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Rhino Times - 2017-04-13
Magazines / Newspapers | Government 2017-04-13 00:18:04
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    Vol. V No. 15 Greensboro, North Carolina www.rhinotimes.com Thursday, April 13, 2017 Trying Once Again To Fix Kiddie Train Scott D. Yost Animal Shelter Cruelty Case Takes Racial Turn plus Under The Hammer, Uncle Orson Reviews Everything AND MORE

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    2 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, April 13, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com THE WEEKLY Hammer Stop Saying Yes by John Hammer to Pie in the Sky Greensboro behaves like a hare when in reality we should act like a tortoise. It seems the city leaps from one fake pie in the sky idea to the next while other cities in North Carolina keep plugging along and catching up. Say Yes is only the latest grand scheme that was going solve all the problems in public education and result in new industries flocking to Guilford County. But it appears to be the latest in a long line of too-good-tobe-true schemes. Greensboro was going to attract Major League Baseball to the area. After all the hoopla died down, the reality was that this area had been used as a patsy so that the owners of the Minnesota Twins could get a better stadium deal in Minnesota. Even if the special restaurant tax referendum had passed, the area would have been left with a new tax and no Major League Baseball. There was the Heart of the Triad (HOT). Greensboro was going to work with Guilford County, Winston- Salem, Kernersville, Oak Ridge, and Forsyth County to turn the area around Colfax into a mecca for new industry. Have you heard anything about HOT lately? FedEx was going to come in here and transform the area; if we would build them a new runway, the economic impact was estimated at $4 billion. The battle over building a new runway for FedEx was long, bitter and loud. In the end the runway was constructed and FedEx built a $300 million facility, most of which it doesn’t use. Currently the new runway attracts attention when Air Force One flies down from Washington and uses it to practice takeoffs and landings. And there is an annual Run on the Runway. But there hasn’t been the promised boon to the economy and the impact on the local economy ended when the construction was finished. Project Haystack was going to make Guilford County the world headquarters for data centers. But, as of 2017, Project Haystack is an abandoned prison farm. The only regular activity out there is at the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department shooting range. Now the hopes and dreams of the area are tied up in the Greensboro- Randolph Megasite. If an automobile manufacturing plant comes to the megasite then it is going to transform the area, bringing jobs and prosperity. But for that to happen the State of North Carolina will have to agree to give millions, maybe a hundred million, in incentives to Greensboro. Since the Greensboro City Council insists on poking the bear, with the bear being the state legislature, the odds of that happening in the near term are slim. Which brings us back around to Say Yes, the organization that was going to transform education in Guilford County. We were told that every child who graduated from public school in Guilford County would receive a last dollar tuition scholarship. It turns out that was just more pie in the sky. Say Yes appears to be able to finance last dollar scholarships for only a small percentage of those who received scholarships in 2016-2017. If you use the figures Say Yes has provided, about 85 percent of the scholarship money for 2016-2017 will have to be eliminated for Say Yes to remain solvent. Say Yes has yet to offer a good explanation of how their figures could have been off by about 600 percent. Sometimes people drop a decimal point, which would put the figures off by 10 percent. Dropping two decimal points would put the figures off by 100 percent. The question that Say Yes has failed to answer is how it could have been so wrong. Is it a question of incompetence or was the area being played once again? Did Say Yes come to Guilford County with promises that it knew it couldn’t keep to get support and is now cutting back to what it knew all along it could afford? It seems to either be a case of bait and switch or total incompetence, and one is as scary an explanation as the other. Imagine if you and your spouse figured out that you could afford a rent payment of $900 a month. So you go house shopping on your own and through a slight miscalculation you sign a lease on a house for $6,100 a month. How could you possibly explain that to your spouse? If you signed a lease for $1,000 you could explain that you were going to have to tighten your belts to make the monthly payments, but how could anyone explain being off by over 600 percent? I don’t think you can. Say Yes appears to be simply another deal that was too good to be true, but Greensboro and Guilford County swallowed the sales pitch hook, line and sinker. The Guilford County Board of