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Local News

    A University of Georgia student was killed overnight while driving his car on I-20 just west of Atlanta. The Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office identified the victim as 20-year-old William Whitaker, of Carrollton. Whitaker was driving in the westbound lanes on I-20 when a tractor trailer crashed with two cars in the eastbound lanes. Debris from the wreck was sent into the westbound lanes, striking two vehicles, including the car driven by Whitaker,  who died on the scene.  The driver of the truck has been identified as Mario Polier, 53, of Hialeah, FL. He now faces numerous misdemeanor charges including second degree homicide by vehicle  
  • It's a mild start to Friday but big changes are coming this weekend.  Most people are experiencing fog and light rain this morning. A Dense Fog Advisory has been issued for most of north Georgia until 10 a.m. Some areas have visibility of less than a quarter mile. Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brian Monahan said that on Saturday, we have a chance to see rain, storms and the coldest temperatures this year. 'As we head through the next 24 hours or so, we've got rain moving into north Georgia, we've got a chance for storms moving into north Georgia and then the coldest air of the season moving in,' Monahan said.
  • Athens-Clarke County Commissioners meet for a rare Friday afternoon work session: they say fair housing is the topic of talk in the session that starts at 1 o’clock at the Government Building on Dougherty Street.  The city School Board in Jefferson signs off on the purchase of a new emergency alert system, one that will be used on all four Jefferson schools. The price tag is $165,000.  There is a new City Administrator in Statham: Statham’s Mayor and City Council has signed off on the hiring of Mai Chang. Chang worked previously as City Clerk in Statham. She takes over for former City Administrator Michelle Irizarry. 
  • Deangelo Gibbs’ time in Athens has been up since December, when Georgia coach Kirby Smart said the defensive back was no longer with the team prior to the Sugar Bowl. And now it seems that he will be taking his talents to another SEC East program.  DawgNation can confirm that Gibbs is enrolled at Tennessee and will move to the other side of the ball and play wide receiver for the Vols. The news was first reported by 247Sports’ Grant Ramey. Gibbs was a major recruit coming out of Grayson High School, as he was rated as the No. 49 overall player in the 247Sports Composite. But he struggled to find playing time at Georgia and he was away from the team last spring as well.  Gibbs has a cousin on Tennessee’s team in safety Nigel Warrior. Another one of Gibbs’ cousins is J.R. Reed, who has become a standout safety for the Bulldogs since transferring from Tulsa. Reed made the decision to return to Athens for his senior season, bolstering what should be a strong secondary, even without Gibbs.  Gibbs had reportedly put his name in the transfer portal, as did Georgia safety Tray Bishop. In Georgia’s 2019 recruiting class, the Bulldogs brought in 4-star safety Lewis Cine, who is rated as the No. 61 player in the class.  Tennessee is coached by Jeremy Pruitt, who was the Georgia defensive coordinator from 2014-15.  Georgia visits Tennessee on Oct. 5. The Bulldogs beat Tennessee 38-12 in Athens last fall.
  • A former Athens-Clarke County police officer is suing the police chief who fired him last June. Former Chief Scott Freeman terminated officer Taylor Saulters for hitting a suspect with his patrol car, but a state investigation later cleared him. It happened after a police pursuit on Athens’ east side. Saulters, his lawsuit, is seeking financial compensation for what he says is emotional distress and slander. He is now working as a part-time reserve deputy in Oglethorpe County. 
  • A man accused of a triple shooting in Covington killed his wife, his stepdaughter and injured his stepdaughter’s boyfriend, authorities said Thursday. Cedric Bernard Cook, 37, is accused of firing shots at a home in the 3000 block of Usher Street after a domestic-related argument escalated Wednesday night, Covington police said in a news release. Inside the home, 41-year-old Tijuana Cook and 23-year-old Michelle Olivia Dickerson were found dead, and Dickerson’s boyfriend, Theodore Betton, was shot in the abdomen and arm outside the home, the release said. Betton was flown to Grady Memorial Hospital, and his condition hasn’t been released. While officers were investigating the scene, Cook walked out of the woods beside the home and admitted to being involved in the shooting, the release said. Cook faces two counts of felony murder, Newton County Jail records show. He remains in jail without bond as of 3:45 p.m. Thursday.   
