. This is the largest deputy directorate on the staff, with responsibility for nuclear weapons, surveillance, reconnaissance, information operations, cyber warfare and for maintaining command and control of the national military command center.

“I’ve known the man since he raised his hand to become a second lieutenant,” retired Col. William Kehler, head of the LRAFB Community Council, said of Schatz.

“He was a great team leader inside the fence and out,” said Kehler, himself a LRAFB wing commander from 1983 to 1985. “He worked on the joint education center, and it came to pass, helped get new schools for kids on and off the base and has been a strong supporter of independent schools for Jacksonville. He was great to work with.”

Base reorganization occurred on Schatz’s watch and he was a vigilant advocate for getting a new builder/management team to take over the base’s privatized housing for failed developer American Eagle.

Kehler said he looked forward to working with Otey. “He worked for Gen. (Kip) Self in New Jersey.” He said he had heard good things about Otey.

Brig. Gen. Self was Schatz’s predecessor as wing commander.

Schatz has been extremely accessible to the media, friendly and forthcoming, according to the general agreement of the reporters who most closely covered the base.

Schatz took command of the 314th Airlift Wing in May 2007, just as construction of privatized base housing under American Eagle Communities ground to a halt, and he leaves just as Hunt-Pinnacle LLC takes over the contract and resurrects construction of base housing.

The Air Force Expeditionary Center that Otey is leaving is the Air Force’s Center of Excellence for advanced expeditionary combat support training and education.

The center houses the Mobility Operations School, Expeditionary Operations School and the Expeditionary Center Resources Directorate.

Otey served as a weapons officer at the C-130 Weapons School at LRAFB from 1995 through 1997, Elkins said.

Otey, a Bronze Star recipient, is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours in military aircraft including the C-130E and the state-of-the-art C-130J.

Among 11 other awards, Otey received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and earned his pilot wings in 1989.

TOP STORY>>Beebe battles deadly tobacco lobby in ledge

Leader editor-in-chief

Gov. Mike Beebe led a rally at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock on Monday for his proposed 56-cent tax increase on tobacco to pay for health services, including a statewide trauma system.

He called the rally to respond to propaganda by tobacco lobbyists who are up in arms over the tax bill that’s making its way through the state legislature.

In addition to paying for trauma centers, the $85 million raised in tax revenues could go toward better health care for smokers and nonsmokers.

Those programs are needed because Arkansas ranks seventh in the nation from smoking-related deaths: Tobacco kills about 4,900 Arkansans a year.

It’s usually the smokers who put the worst strain on health care because of their smoking-related illnesses: Lung cancer, heart disease, liver failure, sexual dysfunction, just to name a few.

If the bill passes, the tax would rise to $1.15 per pack, nearly double the current rate but close to the national average of $1.18.

The lobbyists Phillip Morris has sent to Arkansas look like siding salesmen, but they’re blowing smoke to obscure their real intentions: To keep people hooked on the deadliest product openly available in stores. Their junk would be banned if it just came out today on the market.

The lobbyists and their mouthpieces pretend they’re the friends of working people who are already taxed too much. But what these merchants of death fear is that too many people will give up the stinking, deadly habit if it gets too expensive.

Phillip Morris and its lobbyists are all over the state fighting the tax.

The tobacco industry has good reason to worry: Every time the tax goes up, hundreds of thousands of people quit and lead healthier lives and live longer.

Even Mississippi — where Gov. Haley Barbour, a former tobacco lobbyist, has long opposed raising the tax — is about to adopt a $1 a pack increase.

Since 2002, 44 states and the District of Columbia have raised cigarette taxes, increasing the average state cigarette tax from 43.4 cents to $1.184 a pack.

Consider these statistics:

– Every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes lowers youth smoking about 7 percent and overall smoking about 4 percent. About 84,000 Arkansans have quit smoking in the last six years. That figure could double in the next five years if the Legislature approves the tax hike.

– Higher cigarette taxes bring in more revenue even as more people quit because the hardcore smokers can’t give it up.

– In nationwide polls, Democrats, Republicans and independents overwhelmingly support higher taxes on this deadly product.

Smokers should pay more for the cost of health care. They’re a terrible burden on the healthcare system.

Did I say the lobbyists represent Phillip Morris, the most reviled name in business before the financial meltdown? Well, Phillip Morris’ tobacco unit has changed its name to Altria Group, to hide its real business, which is to hook people to a terrible addiction before they die horrible deaths — lung cancer, heart disease, liver failure, you name it.

Osama Bin Laden couldn’t inflict worse torture on human beings.

The cigarette lobbyists represent the worst mass killers in history.

They’ve killed more people than Hitler, Stalin, Mao and all the wars in history combined.

Tobacco has killed hundreds of millions of smokers. Even the tobacco companies admit as much.

According to the Center for Tobacco Control Research at the University of California, Phillip Morris/Altria now acknowledges on its Web site “that cigarettes are addictive and dangerous — ending decades of denial. A genuinely responsible company, faced with its role in the deaths of millions, would — at minimum — stop marketing this addictive product that would not be allowed on the market if introduced today.”

Beebe’s legislation needs a three-fourths supermajority to pass. The governor knows how to count votes. He says passage is far from assured — but failure would mean victory for the killers.

TOP STORY>>Sherwood sewer maps faulted as outdated

Leader staff writer

Sherwood has outdated sewer maps, doesn’t even know where all the manholes are and isn’t sure what parts of the 108 miles of underground sewer line are damaged or in disrepair. That’s why one of the first things the city needs to do to get out from under the thumb of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is to see what it has, what shape it is in and where it’s all at.