Commissioners was the only elected body that asked any serious questions, and because of the overwhelming public support that had been stirred up, even the commissioners gave Say Yes their stamp of approval after being ridiculed for even questioning the program. Both Greensboro and Guilford County have excellent budget and finance departments. In retrospect, doesn’t it seem like some elected officials should have said, “Let our guys look at your numbers and see what they think”? In both Greensboro and Guilford County, the budget and finance departments hit their numbers every year. It’s hard to believe that even the smooth talking big city boys from Say Yes would have been able to pull the wool over their eyes. But everyone was in such a rush to get Say Yes going that the due diligence on the proposal was pushed aside. If Say Yes had come to Guilford County and said, “If you can raise $42 million privately we can set up an endowment to pay last (continued on page 5)

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, April 13, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 3

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    4 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, April 13, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com RHINO SHORTS by John Hammer The Rhino Times will hold its April Showers Schmoozefest on Thursday, April 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Blue Agave Mexican Bar & Grill at 3900 Battleground Ave. Those who sign in and wear a name tag are welcome to enjoy free hors d’oeuvres and beer and wine (while supplies last). Many of us are wondering how long it will be until Greensboro no longer has a daily newspaper but a daily edition of some kind of regional newspaper based in Winston-Salem. That day, in all but the name of the paper, may already be here. Monday’s News & Record had three articles on the front page. One was about Rockingham County written by a N&R reporter. The paper’s fascination with every little thing happening in Rockingham County is bizarre. The N&R couldn’t spare a reporter to attend the meetings last week of the Greensboro City Council or the Guilford County Board of Commissioners but could assign a reporter to cover Rockingham County. Maybe the regional newspaper won’t be based in Winston-Salem but in Reidsville. The other two stories were from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, another newspaper owned by Warren Buffett. Those stories were about the 10th anniversary of the shooting at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, and one was written by a reporter who was fired a week ago, so it was written some time before that – hardly what you would call breaking news, and not local news either. Good news for North Carolina: Civitas is reporting that the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) lost 3,450 members and had an operating deficit of nearly $700,000. I’ve attended countless meetings where representatives of the NCAE spoke and what they invariably end up talking about are teachers’ salaries and benefits. It seems like if the organization were more concerned with education, it might fare better. I was looking out my window this week and saw yet another car going the wrong way on Friendly Avenue. I’ve been seeing more cars doing that recently, but fortunately I haven’t seen an accident. However, I did notice that there are no “one way” signs across from the three parking lots I can see from my window. So if you were visiting downtown Greensboro and pulled out into Friendly from one of these parking lots and turned right, there is nothing to tell you that you have done a bad thing. The City of Greensboro hates privately owned signs and loves government owned signs. It is RHINO TIMES BUSINESS AND amazing that there are no one-way signs across the street. Of course, a much better but far less likely solution would be to eliminate the one-way streets in downtown Greensboro. It would make getting around the downtown so much easier for visitors as well as people who come downtown every day. The mainstream media in Greensboro give big play to bills introduced in the legislature by the Democratic representatives from Guilford County. This is sweet, and it’s understandable that the mainstream media want to help out their buddies in the legislature with free publicity. But it hurts the credibility of the mainstream media, which already has huge credibility issues, made worse by the last election. Except in rare cases, bills filed by Democrats (continued on page 11) SERVICE DIRECTORY For information to advertise in our Directory call (336) 763-4170 Reach over 50,000 in our Service Directory. Reserve your space by calling (336) 763-4170 or emailing sales@rhinotimes.com