  • The Georgia Lady Bulldogs basketball team was held to a season-low in scoring, as the Missouri Tigers rolled to a 61-35 victory Thursday evening at Mizzou Arena.    “As bad as I thought we were defensively, it starts with offense,” head coach Joni Taylor said. “We didn’t share the basketball and made too many mistakes. Credit Missouri. That’s a good team and they capitalized on every mistake we made.”    Georgia held Missouri scoreless for the first five minutes of the game, but the Lady Bulldogs were also cold, missing 12 of their first 17 shots. The Lady Bulldogs got into foul trouble and committed seven fouls compared to just two from Missouri in the first 10 minutes.    After one period, the Tigers led 11-7.     Georgia’s poor shooting continued in the second quarter as Missouri built a 21-11 lead. The Lady Bulldogs finished the first half with a 6-of-22 shooting performance (27%) and trailed 25-13 going into the locker room. The 13 points represented Georgia’s worst scoring effort in a half this season.    The Lady Bulldogs began the second half on a 9-2 run, which included an and-one basket from freshman Donnetta Johnson, to climb within five — 27-22 — with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter.    Missouri then countered with a 15-6 run and took control of the game, going into the fourth quarter with a 42-28 lead.    The Tigers were superb from distance, delivering the knockout blow with a flurry of treys, knocking down six of eight three-pointers in the second half.    The Tigers are now 15-4, and 4-1 in the SEC, while the Lady Dogs fall to 12-6 and 3-2.    Georgia returns to the hardwood Sunday, hosting Texas A&M at 4:00 in Athens. 
  • A Gainesville man is in the Hall County jail, facing charges that include child molestation. There are also 76 counts of identity fraud for 25 year-old Estaban Olivas. The Hall County Sheriff’s Office says Olivas, who worked at the Department of Drivers Services office in Gainesville, had more than six dozen drivers licenses with other people’s photographs and information on them; most from Georgia, one from Massachusetts. The child molestation arrest comes from a warrant issued by police in Oakwood.  Three people are behind bars after a SWAT standoff in Barrow County. The four-hour siege happened at a home in Hoschton, where deputies were trying to serve an arrest warrant on 24 year-old Jacob Shelton of Gainesville. Also arrested after hours of negotiations were 24 year-old Johnny Madwell of Flowery Branch and 19 year-old Anna Damewood of Gainesville. There were no injuries reported.
  • Congressman Jody Hice, the Walton County Republican who represents Athens in the US House, has lost his spot on the House Armed Service Committee, apparently because he did not vote for Congressman Kevin McCarthy to be the GOP Leader in the House.  Hice’s exclusion is a sign he made enemies among GOP leaders, who exert control over committee assignments and reserve the right to punish members of their party who they don’t see as team players.  The move comes two weeks after Hice voted against Kevin McCarthy to be speaker on the House floor. He was among the handful of Republicans who instead supported former Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan.