To do that, the Sherwood City Council on Monday approved a contract with Pipeline Analysis of Dallas to conduct a sewer-system evaluation survey, which includes updating maps, inspection and GPS marking of each manhole, monitoring sewer flow, smoke testing lines for leaks and damage, using a closed circuit television system to find even more damaged pipes and develop a priority plan to make the necessary repairs.

Pipeline Analysis outlines this work in a six-year plan that could cost the city about $600,000. Costs, which the council agreed to, for the first year will be $318,915. The money will be paid for by sales taxes collected for capital improvements.

Alderman Sheila Sulcer questioned the funding. “I’ve read the verbiage on the ballot where our residents approved the sales tax for capital improvements, and I’m not sure this is what we can use it for,” she said.

But attorney Larry Carpenter, who has been working on the contracted services with City Engineer Ellen Norvell, said it was an acceptable use.

“The state statute has been in the books since 1933, and this type of work is covered,” he told Sulcer and the rest of the council, after reading the law.

“I just don’t want someone to come up and challenge us on this,” Sulcer said of her concerns.

“I can’t guarantee someone won’t challenge, but we are on good grounds here,” Carpenter said, with City Attorney Stephen Cobb agreeing.

Forbes said the city has more than a million feet of underground sewer lines, and stretched out they would go from Sherwood almost to Memphis. Those lines have a replacement value of $57 million, Forbes said.

Norvell explained that the sewer analysis and repairs are things that need to be done anyway, but because the city is under an administrative order from ADEQ, it just has to be done “quicker than we might like. It would have been nice to spread out the cost a little more,” she said.

Alderman Becki Vassar acknowledged that updating and maintaining a good sewer system was essential. “People have to flush,” she said.

Pipeline Analysis is obtaining aerial maps from the county to help develop a layered map of the city’s sewer system. “It has cost us about $1,800 for the aerial maps, but if we had to do them ourselves the cost could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Forbes said.

Pipeline Analysis crews locate sewer line problems through smoke tests, flow monitoring or closed-circuit cameras, and then bids will go out on those repairs.

The survey, repair plans and timeline, along with paying a $15,500 fine, are among the first of many steps along the way to satisfy the ADEQ orders.

The $15,500 fine payment, along with the plan presented to the council, is due to ADEQ by Feb. 9.

SPORTS>>Bryant holds off Cabot

Leader sportswriter

Close games are simply a way of life in the 7A-Central Conference, and Friday’s thriller between Bryant and Cabot was no exception.

The Lady Hornets benefited from a solid 18-of-25 night at the free-throw line, along with a 27-point, nine-rebound, five-steal performance from Alana Morris for a nail-biting 69-66 win at Panther Pavilion.

Jenna Bailey was the Lady Panthers’ last hope in the final seven seconds, but her three-point shot from the right wing was just off. Bailey’s steal and dish to Taylor Rosel 20 seconds earlier resulted in a trip to the line for Rosel, who hit the back end of a two-shot foul to knot it at 66-66.

Haylie Montgomery put Bryant back on top with a pair of free throws. A shot to tie by Brett Absure missed, and Taylor Hughes grabbed the board for the Lady Hornets. She was immediately fouled, and hit a free throw to set the final margin.

“It was a great game if you were a fan,” said Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple. “The JV game went two overtimes and people kept coming in. The next thing you know, we had a really nice crowd. The fans on both sides were really into it. Our kids played well. Both teams are really well coached. There were a lot of changes there at the end that you didn’t think there would be.”

Cabot (14-5, 3-2) went 14 of 23 from the foul line, and shot 47 percent from the floor (26 of 55). The Lady Hornets (14-2, 5-0) didn’t get as many looks, but made the most of them. They shot 55 percent (23 of 42), including 5 of 13 from three-point land.

Bryant looked dominant at the start. Hannah Goshien hit a three-point basket to put the Lady Hornets up 8-0 at the 6:20 mark, but Cabot began to attack inside with senior post players Stephanie Glover and UALR signee Shelby Ashcraft.

Ashcraft got the Lady Panthers on the scoreboard with 5:59 left in the first quarter, followed by a basket by Amber Rock. Rock then answered a steal and two by Goshien with a steal and dish to Brooke Taylor to make it 12-7.

Glover and Ashcraft took over from there. Glover sandwiched an Ashcraft jumper with two baskets that gave the Lady Panthers their first lead of the game at 15-14 with 1:40 left in the opening period.

Momentum was fickle most of the night, but Cabot grabbed it late in the second period to end the first half on a 14-0 run. Rosel hit a basket and followed that with two free throws at the 2:09 mark to tie the game at 32, and 6-3 junior post Sarah Moore scored on an inbounds assist from Glover to hand the lead back to the Lady Panthers. Rock scored the final two baskets of the half, the first of which came off a steal by senior Lindsay Hoggatt with 31 seconds left. Her second goal just before the buzzer set the halftime margin at 42-32.

Morris finished the first half with 11 points for Bryant. Her start to the second half not only put the Lady Hornets right back in the game, but also gave them a shot of momentum that carried them the rest of the way. Morris led an 11-2 run for Bryant to start the third quarter, including a three-point basket at the 5:21 mark to make it 44-41. She tied the game with a pair of free throws in the final minute of the period to tie the game at 48.

“From what I’ve seen of that team over the last couple of years, everything seems to go through her,” Ruple said. “The coach has a lot of confidence in her. She’s one of their seniors. There were a couple of times we were sure they were going to her. They ran similar plays, but they ran the little girl out instead.”

Glover led the Lady Panth-ers with 18 points and eight rebounds. Rosel added nine points, with eight each for Ashcraft, Rock and Taylor. Moore had seven rebounds, and Bailey led defensively with four steals.