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, April 13, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 5 pie table of CONTENTS 2 WEEKLY HAMMER BY JOHN HAMMER 8 COMMISSIONERS THINK THEY CAN, THINK THEY CAN FIX THE TRAIN BY SCOTT D. YOST 10 ANIMAL SHELTER CRUELTY CASE TAKES RACIAL TURN BY SCOTT D. YOST 13 TO TAX OR NOT TO TAX: OUTLING RAISES QUESTION ON CITY BONDS BY JOHN HAMMER 6 14 ‘INCONVENIENT’ TRUTH OF NUSSBAUM CENTER $75K LOAN FORGIVENESS BY SCOTT D. YOST 15 UNCLE ORSON BY ORSON SCOTT CARD 23 YOST COLUMN BY SCOTT D. YOST 25 ASK CAROLYN BY CAROLYN WOODRUFF 35 UNDER THE HAMMER BY JOHN HAMMER 4 RHINO SHORTS 17 REAL ESTATE 18 NYT CROSSWORD 19 CHILDREN’S SCHEDULE 21 THE SOUND OF THE BEEP 28 NEWS OF THE WEIRD 30 SUDOKU 30 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 32 PUZZLE ANSWERS (continued from page 2) dollar scholarships for 15 percent to 20 percent of the graduates of Guilford County Schools,” it doesn’t seem likely they would have been able to raise $42 million. Offering scholarships primarily to low-income families is not going to help recruit new high paying industries to Guilford County because their employees won’t qualify for scholarships from Say Yes. However, it will do the same thing that putting millions into affordable housing does for the area – attract more people to the area who need government assistance to get by. It’s not a recipe for growth but a recipe for financial disaster. Another question that someone should be asking, since Say Yes is so obviously bad with figures, is how much did Say Yes actually raise in Guilford County. Is it really $42 million, or did they miscalculate like they did with the scholarships and it’s really $7 million and they were 600 percent off on revenue as well as expenditures? Say Yes appears to be simply another pie in the sky deal that isn’t going to come close to doing what Guilford County was told it would do. Maybe what Greensboro and Guilford County need to do is quit swinging for the fences and instead settle for some singles and doubles. If the community didn’t waste its time, energy and resources on going after the big fish that is going to solve all the economic problems in the area, we might have time to catch a whole bunch of little fish that would actually accomplish the goal. Along those lines, the best thing Guilford County could do with Say Yes right now is say, “We’re not buying what you’re selling. We recommend you try selling your services in Greenville, South Carolina, Chattanooga, Tennessee,” or some other city that Greensboro considers a rival. But what is far more likely to happen is that Say Yes will continue to struggle along in Guilford County, taking money out of the area that could be put to much better use with an organization that can count. Cover: Powerade State Games ice skating competition at the Ice House on April 8. Photo by Sandy Groover. More photos page 12 EDITOR-IN-CHIEF John Hammer managing editor ELAINE HAMMER PUBLISHER Roy Carroll GENERAL MANAGER Joann Zollo creative director ANTHONY COUNCIL county editor SCOTT D. YOST contributing editor ORSON SCOTT CARD advertising consultants DONNA GOODWIN TYE SINGLETON 216 West Market Street, Greensboro NC 27401 P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro NC 27429 | (336) 763-4170 (336) 763-2585 fax | sales@rhinotimes.com | www.rhinotimes.com

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    6 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, April 13, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com Regional Gymnastics at Special Events Center Photos by RuthAnne Brame

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, April 13, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 7 Benefiting Make-A-Wish ® Join us for the annual Kentucky Derby Classic presented by Ralph Lauren Saturday, May 6, 2017 | High Caliber Stables | Greensboro, NC The afternoon encompasses all things Kentucky Derby with traditional Mint Juleps, beer and wine, bourbon tastings, southern cuisine, live and silent auctions, a hat contest, and of course a live feed of the Kentucky Derby as the excitement happens at Churchill Downs. Most importantly, the Kentucky Derby Classic is an afternoon of charitable giving to fund the mission of Make-A-Wish ® . Purchase your tickets today at: KentuckyDerbyClassic.org

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    8 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, April 13, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com Commissioners Think They Can, Think They Can Fix The Train by Scott D. Yost The children of Guilford County can celebrate because the Guilford County Board of Commissioners has saved the problem-plagued kiddie train at Northeast Park. Now everyone in Guilford County government has their fingers crossed, hoping that it won’t be the county’s taxpayers who end up getting taken for a ride. At the Board of Commissioners’ Thursday, April 6 meeting, after a good deal of discussion, the county commissioners voted 7 to 1 to spend an estimated $63,000 to save the choo-choo train that’s been the source of massive headaches for five years and has already cost the county about a half-million dollars. The decision was a lot closer than the lopsided vote would indicate: Most of the commissioners who voted to repair the train – or at least give it one more valiant try – said they were uncertain what to do and said they worried they were throwing good money after bad. Guilford County Facilities, Parks and Property Management Director Robert