July 1, 2015

Emanuel AME to SC leaders: Do the right thing

Emanuel AME Church opened its doors Sunday and preached to its largest audience ever: the world.  After nine of its members were slain on site by a self-described white supremacist, church leaders vowed to always keep its doors open.

“No evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God’s church,” the Reverend Norvel Goff said from the pulpit.

Entire sermon, Goff thanks the community and visitors for “being whom God has called you to be” and thanks Gov. Haley, who attended the service, Mayor Joe Riley and all law enforcement involved:

CNN broadcast what turned into a celebration and call-to-action by worship leaders. The appropriate response, said Goff, was to be constructive:”Lots of folks expected us to do something strange and break out in a riot. Well, they just don’t know us.”

“We’re going to pursue justice, we’re going to be vigilant and we’re going to hold our elected officials accountable to do the right thing,” Goff said.

photo Jay Harper

Sidewalk memorial outside Emanuel AME.

“The blood of the Mother Emanuel Nine requires us to work until not only justice is served in this case, but for those who are still living on the margin of life.”

Wednesday, the body of Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the slain pastor of “Mother Emanuel,” will lie in state under the Capitol rotunda in Columbia. The confederate flag flies at the foot of the main steps leading to that rotunda, facing Main Street.

That very spot at the Statehouse was the site of a rally Saturday, as about 2,500 people called for the battle flag to be taken down.  READ MORE  about the monument’s history.

Columbia resident Kirby Speas attended and took her young daughter.

“I felt a sense of emergency and immediacy to go and to help support the rally,” she told SCRN. Speas, a white businesswoman, said she and her friends decided “let’s do it, let’s get out of our comfort zone and let’s go down there and support.”

Sellers on CNN

Sellers, now joined by GOP Rep. Doug Brannon, will lead debate in SC House to take down Confederate flag from its prominent position at Statehouse.

Back in Charleston, after Sunday’s worship at Emanuel, state legislator Bakari Sellers appeared on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper. Tapper paired him with David French of the Alliance Defending Freedom and a writer for the National Review, who defends the role of the flag as an historic symbol, a teaching tool about the “totality” of our history.

“We can begin to understand why we are the way we are, and start to chart a course as to where we should be going,” French said.

In a civil discussion, Sellers, the son of a prominent civil rights leader who was jailed in the 1960’s, rebutted: “I am under no illusion that the Confederate flag walked in and actually pulled the trigger, but it did give this young man a banner under which to justify his actions.”

Republican legislator Doug Brannon from the more conservative Upstate of South Carolina has vowed to sponsor a bill in January, the next session of the General Assembly.

That’s not soon enough for Speas,”Gov. Haley can call a meeting tomorrow and get things rolling and moving and changed,” she said. “Everybody’s hands were dirty at one time, but that flag is still there and still represents that dirt and nobody that wants to keep it up seems to really want to face that point.”

Charleston leaders, Gov. Haley address nation in emotional press conference (AUDIO)

Shortly after a suspect was arrested for a mass shooting in a downtown Charleston church, law enforcement, city leaders and Gov. Nikki Haley expressed their appreciation for the nation’s support. After a photograph and car description blanketed the media, a tip from an observer near Shelby, North Carolina led to the arrest of Dylann Storm Roof of Lexington.

He will be charged in the death of nine people, including the church’s pastor, State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, D-Jasper.

The governor shared her still-fresh grief over the incident. She and longtime Mayor Joe Riley also had messages about the resilience of  South Carolinians. Listen below.

 

City officials, Gov. Haley share relief as well as grief in response to arrest in Mother Emanuel massacre (Full press conference 18 minutes)

Sen. Graham “testing the waters” to run for president

Senator-Graham

Graham was first elected to the Senate in 2002.

South Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham made it official today that he’s serious about running for president, creating an exploratory committee that allows him to start raising money.

Graham has dubbed his new presidential exploratory committee “Security Through Strength.” According to a press release from Graham’s office on Thursday, the committee “will fund the infrastructure and operations allowing Graham to travel the country listening to Americans’ concerns, and gauging support for a potential presidential candidacy.”

Graham also announced the move on Fox News Thursday morning, after hinting at it to media and party leaders for weeks.

South Carolina’s senior senator has been critical of the party’s Libertarian faction and fought off a field of Tea Party challengers in the 2014 primary. He then won handily over a Democrat and independent candidate in the general election.