For Bryant, Goshien finished with 18 points and five rebounds.

Cabot’s game last night with Van Buren was postponed.

SPORTS>>Sterrenberg finds range as Panthers bounce back from loss to beat Bryant

Leader sportswriter

Bryant was outgunned from the start in Cabot’s 57-30 win on Friday night at Panther Pavilion. Adam Sterrenberg’s 23-point performance led the way for Cabot (13-5, 3-2 7A-Central) and his second-quarter heroics completely deflated the visiting Hornets (7-10, 1-4).

Cabot bounced back from a disappointing showing at Central last Tuesday to remain in a three-way tie for third with Van Buren and Russellville, a game behind North Little Rock and Conway.

“I thought it was a good team effort by everybody,” said Panthers coach Jerry Bridges. “When you play good defense and you rebound, and you force turnovers, it’s easier to go to your transition game than when people are getting offensive rebounds and putbacks on you like Central did the other night.”

Sterrenberg, an Arkansas State signee, had eight points in the second quarter, including a three-point basket, a steal that he took coast to coast for a dunk, and another steal and drive to the hoop that resulted in a dizzying reverse lay-up to start the quarter.

Sterrenberg also added six rebounds and six steals. He got one more jam in the fourth quarter before coach Jerry Bridges pulled him and the rest of the Panther starters. Cabot pushed its advantage to 30 points with four minutes remaining to initiate a continuous clock.

Sterrenberg was still good for nine points in the second half, but also used his court presence to create mismatches for his teammates. His penetration and quick kick outs gave others looks at open threes, and Jack Bridges took advantage for three of his six points for the game in the third quarter.

Sterrenberg’s well-rounded performance pleased the head Panther.

“He’s just got that scorer’s mentality,” Bridges said. “He ran some point for us, and he’s learning that if the shots aren’t falling, let’s look to get other people involved. Adam is a fine ball player, and he’s made my job a little easier the last couple of years.”

Cabot rushed out to an 11-6 lead after one. Sterrenberg’s first steal and coast-to-coast trip extended the lead to seven, and Austin Johnson added to more on the Panthers’s next trip with a putback of his own miss. A Sterrenberg trey and then a dunk put Cabot up 22-10 by the 4:22 mark of the second quarter. The Panthers held Bryant to only 13 points in the first half.

Johnson added seven points and five rebounds, while Jack Bridges, Gary Clark and Miles Monroe each had six.

Cabot's game at Van Buren last night was postponed due to inclement weather.

SPORTS>>Red Devils win third straight on the road

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville head coach Vic Joyner insists his Red Devils were over their disappointing Jan. 9 loss to Little Rock Hall the very next afternoon at practice.

All indications are that he was right.

The Red Devils have taken care of business since, winning three consecutive — all on the road — to keep pace with the first-place Warriors. The latest was a 55-45 victory at Marion on Friday night.

Hall, though banged up, still had plenty of firepower to beat Searcy on Friday and improve to 4-0 in the 6A-East, a half-game ahead of 4-1 Jacksonville and West Memphis. The Blue Devils, who lost by two points on the road to Hall earlier in the season, were to have played at Jacksonville last night before weather postponed the game.

LaQuinton Miles led another balanced Jacksonville attack on Friday with 12 points as the Red Devils rolled out to a comfortable lead before putting the game away with a big third quarter.

“We’re just playing steady,” said Joyner. “We keep plugging away. We (had a big one last night against West Memphis). We need to step up to the challenges.”

Marion, which fell to 2-3 in league play, was down by as many as 25 points before a late rally put a little scare into the Red Devils.

“I put in some subs and we turned it over quite a bit,” Joyner said. “We put the starters back in, but they had the momentum and it was hard for us to get it back.”

Though Marion never got to within nine points, Joyner said it was a little scary down the stretch because of how far the Patriots had climbed to get back into it.

“We were missing some shots we should have hit and the officials were letting (Marion) get aggressive when they were trying to get back in it,” Joyner said. “The kids were getting a little frustrated because of the calls, but they mostly settled down.”

Jacksonville led 23-13 at the half, then came out on fire in the third quarter to put it away. The Patriots were packing in their defense, but the Red Devils began to open things up when Miles hit a three and Deshone McClure added two more to open the second half and start a 15-2 run.

“We can’t continue to wait so long to get started,” Joyner said. “But with them packing it in and jamming up our big men inside, it takes a little while to get into rhythm.”

After Miles and McClure hit the threes, Jacksonville pounded it inside, getting buckets in close by Demetrius Harris, Antwon Lockhart and Antonio Roy.

Miles was the only Red Devil in double figures, though five others scored five or more points, led by Cortrell Eskridge’s nine. McClure and Harris added eight, Roy had seven and Lockhart five.

Jacksonville hit 5 of 11 three-pointers and pulled down 12 offensive rebounds — 31 overall. The Red Devils improved to 11-3 overall.

“Our guys have grown up a lot since last year,” Joyner said. “They’re accepting their roles and are a little more coachable. It takes sacrifices on everybody’s part, including the players, the coaches and the fans.”


The Lady Red Devils dropped their third straight to fall to 7-10 overall, 1-4 in conference play. After beating Little Rock Hall to even their league mark, Jacksonville has fallen to Searcy, Jonesboro and Marion.

Jessica Lanier scored 12 points for the Lady Red Devils, who hosted West Memphis last night in a game played after Leader deadlines.

SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills goes cold in second half, falls to Mills

Special to The Leader

Sylvan Hills had problems once the jumpers stopped falling Friday night at home against the Mills Comets.