McNiece also said it was a close call. He gave the board the project details and noted that the Guilford County Parks and Recreation Commission had unanimously recommended repairing the train. He said a well-running and consistently operating train – if the county could finally get things to that point – would draw a lot of people to Northeast Park. The ride has been open to the public so infrequently over the years that it’s hard to get good numbers on its use when it is. However, when it was running briefly in December 2015, it was a popular attraction at the park. “The train is actually a big part of the park,” McNiece said, adding that there’s also a tunnel, crossings and about a half-mile of track. McNiece said part of the problem was that, five years ago, the county purchased a train that was far from top of the line. “The train was not the highest quality train that could have been purchased at the time,” he said. “We got what we paid for – not the Cadillac; we got the Chevette.” Five years ago, Guilford County spent nearly $370,000 on the project – roughly $170,000 for the train and about $200,000 for the track. The county could have purchased a very good train for around $250,000 and it no doubt would have served the county better than the train the county is now saddled with. The track is said to be a good quality track, though clearly it has issues of its own. Over the last five years, the county has paid experts and consultants to try to get the train running but so far nothing has worked. The new project involves both engine repair and track repair. Fixing the track is estimated to take about $16,000, while the engine is projected to cost around $47,000. McNiece said the train and track will always require some type of regular maintenance, but he added that, hopefully, it will only need routine maintenance for a while after the repairs are made. Commissioner Hank Henning was one of the first commissioners to weigh in. “It has a good track record,” Henning joked, but instead of laughs his fellow commissioners just looked at him like he was crazy because they thought he was being serious – and the statement he’d made couldn’t have been further from the truth. Henning said he had a few questions but those were mostly just to “delay while I make up my mind.” He added, “I’m sure I’m like everyone else in that I can go either way on this.” Henning said after the meeting that he had struggled mightily with the train issue and that he only made his decision to support the repair right before the vote. Henning also said he was very surprised that previous county officials didn’t try to get their money back years ago after it became obvious they had been sold a lemon. At the meeting, Henning said this was likely the last time Guilford County staff would ever see him vote to put more money into the Northeast Park train. “We can’t have any more debacles like this,” Henning said. McNiece said payment to the Burlington-based company repairing the train would be dependent on successful completion of the work. He also said it was a well-respected firm that offered a one-year warranty on the work. Like Henning and other commissioners, McNiece said this was a difficult call to make. (continued on next page)

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, April 13, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 9 train (continued from previous page) “This isn’t a slam dunk for my side either,” McNiece said. “It’s still not a great train. I don’t want you to leave here with the belief that this thing is going to run great for the next 20 years.” When one commissioner told McNiece he was being evasive in his recommendation, McNiece joked that he was working on being more political when it came to his answers. McNiece also said the train could be a big draw, like similar trains in High Point and Burlington have proven to be. “It’s never going to be a large revenue item,” he said, adding that it might generate $10,000 to $15,000 a year. He said people often call and ask, “Is the train going to be running?” before making plans to come out to Northeast Park. The train hasn’t been open to the public in nearly a year and a half, and even that period of operation was very brief. McNiece said he can’t give a good estimate as to how many people will ride the train once it’s fixed. He said one problem with the train is that it has never run long enough to establish any type of following. At the April 6 meeting in the commissioners second-floor meeting room in the Old Guilford County Court House, Commissioner Carolyn Coleman said the kiddie train would be a good draw if it were operational and marketed properly. Commissioner Justin Conrad offered a friendly amendment to the motion to fix the train: Guilford County, he said, should make an attempt to find a nonprofit or private sector group willing to own and operate the train. That amendment passed along with the decision to repair the train, but at this point it seems highly unlikely someone would want to take over the cursed money pit that’s cost the county roughly $500,000 so far. Also, the terms of that agreement would no doubt be