  • Governor Brian Kemp delivered his first State of the State speech Thursday: the Athens Republican used his address to a joint session of the Georgia House and Senate to call for teacher pay raises, new money for school security, and the creation of an anti-gang task force that will operate within the GBI. From the AJC’s Greg Salazar… Gov. Brian Kemp made a substantial down payment on his campaign promises Thursday, recommending that teachers get a $3,000 raise and state employees a 2 percent pay hike. If the budget Kemp proposed Thursday is approved, the raises will put more money into the paychecks of more than 200,000 educators and state employees in Georgia. Kemp’s budget plan for fiscal 2020, which begins July 1, also includes borrowing $150 million for a new voting system in Georgia and $100 million for bridge projects. Officials said it also funds the k-12 school formula, which was shorted for more than a decade before Gov. Nathan Deal added money to it during the 2018 session. The new governor promised a $5,000 teacher pay raise on the campaign trail, but the price tag — about $700 million — had budget writers concerned. The $3,000 pay raise Kemp proposed is a substantial down payment on the promise he said he’ll still keep and something the governor said is vitally needed because so many teachers are leaving the profession within their first five years on the job. “To recruit and retain the best and brightest in our schools, we must remove heavy burdens in the classroom and keep teacher pay competitive,” Kemp told lawmakers in his State of the State address. The governor called it the biggest raise in state history. Gov. Zell Miller pushed 6 percent pay raises for four years during his second term in the 1990s in an effort to make average teacher pay in Georgia the highest in the Southeast. A $3,000 raise for each teacher would cost about $418 million, according to an estimate by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. The state’s two largest teacher groups — the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Georgia Association of Educators — applauded the proposal. John Palmer, a Cobb County educator and spokesman for the teacher group TRAGIC, said his organization “was thrilled the governor has included raises for teachers and state employees. “This is a good first step and a welcome relief for state employees who haven’t seen raises in over a decade,” he said. “We applaud the governor for recognizing this need and hope he can continue to work through his term to make salaries for teachers and state employees more competitive.” Margaret Ciccarelli, a lobbyist for PAGE, called the proposed $3,000 raise “a wonderful step in the right direction.” But she said teachers also will want to know when they can expect Kemp to follow through on the rest of his promise of a $5,000 raise. House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, called the pay raises “doable,” despite the high price tag. “I know he wants to go on and fulfill his campaign promise of $5,000 overall, and we will get there, lord willing and the economy stays strong,” England said. “Being pragmatic and not trying to bite off the whole thing in one year is wise.” While educators probably expected a raise since Kemp had touted it on the campaign trail last fall, the 2 percent pay raise for state employees may be more of a surprise. Pay raises for state employees have been few and far between since the Great Recession hit in the late 2000s. The governor also repeated that his recommendations include $69 million in one-time funding for school security grants. Each of the state’s 2,294 public schools would receive $30,000 to implement security. State lawmakers included similar grants to districts during the 2018 session. Kemp also wants $8.4 million for mental health programs in Georgia high schools. “To keep our classrooms safe, we must also address the mental health issues that often lead to school violence,” he told lawmakers. Shemeka Dawson, a parent of children with mental health issues, appreciated the proposal. She founded the group Parents Reaching Parents and works part time as a parent liaison at the Morehouse School of Medicine, where she advises parents of troubled teens, many of whom have mental health issues. “I think the children will definitely benefit from it,” she said. The record $27.5 billion budget — $53 billion when federal and other funds are included — would borrow about $1 billion for construction, equipment upgrades and other projects. Besides school funding, the voting-system money was among the most closely watched line items in Kemp’s budget proposal. Questions were raised repeatedly during last year’s election season about the system because it doesn’t provide paper verification of how Georgians vote. Georgia legislators plan to replace the state’s 16-year-old electronic voting machines with a new voting system that has a paper trail for accuracy. Lawmakers will decide between paper ballots filled in by a pen and paper ballots printed by touchscreen computers, similar to the system currently in use statewide. Hand-marked paper ballots would cost at least $30 million, and computer-printed voting machines would cost well over $100 million. The $150 million Kemp recommended would provide lawmakers the money to go for the more expensive system. Besides the pay raises, much of the extra money in next year’s budget would go to fund growth in education and public health care programs. Kemp, however, also included millions more for hazardous waste cleanup, trauma medical care, water project planning, addiction treatment and for a 3 percent increase in HOPE scholarship awards.