Sylvan Hills fell 54-43 to the Comets to drop to 7-10 overall and 2-3 in the 5A-Southeast.

The Bears find themselves in a tie for fifth with Crossett, two games behind co-leaders McClellan and North Pulaski and a game back of Beebe and Mills.

Nick Zimmerman, Kolby Davis and Harold Ward each drained a pair three-pointers in the game. But those shots weren’t there when the Bears needed them in the fourth quarter. Part of the problem was that the Bears became a little gun-shy at times in the game.

“We need to be more decisive, more aggressive when teams are giving us open shots,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said. “There were times when Nick or Harold would catch a pass, then look to make the next pass before looking back for the shot. That gave the Comets time to get back and challenge the shots.”

Sylvan Hills had a solid first quarter and led 14-8. The second quarter didn’t go so well as the Comets outscored the Bears 13-4 to take a 21-18 lead at halftime.

The Comets had a chance to really extend their lead early in the third quarter, but missed eight consecutive free throws.

“Free throws are something that have really hurt us this year,” Mills coach Leo Olberts said. “Just about every game we’ve lost has come down to free throws.”

One basket among all those missed freebies gave the Comets a 23-18 lead midway through the third.

Ward missed a chance at a three-point play when he was called for charging. He made up for that soon after with a rare four-point play gave the Bears a one-point lead late in the quarter. The Comets went into the fourth quarter leading 31-29 after a buzzer-beating tip in by Kyle Jackson.

Mills started pounding the ball inside in the fourth quarter with forward Chris Neal scoring eight of his 10 points in the quarter. The Comets went on a 10-2 run to gain a little breathing room.

“We really wanted to get the ball inside more in the second half,” Olberts said. “Neal had a big half for us. He did a good job posting up.”

Kolby Davis pulled the Bears to within six points, but free throws down the stretch by Nick Harsberry, Chris Hampton and Montez Peterson put the game away for the Comets. Harsberry led the Comets with 14 points, including a perfect 8 of 8 night from the line. The Comets scored 19 points off free throws, while the Bears were 5 of 5 from the line.

Sylvan Hills was still without it’s top two post players in P.J. Ross and Taylor Beeman.

“We’re still a little gimpy inside and that hurts,” Davis said. “Mills always does such a good job of getting in the lane and attacking the basket.”

Ross (6-2) and Beeman (6-5), are expected to return this week. Ross played sparingly against the Comets, making a pair of free throws. Ross is averaging close to 20 points per game this season.

Ward led the Bears with 11 points. Zimmerman and Davis each scored eight in the loss.

SPORTS>>Lady Raiders rally from 15-0 deficit in victory

Leader sports editor

When the Riverview Lady Raiders fell behind Hardi ng Academy 15-0 on Friday night, the last thing anyone in the raucous crowd could have imagined was a dramatic, heroic ending.

But that’s exactly what Ashante Baker provided when she hit the game-winning basket along the right side of the lane with five seconds left as Riverview rallied for a stunning 48-47 win over the first-place Lady Wildcats at the Riverview Activity Center.

“We’re warriors and we just fight the whole time,” Riverview head coach Russell Stumpenhaus said. “That’s all we do. That’s the only way I can explain it. We’ve been down before. We were down 21 to England and almost came back.”

It was a jolt for the Lady Wildcats (10-6 overall), who lost their fourth game of the season by two points or less, but still remain tied for first place with Rose Bud at 7-2 in the 2-3A Conference. Riverview improved to 5-3.

“The locker room felt like grenade went off,” Harding Academy coach Rusty Garner said. “It was just like the Rose Bud game (when the Lady Wildcats lost a three-point lead in the final minute and lost on a last-second shot). Both of those games, we felt like we had it to win. But she hit a tough shot. Give her credit.

“The feeling of having it and then losing it is harder than not having it at all.”

Harding Academy appeared to have it and then some after playing what Garner called the best stretch of the season in the first period. Crisp ball movement led to open shots and a 15-0 lead.

“After we got up 9-0, we kind of thought it might start rolling from there,” Garner said. “But Ariel (English) picked up her second foul and we missed a few shots and Riverview started chipping away. They didn’t panic.”

While Baker was the hero late, she was the rudder early, scoring three straight times over a minute-and-a-half span in the second quarter to keep Riverview within shouting distance. Three-pointers by Molly Sims and Kandice Leggett suddenly had the Lady Raiders with three points, though point guard Queen Banks drew her third and fourth fouls in a 10-second span before intermission.

The Lady Raiders got a Leggett lay-up and the first of three three-pointers by Casie Clause gave Riverview a 24-23 lead just 48 seconds into the second half.

Harding Academy’s Anna Bangs took it on herself in the second half, scoring 14 of the Lady Wildcats’ 24 points. Her end-to-end basket and baseline bucket and free throw put Harding Academy back on top, 33-30, at the 3:21 mark of the third period.

But Riverview responded with eight straight points on a nifty spin move by Emily Harris, and three-pointers by Kelly Blackwood and Clause as Riverview took a 38-33 lead into the final period.

Harding Academy finally reclaimed the lead on Bangs’ drive through the paint with a minute remaining. After Baker missed on the other end, Ciarra Farmer went to the line for Harding Academy with 33 seconds and a chance to extend the 47-46 lead. She missed both, though, setting up Baker’s drive down the right side of the lane and winning scoop.

“We thought they’d go strong with the zone,” Stumpenhaus said. “I told them, if we didn’t have a look on the outside, either Queen or Ashante should take it inside.”
Garner said one of his players got caught on a switch and couldn’t get over to cut Baker off.

