For Georgia legal observers, this will have to be one of the biggest weeks ever. Jury selection began this week in Augusta for the first of four death-penalty trials for Reinaldo Rivera, and Dwight York goes on trial for multiple child-molestation charges in Glynn County.
Rivera is one creepy guy, facing multiple charges including kidnapping, rape and murder for attacks on young women. Prosecutors hope for a conviction for the Sept. 4, 2000 murder of Army Sgt. Marni Glista and then have jurors impose the death penalty. Even though Rivera has admitted guilt and told investigators he wanted to plead guilty and get the death penalty, his defense attorneys are expected to try to get him acquitted and, if that fails, try to get Rivera sentenced to life in prison.
Naturally, part of their defense will be to claim hes crazy. Out here in Columbia County, jurors will get to hear some version of Riveras defense when hes put on trial at a later date for the murder of 17-year-old Tabitha Bosdell, whose body was found three years ago near Pumpkin Center.
Insanity apparently wont be the defense in Dwight Yorks case - even though most people outside his circle of nutty Nuwabians think hes nuts.
York also has admitted his crimes, twice pleading guilty to federal charges of racketeering and child molestation. A federal judge didnt like the plea agreement - too lenient, writes Bill Torpy in The Atlanta Constitution - so York is going on trial.
Nutty? Heres what Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills had to say about Yorks identity claims: Hes gone from a member of the Sudanese royal family to a separatist Muslim sect to an extraterrestrial to an Egyptian pharaoh to a Baptist minister to the Shriner deal to being a Jewish rabbi and now to the Creek Indian thing.
York is now calling himself Chief Black Thunderbird Eagle, and says that because hes an Indian the feds have no jurisdiction over him.
Nice try. Im sure the other inmates in federal prison will love that name.
Speaking of nutty, a couple of otherwise very sane Columbia County officials made some unfortunate comments recently.
The first was project administrator Marilyn Heuer, commenting on the search for a new county logo and offering the opinion that old symbols wouldnt likely make it to the final version. We are trying to look forward and not back, she said. The fact that Columbia County's growing and booming, that seems to be part of our community.
Well. There are plenty of old-timers around here - Ive been here longer than most, so I qualify - who believe the countys history and heritage have been neglected in all that growing and booming. A new logo - whose need is questionable, at best - shouldnt turn its back on the old stuff, and the person spearheading it shouldnt make it look like the county is doing so.
The other comment that made me wince came from Barry Smith, the countys director of Community and Leisure Services. Smith is rightly pleased with construction of the countys new mega boat-ramp and parking complex at Wildwood Park; the project is expected to draw big-time fishing tournaments to the community, providing a healthy boost in tourism.
But Smith, in praising the project, had this to say about the changed face of a portion of the 975-acre Wildwood Park: It was just woods. Its all been cleared, and theres a very large parking lot to accommodate 250 cars.
It was just woods? Whats that old song - they bulldozed paradise and put up a parking lot? Smith was Trees and Parks director for Augusta and Savannah before we brought him here, so surely hell choose different words next time when describing paving as progress.
Otherwise, we may as well make the countys logo a bulldozer. A new one.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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