Local News

  • A University of Georgia student was killed overnight while driving his car on I-20 just west of Atlanta. The Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office identified the victim as 20-year-old William Whitaker, of Carrollton. Whitaker was driving in the westbound lanes on I-20 when a tractor trailer crashed with two cars in the eastbound lanes. Debris from the wreck was sent into the westbound lanes, striking two vehicles, including the car driven by Whitaker,  who died on the scene.  The driver of the truck has been identified as Mario Polier, 53, of Hialeah, FL. He now faces numerous misdemeanor charges including second degree homicide by vehicle  
  • It's a mild start to Friday but big changes are coming this weekend.  Most people are experiencing fog and light rain this morning. A Dense Fog Advisory has been issued for most of north Georgia until 10 a.m. Some areas have visibility of less than a quarter mile. Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brian Monahan said that on Saturday, we have a chance to see rain, storms and the coldest temperatures this year. 'As we head through the next 24 hours or so, we've got rain moving into north Georgia, we've got a chance for storms moving into north Georgia and then the coldest air of the season moving in,' Monahan said.
  • Athens-Clarke County Commissioners meet for a rare Friday afternoon work session: they say fair housing is the topic of talk in the session that starts at 1 o’clock at the Government Building on Dougherty Street.  The city School Board in Jefferson signs off on the purchase of a new emergency alert system, one that will be used on all four Jefferson schools. The price tag is $165,000.  There is a new City Administrator in Statham: Statham’s Mayor and City Council has signed off on the hiring of Mai Chang. Chang worked previously as City Clerk in Statham. She takes over for former City Administrator Michelle Irizarry. 
  • Deangelo Gibbs’ time in Athens has been up since December, when Georgia coach Kirby Smart said the defensive back was no longer with the team prior to the Sugar Bowl. And now it seems that he will be taking his talents to another SEC East program.  DawgNation can confirm that Gibbs is enrolled at Tennessee and will move to the other side of the ball and play wide receiver for the Vols. The news was first reported by 247Sports’ Grant Ramey. Gibbs was a major recruit coming out of Grayson High School, as he was rated as the No. 49 overall player in the 247Sports Composite. But he struggled to find playing time at Georgia and he was away from the team last spring as well.  Gibbs has a cousin on Tennessee’s team in safety Nigel Warrior. Another one of Gibbs’ cousins is J.R. Reed, who has become a standout safety for the Bulldogs since transferring from Tulsa. Reed made the decision to return to Athens for his senior season, bolstering what should be a strong secondary, even without Gibbs.  Gibbs had reportedly put his name in the transfer portal, as did Georgia safety Tray Bishop. In Georgia’s 2019 recruiting class, the Bulldogs brought in 4-star safety Lewis Cine, who is rated as the No. 61 player in the class.  Tennessee is coached by Jeremy Pruitt, who was the Georgia defensive coordinator from 2014-15.  Georgia visits Tennessee on Oct. 5. The Bulldogs beat Tennessee 38-12 in Athens last fall.
  • A former Athens-Clarke County police officer is suing the police chief who fired him last June. Former Chief Scott Freeman terminated officer Taylor Saulters for hitting a suspect with his patrol car, but a state investigation later cleared him. It happened after a police pursuit on Athens’ east side. Saulters, his lawsuit, is seeking financial compensation for what he says is emotional distress and slander. He is now working as a part-time reserve deputy in Oglethorpe County. 