“I could kind of see it on our kids,” Garner said. “That was the third time they came down and we had a one-point lead. We missed a couple of free throws and made a questionable decision. You only get so many chances.”

The Lady Wildcats made 13 of 25 free throws, only 8 of 17 after intermission.

After Baker’s basket, Harding Academy called a time out and Bangs tried to race to the other end for a game-winner. But her shot in the lane came after the buzzer.

“Once we got out of our rhythm from the first quarter, we couldn’t get back in it,” Garner said. “Sometimes I forget that I’ve got five starters that haven’t done this before. My expectation level has gotten so high.”

Bangs led the way with 20 points and 12 rebounds, with McKenzie Miller adding 11 and English 10. Taylor Mote added six points and three assists, while Farmer pulled down nine rebounds.

For Riverview, Clause scored 11 points and Leggett added 10 points, five rebounds and three assists. Baker had eight and Harris seven. Riverview (11-8 overall) made 7 of 15 three-pointers.

“It’s tough because we’re so short,” Stumpenhaus said. “But we’re figuring out how to play together. This team has good chemistry.”

Monday, January 26, 2009

EDITORIAL>>Big tobacco fights tax

The cigarette industry, which keeps a gaggle of Arkansas lobbyists on contract, brought in the big boys this week to begin a full-court press against the cigarette tax. Now we will see whether Governor Beebe, who gets everything he wants in the legislature, is finally overmatched. Let’s hope not.

A corporate team from Altria Group, formerly known as Philip Morris, jetted in from Richmond, Va., and began the round of newspaper editorial offices and other opinion outposts to make the case that a 56-cent-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax would hurt poor people. The companies are not concerned that the tax might nudge people to quit smoking and reduce tobacco profits, you understand, but only with the plight of the poor.

Altria, R. J. Reynolds American and Lorillard Tobacco Co. have their hands full this year. Many states are raising tobacco taxes, a few of them like Arkansas to improve health services and others to supplement falling general revenues. Congress is raising the federal excise tax by 59 cents a pack.

Word yesterday was that Dick Armey, the former Republican leader of the U. S. House of Representatives and a corporate shill both before and after leaving Congress, is coming to Little Rock to fight the tax. He is the spokesman for an outfit called FreedomWorks, which works to keep taxes low on corporations.

The tax bill is to be introduced early next week. The revenues, estimated to be about $85 million a year, would establish a network of trauma centers around the state to provide emergency medical care and expand a variety of medical and mental health services, including health insurance for more children. The governor strongly supports it, as do the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president pro tempore of the Senate.

Because of the political clout behind the tax and its universally popular benefits, passage ought to be assured. But under Arkansas’ perverse Constitution, this is one tax that requires the votes of three-fourths of the members of both houses. Nine of 135 members of the legislature can block it or otherwise dictate tax policy. Passage will require a powerful demonstration of public support for the tax.

The tobacco lobbyists shed fake tears for the poor who would pay the tax. It is true that the tax is regressive because people of low incomes are more likely to smoke. But the best reason to support the tax is not for the expansion of medical services but because it may cause hundreds of thousands of people to quit smoking and deter youngsters from starting the habit.

Tobacco is the largest single contributor to public health costs in Arkansas. It is in that way the fairest tax of them all.

EDITORIAL>>Animal cruelty bill heads for passage

Arkansas finally will have an animal-cruelty law worth the name, but who could have imagined that it would take negotiations on the order of the Irish peace talks? The Senate passed the bill easily this week and the bill had enough sponsors in the House of Representatives to assure passage next week. Governor Beebe, who deserves some credit for investing his considerable clout in the issue, will sign it into law.

While Arkansas was virtually alone among the states in not allowing the criminal prosecution of people who torture and neglect animals and stories about the abuse of animals were legion, the legislature stymied bills to enhance the punishment session after session. Arkansas voters six years ago defeated a mild cruelty initiative, soundly. The Arkansas Farm Bureau and cattlemen’s and hunting groups raised the specter of people going to prison for branding cattle, penning hogs or trapping wild animals.

It was all nonsense. No one was being prosecuted for such things anywhere in the land, but people will believe anything in a television ad.

After Governor Beebe said he wanted to see a bill passed this session, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel went to work to craft legislation that the Farm Bureau and other opponents could support. The bill went through more than 40 drafts as he negotiated every line and comma with all the distrustful interests. In the end, the Farm Bureau announced its support for the bill.

Animal cruelty will be a Class D felony with a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to six years in jail for examples of extreme and systematic mistreatment of animals. A person can be charged with aggravated animal cruelty on first offense when it is committed against a cat, dog or horse. In the past the Farm Bureau objected to felony charges for a first offense.

The law will give the state leverage against the puppy mills that cram dozens of dogs into tiny and filthy pens where they are subjected to malnutrition and disease. It is hard to believe that anyone would take pleasure in torturing animals, such as a woman’s dog that was skinned alive at Benton last year. A law with swift and strong punishment will act as a deterrent.

Arkansas can take its place among all the states that treat fellow creatures with respect. Thank you, General McDaniel, for getting it done.

TOP STORY>>Sharpe will keep job for now

Leader senior staff writer

To Superintendent James Sharpe, it was a vote of confidence. To some Pulaski County Special School District board members, it was a rebuke of Sharpe. The board emerged from a 90-minute executive session Friday and voted unanimously to keep Sharpe for two years, but to forgo the customary one-year extension of his contract.

That means his contract will run only through June 2011, at approximately $200,000 a year, including benefits.

Sharpe’s contract has been a point of contention with the board, which has discussed and voted on whether or not to fire him several times since last fall.