difficult to hash out. Some commissioners, especially Coleman, were concerned Guilford County would still carry liability for the train even if it were owned and operated by another entity. In this most recent attempt to fix the train, county staff has learned a lot more about the train’s problems. One seems to be that Guilford County bought the track and the train from different vendors, and there’s some evidence that the train doesn’t “fit the track” well, which is why it often runs off the tracks when it goes around a curve. “We’ve been able to keep the train running – the problem with the train is keeping it on the track,” McNiece told the board at one point. Commissioner Kay Cashion asked, “So is there a mismatch between the tracks and the train?” “That’s a good question,” McNiece said. Commissioner Alan Branson represents the Northeast Park area and he said he’s sick and tired of hearing about problems with the train. “This makes me think of the Ford Edsel and the Pinto,” Branson said. Commissioner Alan Perdue asked if this was the best use of $63,000 when it comes to county parks’ projects. “It’s part of a whole system,” McNiece said of the train. He said the miniature golf course, the carousel and other attractions at Northeast Park get more use when people come to ride the train. He also said that, given the park’s location, people don’t “just stumble” upon it, but instead they go there with a purpose. Several commissioners who voted to repair the train made it clear that they would be highly unlikely to approve any more money for the train should something else go wrong. Henning’s comment was typical. “What is our breaking point?” he said. “When do we say, ‘Enough is enough’? For me, this is it. If it’s even $10,000 brought to us next year – then I’m probably done.” McNiece said he didn’t see that happening because the next time something went wrong with it he would be so reluctant to bring it to the board that, instead, “You’ll see me underneath the train trying to fix it.” Conrad offered an unusual reason to make the repairs. “If we don’t fix the train, Scott Yost is going to be personally devastated,” Conrad said, joking about the Rhino Times extensive coverage of the train. The Rhino Times has taken no official position on the fate of the train. However, the newspaper does believe that attempting to fix it will continue to lead to many interesting stories in future papers. Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips has made it a theme for the current board that this group shouldn’t repeat or continue the mistakes of past Guilford County Boards of Commissioners, and he clearly thought this was one of those cases. He voted against the move and spoke against it. “I’m not going to support this,” Phillips said. He said he considered it “a certainty” that more major problems would surface with the train and he added that the money would be better spent elsewhere. “There are needs at other parks that may be underserved,” Phillips said, “and this I view as a little more of a want.” Even those who voted to fix the train seemed to have a sense that Phillips’ prediction would turn out to be correct. “It does leave a little queasiness in my stomach,” Branson said right before he voted to repair the train that’s become known as “The Little Train that Couldn’t.” One comment from the facilities director summed up the feelings of a lot people in the room that night. “I’ve learned more about trains than I ever wanted to know,” McNiece said. aaf tank museum FAMILY FUN DAY saturday, april 22 Vehicle Demonstrations Bounce House Catch the Cannon Ball Face Painting Radio Control Tank Battles Raffle Tables Coloring and Community Tables Special Appearances by PAW PATROL & MINION 11 am to 3 pm courtesy of Sound Wave Entertainment Enter raffle for a chance to win a ride in one of the Tank Museum’s vehicles Admissions: $12 Adults $10 Under 12 • $10 Over 60 Under 4 FREE Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. AAF Tank Museum 3401 US Highway 29, Danville, VA 24540 434-836-5323 • www.aaftankmuseum.com HOURS 10 am to 4 pm

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    10 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, April 13, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com Two Years In Making, Animal Shelter Cruelty Case Takes Racial Turn by Scott D. Yost The wheels of justice are slow but they do turn: A year and a half after felony animal cruelty charges were brought against former Guilford County Animal Shelter Director Marsha Williams, the case is finally ready to move forward. It’s doing so with an interesting opening act – a motion by Williams’ attorney that claims Davidson County is racially targeting Williams. In addition to running the Guilford County Animal Shelter, in 2015 Williams was also the director of the Davidson County Animal Shelter, the county where District Attorney Garry Frank filed a felony charge of animal cruelty against Williams. Frank said this week that he expects Williams’ trial to take place next month, but he added that High Point Attorney Duane Bryant, who’s representing Williams, had filed a motion arguing that