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia sacks leader D’Andre Walker has pulled out of the Senior Bowl, not yet ready to compete on account of what has become a nagging groin injury. Walker has been projected as a third-round NFL Draft pick, but the Senior Bowl offered him an opportunity to improve his draft stock competing against top talent in the annual all-star event. The Bulldogs will be represented by defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter and long snapper Nick Moore. Practices and drills begin on Tuesday before the watchful eyes of hundreds of NFL coaches, scouts and general managers. Unfortunately, I won’t be attending the Senior Bowl. I will be getting a second opinion on my groin this week to ensure I’ll be ready for the combine. I am very disappointed because it’s such a great opportunity to showcase my talent. — D’Andre Walker (@DAndreWalker15) January 21, 2019 Walker was injured early in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game against Alabama with Georgia leading 28-21. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior from Fairburn, Ga., was enjoying an MVP performance against the Tide before suffering the injury. Walker had five tackles, two TFLs, two QB hurries a forced fumble and a deflected pass in three quarters, wreaking havoc in the Alabama backfield. Georgia’s backup outside linebackers weren’t able to have the same sort of success. The Bulldogs young outside linebackers lost contain on crucial plays and allowed Jalen Hurts to buy time and make game-winning plays in Alabama’s 35-28 win. Walker practiced on a limited basis and dressed out for the Sugar Bowl, but he declined to play. Bulldogs’ cornerback Deandre Baker also had an invitation to test himself against the nation’s best in the Senior Bowl, but Baker declined his invitation. Baker also skipped the Sugar Bowl, which, coupled with injuries to Walker and Freshman All-American defensive tackle Jordan Davis, severely hampered the Georgia defense in the 28-21 loss to Texas. The post Georgia football OLB D’Andre Walker uncertain of health, pulls out of Senior Bowl appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — If “Genius is patience,” as Isaac Newton once suggested, Georgia football coach Kirby Smart’s I.Q. must be off the charts. Smart has exhibited a deliberate approach at each turn in his young career, from not naming a starting quarterback during the 2018 offseason, to holding off on naming a defensive coordinator. Could there be more staff changes ahead? Perhaps, though it wouldn’t seem likely. The 43-year-old Smart named 41-year-old Charlton Warren his defensive backs coach on Saturday, shortly after crossing paths with him on the recruiting trail and conversing. RELATED: Georgia football adds ‘Mr. Intensity’ to defensive meeting room Warren’s hire comes more than six weeks after Colorado announced former UGA secondary coach and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker as its new head coach (Dec. 5). Some speculated Smart would elevate 32-year-old outside linebackers coach Dan Lanning or 28-year-old inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann to defensive coordinator — or both, in a co-coordinator role. Here are three things that are next for Georgia football: Defensive coordinator It’s going to be Smart’s system on defense, regardless who gets the coordinator title, so the key here is how the staff chemistry shakes out with Warren added to the defensive meeting room. Lanning said in New Orleans that there could be an internal promotion to the coordinator position, but also, that Georgia would see how things shook out against Texas in the Sugar Bowl. RELATED: Georgia football assistant Dan Lanning shares insight into DC search Obviously, the Bulldogs didn’t fare well without Deandre Baker in the secondary, D’Andre Walker at linebacker and Jordan Davis on the defensive line. It’s hard to know how much of the defensive dropoff had to do with Tucker’s absence versus the team’s motivation after its gut-wrenching loss in the SEC title game and exclusion from the CFB playoff. It wouldn’t be surprising if Smart made the decision on his DC immediately. But it is also possible the Georgia head coach will wait until after signing day (Feb. 6), or even spring drills to name the defensive coordinator, after he gets a better feel for the chemistry and ability in the room. James Coley confirmation Coley’s promotion to play caller and full-fledged offensive coordinator from co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach wasn’t surprising. RELATED: Kirby Smart pulls trigger on elevating James Coley to OC, as expected It was, however, second-guessed by outsiders overlooking Coley’s experience as Jimbo Fisher’s offensive coordinator at Florida State and his work as Miami’s coordinator. Coley’s stock recently shot up, however, when NFL.com analyst Ian Rapoport reported last Friday that the Dallas Cowboys could consider Coley for their offensive coordinator position. As the #Cowboys dig into possible replacements for embattled OC Scott Linehan, they have one on their current staff — TE coach Doug Nussmeier — and may look to the college game to better utilize