The fire has gone out of that issue, for now at least, according to Bill Vasquez, the board member representing the Jacksonville area.

Sharpe has been at odds with the district’s two unions, and three board members had voted in the past to fire him, falling one vote short.

“It’s good to be wanted, to be accepted and recognized to do the job,” said Sharpe following the meeting.

He said he could continue to work with the board without problem.

Sharpe’s future, which should have been decided by early January, was still up in the air when Sharpe and his attorney, Melva Harmon, sent a letter to board members saying they would be open to negotiating a buyout of his contract.

That could have cost the district an estimated $400,000.

Board members who wanted to oust Sharpe say he acted too slowly in moving children from Clinton and Crystal Hills elementary schools, where roof trusses were found to have cracked, bowed and buckled.

The students were moved to alternative sites and the trusses were repaired over Christmas vacation with all students returning to school at the beginning of the new semester.

The school board has a long history of antipathy toward its superintendents, none of whom have left entirely of their own accord in the past several years.

Before hiring Sharpe as superintendent in February 2006, the board bought out the contract of Superintendent Don Henderson for about $200,000, and before Henderson was hired, the board bought out the contract of Gary Smith for about $450,000.

“Nobody in this community thinks you should spend $400,000 to buy out a superintendent,” said Jacksonville Middle School Boys Principal Mike Nellums.

“When we were in fiscal distress, (Sharpe) worked hard with the state Education Department to get us out. He should be commended for that, but I don’t think most taxpayers would want to buy the contract out for $400,000.”

TOP STORY>>Sergeant guilty in trial on air base

Leader staff writer

An Air Force staff sergeant stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base was convicted of aggravated assault Friday for his part in a 2005 brutal gang initiation of an Army sergeant, who died from his injuries. At the time, both men were stationed in Germany.

Staff Sgt. Jerome Jones, 25, will serve two years in prison, have his rank reduced to airman basic and receive a dishonorable discharge for his part in the death of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson and convictions on a host of other charges.

Jones’ court martial began last week at the air base. The five-man panel of jurors went into deliberations Thursday afternoon and returned its verdict and sentence by early Friday evening.

The maximum time Jones could have been sentenced if convicted on all charges was 59 years. But before his sentencing, the maximum was capped at 17.5 years.

Jones was also found guilty of conspiracy to wrongfully impede an investigation, conspiracy to participate in an organization that advocates use of force or violence, influencing actions of a potential witness, conduct that is detrimental to the good order and discipline of the armed forces and its public esteem, wrongful use of a controlled substance (marijuana), and failure to obey a regulation by participation in an organization that advocates use of force or violence.

Jones was found not guilty of being an accessory after the fact, involving alleged fundraising to enable the gang’s alleged ringleader, former Airman Rico Williams, elude authorities. Williams remains at large.

By consenting to the ritual beating, Johnson earned membership in a group that went by the names BOSS (Brothers of the Strong Struggle) and Gangster Disciples, which attracted young black males and was active in and around Kaiserslautern, Germany, for several years before the fatal incident.

Johnson was found dead in his Army barracks on July 4, 2005, the morning after the initiation. Multiple blunt-force trauma was ruled as the cause of his death, according to an autopsy by the Army.

The three days of testimony included that of five current or former U.S. servicemen, as well as that of expert witnesses in forensic medicine and gang behavior.

To get a guilty verdict on as many of the charges as possible, the prosecution needed to convince jurors of two things: that the group to which Jones belonged was a true gang, and that he was fully responsible for Johnson’s death, regardless of his intent, Johnson’s own willing participation in the beating, or others’ culpability.

Throughout the trial, Jones’ defense team sought to discredit the idea that the group was actually a gang, but more accurately a group of “gang wannabes” who were acting out delusions of the ringleader Williams.

In closing arguments, Maj. Veronique Anderson, a defense attorney, called the prosecution’s case nothing more than “guilt by association, labels and stereotypes,” dependent upon circumstantial evidence and unreliable testimony from others implicated in the case.

Jones did not take the stand, but according to testimony from gang members, Johnson’s initiatition was more brutal than others by the group. Nine men – airmen and soldiers – took part, rather than the usual six. Several times, the victim was asked if he wanted the battering to stop; each time, he urged the group to continue. Several times, he fell and was helped up. The last time, he was left on the ground and kicked, until repeated shouts from a timekeeper stopped the assault after six minutes. Dazed and unable to walk on his own, Johnson was driven back to his quarters, rather than going out to celebrate, which was customary after induction of a new member. Some witnesses said Jones participated in the initiation, others said he was not present.

Long before being implicated in the crime, Jones was transferred from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Little Rock, where he has worked as an aircraft maintainer with the 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron until his court martial.

Some testimony from former members portrayed the group as belligerent, frequently engaging in gang fights at a local club, Black Sounds, which was claimed as its turf. Williams was depicted as a charismatic figure who commanded respect through use of violence and was emulated by Jones and others who rose to prominence in the organization.

Testimony from others familiar with the group described it as a surrogate family or fraternity that hosted barbeques, parties, talent shows, even baby showers, and only over time became more gang-like, as Williams aligned the group’s identity with the Gangster Disciples, a once-powerful stateside gang and rival of the Crips and Bloods.

At his direction, members researched the “G.D.” on the Internet and adopted its trappings – gang colors, body language, sayings, and icons, including the six-pointed Star of David and credo, “living under the six – love, life, loyalty, understanding, wisdom, and knowledge.”


The prosecution and defense brought their own, very different expert witnesses to testify about the character of the group to which Jones belonged. Prosecution witness John Bowman, a Killeen, Texas, police detective with a long career in gang investigations, including those in the military, testified that the Kaiserslautern group was indeed a gang, whose behavior and symbols were “largely consistent” with the Chicago-based Gangster Disciples.