the case shouldn’t proceed at all. Bryant’s motion filed in Davidson County Superior Court states that Davidson County is engaged in “selective prosecution” of his client based on racial grounds. Williams and two other former Davidson County Animal Shelter workers now being prosecuted for animal cruelty are all black, and Bryant’s motion states that white shelter workers in circumstances similar to Williams’ weren’t being prosecuted. Frank said he didn’t want to comment on Bryant’s claims, but he did say he expects Williams’ case to be heard in May after these and other issues are addressed in preliminary hearings. Williams was director of the Guilford County Animal Shelter and the Davidson County Animal Shelter two years ago when those shelters were run by the United Animal Coalition (UAC), a nonprofit driven out of existence by scandals at both shelters. In mid-August of 2015, animal cruelty investigators with the State of North Carolina found evidence of widespread animal neglect and cruelty at the two shelters. The Animal Welfare Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services revoked the UAC’s operating license and later hit the group with a $300,000 fine. Though Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes expressed a strong desire for Guilford County to prosecute Williams on some of the worst offenses found, Guilford County District Attorney Doug Henderson said there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute Williams for her actions at the Guilford County shelter. In Davidson County, on the other hand, Frank did file felony charges against Williams and two of her staff – Dana Williams (Marsha Williams’ daughter) and Marissa Studivent. Those charges stem from the treatment of a dog named “Nana.” The three former shelter employees are facing felony cruelty animal charges that allege they “tortured” Nana through neglect. Nana, apparently hit by a car, was severely injured and taken to the Davidson County shelter. The dog, which was reported to have had a broken back and other severe ailments, was allegedly left in its cage for three days without proper medical care or pain relief before it was euthanized. Bryant’s legal brief, however, stated that the actions of Williams and the other two women charged didn’t differ from the actions of other shelter workers. Bryant didn’t return phone calls from the Rhino Times this week, but his motion states that several other individuals who were “non-African Americans” weren’t charged with similar offences though their actions – or inaction – was essentially the same. That motion names other administrators and vet techs at the Davidson County shelter who were present with Nana during those three days. Bryant’s selective prosecution motion also states that UAC board members, responsible for overseeing the shelter’s operations, weren’t charged with any crime. “No UAC member was charged or placed in jeopardy in any way.” Bryant’s motion states (bold type his). A footnote to that point adds, “All persons that are UAC Board members are non-African-American.” The motion also states that those who operated the Davidson County shelter before the UAC took over operations were not charged with crimes even though there were allegations of abuse and poor management at that time as well. “The facility was controlled and operated by Caucasian persons,” it reads. “No member of the former Davidson County Animal Shelter (pre UAC) administration was ever charged, prosecuted or placed in jeopardy in any way. Moreover, no member of the current UAC board, or even the individuals who were in charge of Nana have been charged. To prosecute Defendant to the exclusion of others constitutes selective prosecution and discriminatory enforcement.” That motion states that the charges constitute “intentional discriminatory law enforcement” in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, as well as in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the North Carolina Constitution. Frank said this week that there had been other issues in the case as well that were drawing it out. “We’re slugging it out with some negotiations,” said the Davidson County prosecutor. “We would like to have moved it along faster, but another aspect that I can’t discuss came up.” He said Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Ina Stanton is the prosecutor handling the case. Frank added that his office plans to try the three cases separately, with Williams’ case being heard first. Frank also said that his office had been busy dealing with five or six murder cases recently, one of which was a high-profile case with an international element. An Irishman was allegedly murdered by his wife and her father, and that’s been a complex affair with a custody battle tied in and a lot of media attention. Initially, additional charges were filed against Williams for mishandling of drugs at the Davidson County Animal Shelter but those charges were dropped last year. Though Williams’ attorney didn’t return voicemail messages left by the Rhino Times this week, he did make (continued on next page)

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