Dak Prescott’s talents. UGA OC James Coley will receive some consideration there. — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 18, 2019   A FOIA request for Coley’s new contract last week revealed that he doesn’t yet have one, leaving room for speculation that need soon be answered. Is Coley staying, or might   he be headed for the NFL? Big staff raises The bottom line for the Georgia football coaching staff is there is plenty of money available for raises and the new hires. So far, the Bulldogs’ offensive staff has traded Jim Chaney’s $950,000 salary for new tight ends coach Todd Hartley’s first-year deal of $300,000. RELATED: Details of Georgia football assistant Todd Hartley’s new contract The defense, meanwhile, has the $1.5 million Tucker was making to spread around. Warren was due to make $401,500 at Florida next season, per the USA Today salary database, but he’s sure to get a healthy boost at Georgia. Bulldogs defensive line coach Tray Scott has earned a raise up from $420,000, with Georgia’s defensive line showing more improvement than perhaps any other position group last season. Certainly, linebackers coaches Schumann and Lanning — both previously making $325,000 — will have deals worth more than a half-million annually next season. It’s more math for Smart to do, more pieces of the puzzle, and if the Georgia head coach has proven anything his first three seasons, it’s that he’’ll take his time to make sure he gets things right. Georgia football coaches 2018 annual salaries DEFENSE DC, secondary: Mel Tucker $1.5 million Defensive line: Tray Scott $420,000 Inside linebackers: Glenn Schumann $325,000 Outside linebackers: Dan Lanning $325,000 Special teams Scott Fountain $300,000 * Charlton Warren, new coach was due $401,500 at Florida in 2019 OFFENSE OC, tight ends: Jim Chaney $950,000 Offensive line: Sam Pittman $825,00 Quarterbacks, Co-OC James Coley, $850,00 Running backs: Dell McGee $550,000 Receivers Cortez Hankton $375,000 * Todd Hartley, new tight ends coach, will make $300,000 in 2019 at UGA   The post 3 things: What’s next for Georgia football and ever-patient Kirby Smart? appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — The Georgia basketball challenges could be attributed to the brutal league slate assigned by the SEC office. Already, the Bulldogs (9-8, 1-4 SEC) have played the three top-ranked teams in the league in Tennessee, Kentucky and Auburn, and next up is a road trip to red-hot LSU. Georgia coach Tom Crean hasn’t mentioned the schedule since it was released in the preseason, instead focusing on what he can control, which would include the roller coaster play of forward Rayshaun Hammonds. The talented 6-foot-8, 235-pounder from Norcoss is the Bulldogs leading scorer this season — except when he isn’t, which would be against the better teams this season. Hammonds has been held scoreless in losses to Tennessee and most recently at home against Florida, running into foul trouble early in both games, offering little help to his teammates in other capacities. Georgia was outscored by 18 points with Hammonds in the game against the Gators, as shown below in the plus-minus category for UGA players: “ I am going to look around and see what we can do to help him and I talked to him a lot,” Crean said. “I am not down on him at all, I want him to continue to learn and want him to understand he is a lot more than just a guy who shoots and scores.” But yes, Crean admitted, “him not scoring and us not scoring are together.” Hammonds has at times shown the sort of growth and ability many projected when he was rated the No. 51 player in the nation by the 247Sports composite. It’s far too early for Hammonds to be considered a bust, especially when others have noted the growth they’ve seen from him under Crean’s direction. “I thought (Nicolas) Claxton and Hammonds have both blossomed this year under Coach Crean and that staff, and I told them both that after the game,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “They ask Rayshaun to do a lot, they don’t have a lot, they are kinda point guard by committee.” Hammonds’ issues involve fundamentals and decision making, Crean indicated. “Sometimes right now he makes the read and people are just lining up for the charge because he is going to go right into their chest,” Crean said following Saturday’s 62-52 home loss to Florida. “He is not low enough when he makes the move. “I am going to have really spend some time and be creative, look for creative ways to get him the ball in better spots than we are right now because we need him to score.” Georgia is 3-1 in its last seven games Hammonds has scored in double figures, and 0-3 when he’s been held to single-digit scoring. Rayshaun Hammonds against SEC teams 0 points Vs. Tennessee 0-for-4 shooting (0-of-2 from 3) 1 turnover 19 points Vs. Vanderbilt 6-for-13 shooting (2-of-6 from 3) 3 turnovers 9 points Vs. Auburn 2-of-6 shooting (1-of-2 from 3) 5 turnovers 11 points Vs. Kentucky 3-of-8 shooting (1-of-5 from 3) 2 turnovers 0 points Vs. Florida 0-for-4 shooting (0-for-2 from 3) 4 turnovers   The post Georgia basketball: Roller coaster Rayshaun Hammonds a key for Bulldogs appeared first on DawgNation.