In contrast, the defense’s expert witness on gangs was Lewis Yablonksy, a University of California professor with a 50-year career in gang research and an author of several books on the topic. He categorically rejected the idea that servicemen could ever belong to a true gang, because their military livelihoods precluded them from full-time criminal activity, which according to his own academic framework, is the defining characteristic of a gang.

He admitted to never having studied the Gangster Disciples or military gangs. In his opinion, the Kaiserlautern group had been manipulated into living out Williams’ fantasies and merely engaged in “a psychodrama” in off-time from military jobs.


The defense tried several strategies to shift responsibility away from the accused by pointing the finger of blame elsewhere – at the victim himself, at others who had been with Johnson during and after the beating, and at the U.S. Army.

Johnson’s own willingness to be beaten did not in anyway lessen the culpability of Jones or others who may have contributed to Johnson’s death, ruled the military judge, Lt. Col. Nancy Paul. To an appeal by another defense attorney, Maj. Conrad Huygen, that jurors should be instructed to consider the victim’s lawful consent in their deliberations, Paul refused, noting, “The initiation in of itself was unlawful.”

Eleven U.S. servicemen have been implicated in the incident – nine as participants in the beating and two as bystanders.. Two airmen and one soldier have been convicted, with prison sentences ranging from six to 12 years. One has been acquitted. Another awaits trial in February.


The defense attempted to shift blame as well to the Army for its failure to screen Johnson for an underlying medical condition that the defense’s forensic medicine expert testified contributed to his death. Harry Bonnell, former deputy medical examiner for San Diego, Calif., told jurors that organ tissue samples revealed that Johnson was a carrier of the trait for sickle cell disease, which affects individuals of African descent.

The disorder, which causes red blood cells to change from a normal doughnut to crescent shape is protective against malaria, but also impedes the flow of oxygen to body tissues. Individuals without the sickle cell disease, but who are carriers of the trait, generally live healthy lives, Bonnell said, but physical exertion and dehydration can bring on a sudden sickling of blood cells and even death. Bonnell contended that this is what happened to Johnson, although he had no history of sickle cell crisis, even as an athlete or during an Iraq tour of duty.

Maj. Huygen saw Bonnell’s testimony as reason to blame the Army for Johnson’s death.

“The United States Army is accountable for this. Sgt. Johnson was not given the tools to recognize what was going on in his body,” Huygen said.

In her closing arguments, prosecution attorney Capt. Deanna Daly told the jurors, “One thing we know for sure, the one definite conclusion from three experts – if he had not been beaten that day he would not have died. They were using violence against other members of the military, some who outranked them. I am not saying it is an intentional death, but he (Jones) is responsible.” She urged the panel, in their deliberations, to “use your common sense and way of the world.”

TOP STORY>>Commander of 314th AW loves his job

Leader senior staff writer

If enthusiasm alone could end a war, Col. Charles K. Hyde could have brought home all the troops safely by now.

Instead, he’s in command of the 314th Airlift Wing of the Air Education and Training Command at Little Rock Air Force Base, where he’s thrown himself into safeguarding the national interest by overseeing the training of virtually all U.S. and allied C-130 airlift crews.

An animated Hyde speaks quickly and with apparent affection for his job as commander of the airmen, trainers and equipment that make up that wing.

Hyde took command of the 314th, the training wing at the world’s premiere C-130 base, in October as part of the reorganization that moved Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz Jr. from the 314th to the newly created 19th Airlift Wing expeditionary force and transferred command of the base from the 314th to the 19th.

Schatz has been reassigned to the joint staff at Pentagon, where he will serve as deputy director for global operations.

In a change of command ceremony on Wednesday, Col. Gregory S. Otey, former Air Force Expeditionary Center vice commander at Fort Dix, N.J., will replace Schatz as commander of the 19th Airlift Wing.

Hyde’s command includes 900 airmen, 26 E model C-130s, seven C-130 Js, and at Keesler Air Force Base at Biloxi Miss., three C-21s.

“To fly, fight and win,” is the motto, Hyde said. “That involves developing the professional skills needed to win on the battlefields our soldiers will be on in the future,” he said.

“We fly to the sounds of guns,” the colonel explained. “We carry the fight to the enemy.”

That includes “beans, bullets and med evac,” he added. Soldiers will often arrive in theatre in the belly of a C-130 and whether they leave at the end of their tour, injured or killed “we will return them home with dignity,” he said.

“No soldier, marine or airman is ever alone when we’re on duty,” the colonel said.

“Being a good wingman means never leaving a fallen comrade behind,” Hyde said. The wing also takes care of families while loved ones are deployed.

Because all U.S. C-130 crews are trained at the Little Rock schoolhouse, regardless of service branch, it’s possible for a crew to be composed of members of different services if necessary.

Currently at the base, a C-130H simulator that includes advanced avionics is being completed and a second one is under construction. They train crews to work in the older planes that have be retrofitted with digital cockpits instead of the analog instruments that date back to the Eisenhower administration.

The old planes require a crew of five, Hyde said, the retrofitted planes a crew of four and the new C-130Js, with increased capacity, range and speed require a crew of only three.

Because crews from 34 nations train at Little Rock, Hyde said some of those trained could eventually head air forces in their own country or even be leaders in that country, with warm positive feelings from the time they spent at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Although this is Hyde’s first tour assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base, he had been to the base previous for C-130 training and had himself enjoyed the hospitality of local residents and the outdoors.

His two children are attending the local public schools, one at Northwood Junior High School, the other at North Pulaski High School.