[Read more…]

Case timelines: murdered Jones children had been in SC DSS oversight

The children of Tim Jones, Jr. had been under state oversight off and on over the past three years, according to South Carolina Department of Social Services case files released late Wednesday night.  None of the complaints resulted in any of the children being taken away from Jones or his now-estranged wife.

Jones has been charged in the murder of his five children after his extradition back to South Carolina from Mississippi. Officials said Jones confessed to dumping the bodies of the children, ages 1 to 8 years old, and told investigators where the bags of decomposing bodies were located on the side of a rural Alabama road. Smith County (MS) sheriff’s deputies had detained Jones after his arrest for controlled substances during a traffic stop. Deputies also discovered bleach, blood, and children’s clothing in the car.

The first complaint against Jones took two years to close, according to the reports released by DSS on Wednesday.

In a press conference Wednesday, DSS’s new law enforcement liaison Jackie Swindler, acknowledged that a new case had been opened August 7, 2014.

“On that day, a seasoned DSS worker from Lexington County, along with Lexington County deputies, went to the scene and interviewed the children, interviewed Mr. Jones, interviewed neighbors,” Swindler told reporters. “At that time, there was nothing to alarm them immediately, there was nothing that showed that the children were in any kind of imminent danger or peril at that time. The case was still open. It was still being investigated.”

DSS was required to do a follow-up visit within 45 days of the open complaint. The time had not elapsed when the children were reported missing on September 3.

A complaint filed with Lexington DSS on September 16, 2011 resulted in repeated requirements for the home to be cleaned and cleared of dangerous tools, trash, debris and
items that could harm the children. On a follow-up caseworker visit, Tim Jones was reported to have been combative. Over the next few months, DSS followed up on what was classified as a form of neglect, see below:

excerpt

 

In late May of 2012, caseworkers found the Jones couple had marital troubles (“CM” is short for Case Manager)

excerpt 2

 

By June 26, 2012, the parents were struggling over custody of their now four children. By Aug. 16 of that year, Tim Jones had fled to Mississippi with them and his wife was pregnant with another child. Because he was now out of the state, the case was closed on October 16, 2012.

But DSS involvement was far from over.

Mr. Jones was back in Lexington County when caseworkers responded to a child abuse allegation at his home on May 5, 2o14.  The mother had left him and was sharing occasional visits with the children. He now had custody of their five children.

Case managers and law enforcement followed up at the school and home over the next few weeks and reported the children seemed fine, but “Dad appears to be overwhelmed as he is unable to maintain the home.” Mr. Jones was an engineer with Intel and had been doing construction work on the family’s home during previous visits. That case was closed July 24.

A school official next alerted DSS a month and a half later, on Sept. 3:

excerpt 3

This is the case that remained open when police found Jones at motor vehicle safety checkpoint in Raleigh County, Mississippi on Saturday, Sept. 6.  Deputies report that he was under the influence of something and that the car reeked of “death.”

Wednesday, WIS-TV reported that prosecutors say they found notes of violence against the children.

 *Names blacked out are caseworkers, witnesses and victims as required by law.

 

 

Congress OK’s more access to healthcare for veterans

Congress has addressed the problems for military veterans getting prompt health care with a bipartisan bill which goes to President Obama for signing. The legislation would allow veterans to seek private health care if they live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA facility, or are unable to get an appointment at a VA facility within 30 days.

Congressman Joe Wilson works closely with veterans in South Carolina and is chairman of the military personnel subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

He told South Carolina Radio Network that this measure also addresses accountability.

“The whole reason that I knew there was a problem at the Dorn VA Hospital is that the professional staff there contacted our office…and they let us know there were problems that needed to be addressed with delays in colonoscopies, with the problems related to infection rates in the operating rooms,” said Wilson.

An audit released in June found that a veterans hospital in Columbia had one of the longest average wait times in the country for first-time patients seeking an appointment. Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston also had first-time appointment waits of up to 45 days.

Wilson said legislation makes it easier to fire or demote senior VA managers who are not doing their jobs.

“There were so many protections to employment that persons could do wrong, sadly, as we found out at the Dorn VA hospital and the Charlie Norwood Hospital in Augusta (GA), we had people who weren’t doing their job and the only way to address this was to promote them and move them somewhere else,” he said.

The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act provides for more staffing as needed in overworked VA facilities. According to the Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 3230 would result in additional direct spending totaling $35 billion over fiscal years 2014-2024.