“It’s working out pretty well for us,” he said.

Hyde says the biggest challenge he has faced is to help redefine the 314th’s relationship with other wings on the base. Until October, it was the host wing, with responsibility for housing, logistics of living and providing services to airmen and families on the base.

Now they are helping reinforce new policies that recognize that the hosting responsibility has been shifted to the 19th Airlift Wing.

“We need to figure out how to leverage and use that support. We need to know what to ask for,” the colonel said.

“We are lean and mission-focused,” he added.

When Otey arrives to take the command of the 19th Airlift Wing, he and Hyde will hardly be strangers to each other. Both are career C-130 airmen who were deployed together during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We understand the mission of combat airlift, and that will pay dividends,” Hyde said.

“Greg will be one of my biggest customers,” he said, referring to the C-130 crews that the 314th trains and graduates.

He will be able to get feedback on the strong and weak points of the training as the result of feedback from Otey, and can make changes to training if necessary.

Hyde calls the 314th Airlift Wing “the foundation of America’s combat airlift capacity.”

According to Hyde, goals for the wing are to produce the world’s most professional, highly skilled combat crewmembers, to accomplish their mission safely and effectively, to develop airmen and leaders, to take care of the Air Force family and to represent the Air Force to the community, joint partners and allies.

Combat airlift traces its roots back to north Africa in 1942. Airlifters were the lead group for the D-Day invasion and have flown in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama and Desert Shield.

Since the invasion of Iraq, the C-130 has taken 13,000 convoys off the dangerous roads.

In 2008, the wing won the Air Force’s Outstanding Unit Award, in addition to several other excellence awards.

In the future, increased C-130J sales to China, India and perhaps the United Arab Eremites translate into job insurance for the 314th, which will train all those crews.

Hyde graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1987 with a bachelor of science degree in international affairs. He earned a master of science degree in organizational and human- resource development from Abilene Christian University in 1997.
He is a 2000 graduate of the College of Naval Command and Staff, Naval War College and a 2005 graduate of the Army War College. He commanded the 39th Airlift Squadron and served as 317th Airlift Group deputy commander, at Dyess AFB, Texas.
He commanded the 320th Expeditionary Operations Group at Seeb Air Base, Oman, during Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, and was vice commander of the 388th Air Expeditionary Wing, Southwest Asia, from 2005 to 2006.

Before his current position, Hyde served as chief, distribution division, directorate of logistics, the joint staff, at the Pentagon.

He is a command pilot with 3,900 hours in C-130s and T-37s.

TOP STORY>>Base repels nuisance birds

Leader senior staff writer

Nothing good happens when a bird and an airplane occupy the same space at the same time, as evidenced Jan. 15th when U.S. Airways Flight 1549 carrying 155 passengers and crew apparently struck a flock of birds—probably Canada geese—and the pilot was forced to ditch the plane in the Hudson River.

The good new is that all passengers and crew were rescued after a harrowing few minutes.

“That’s not going to happen here,” said Maj. Joel Stephens. “The proper controls are in place and we check daily.”

At Little Rock Air Force Base, Stephens is part of a small group of airmen responsible for minimizing the number of bird strikes to the dozens of C-130s based there, according to Lt. Col. Chip Brown, chief of safety for the 19th Airlift Wing.

“Bird strikes are not a problem (here), but they do occur,” said Stephens, chief of flying safety.

They also manage to minimize deer on the runway.

He said there could be four or five bird strikes a day during the peak season. Most aren’t discovered until the aircraft land for the evening and crew and maintainers do an inspection.

In recent memory, bird strikes have caused no fatalities or lost aircraft at the base.

The airfield is the busiest single-runway base in the Air Force, Brown said.

Brown said that when Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz arrived at the base, he ordered an increase in bird awareness and avoidance.

He wanted to go above and beyond,” Brown said.

About 70 percent of all known bird strikes occur below 2,000 feet above the ground, Stephens said, so commercial aircraft have high exposure only on taking off and landing.

At the base, however, where training all C-130 crews for the U.S. armed forces and for 34 allied nations occurs, it’s all about practice take offs and landings, he said.

Those planes are below the 2,000-foot mark about 40 percent of the 15,000 hours they are airborne each year, while commercial aircraft are in the bird-strike danger zone only about 3 percent of the time.

The birds encountered are the waterfowl, raptors such as hawks, and perching birds and bats.

Arkansas and Little Rock are in the Mississippi flyway, used extensively by migratory birds during the fall months of October, November and December and the spring months of April and May.

Little Rock Air Force Base takes a three-pronged approach to discouraging birds in the area.

The three prongs are aviation aircrew awareness, habitat modification and wildlife management.

The last of those includes the most obvious—running birds off with pyrotechnics, noise cannons, screamers and bangers, and by simple harassment.

The habitat modification includes keeping grass near the runway mowed no lower than seven inches from the ground, nor higher than 14 inches.

Grass shorter than seven inches can’t successfully hide a predator, so birds are willing to rest or nest there. Grass taller than 14 inches will go to seed, attracting birds to feed.

A year ago, the base had 200 resident geese. Now it has none.

And the number of bird strikes has decreased 20 percent from a year ago, Brown said.

The Doppler radar, control tower personnel, aircrews and others report the presence of birds in the area, and the safety crew responds accordingly.

They use a bird-avoidance model that schedules most takeoffs and landings between an hour before sunrise and an hour before sunset.

Sixty-two percent of bird strikes occur at night, Stephens said.

All bird sightings and strikes are reported to the Smithsonian Institution, which compiles a nationwide data base.

Locally at the base, they are beginning to create their own bird model.