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Filed 08/05/2006 • Updated after 4PM for next day...
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Today’s News Headlines from Alabama 810 News 

  • Gadsden councilmen charged in corruption investigation
  • Anniston man convicted of attempted murder
  • Sales tax holiday weekend
  • Pell City woman killed in house fire


Gadsden councilmen charged in corruption investigation 

Conspiracy charges were filed Thursday in federal court against two Gadsden councilmen and a consultant after money allegedly exchanged hands to ensure approval for a proposed shopping development.  Criminal information documents filed against consultant Larry Thompson claims he paid District 3 Councilman Fred Huff, District 6 Councilman Jim Armstrong and two other unnamed council members money disguised as campaign contributions for their support to give a zoning variance to Lafferty's Landing and additional tax incentives to the developer, Rainbow 1, LLC.  The documents were filed by the public integrity section of the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice.  Armstrong amended his campaign disclosure form in February to show that he received $1,050 during 2005. Huff reported on his form that he had no contributions.  Councilman Bill Stewart filed an amended campaign financial disclosure form the next day acknowledging that he had received a $1,000 contribution from Gadsden developer Jason B. Stinson.   Councilmen J.R. Countryman, Walt Higgins, Ben Reed and Bob Echols reported in their annual campaign disclosure forms that they did not exceed the threshold of $1,000.  Countryman later told reporters he intended to file an amended form but then apparently changed his mind. His most recent disclosure form named Thompson as a contributor. The documents also refer to an unnamed employee of the Gadsden Commercial Development Authority, whom Thompson allegedly recruited to assist him in influencing council members to support the Lafferty's Landing project. The documents referred to the employee as "the official." According to the documents filed Thursday, Thompson solicited more than $55,000 from a witness who cooperated with the FBI from August 2005 until Feb. 13,. Armstrong apparently was paid $800 and Huff was paid $1,600, according to documents.  Stinson said in an e-mail that because of the ongoing investigation, he could not comment. He did reiterate that Rainbow 1 attorneys have previously spoken with officials with the U.S. government, and have confirmed that Rainbow 1, its principals and members are not a target or a subject of the FBI investigation and never have been. "Rainbow 1, its principals and members have cooperated fully with the government in this investigation and have done so strictly on a voluntary basis."


Anniston man convicted of attempted murder 

A 31 year old Calhoun County man was convicted Thursday on attempted murder charges. Jurors deliberated for three hours before voting to convict Travis Storey of shooting Rodney Dean Phillips and Maurice Kirby in two separate shooting incidents in March of 2003. Storey fired his lawyer Tuesday afternoon and represented himself, examining a witness and presenting his own closing arguments. Storey is being held in the Calhoun County Jail with his bail set at $100,000. His sentencing hearing will be Aug. 30. Storey faces sentences ranging from 20 years to life in each case. The trial got underway Monday, almost three years after Storey was indicted by a grand jury in August of 2003.




Sales tax holiday weekend 

Friday kicked off Alabama's first annual sales tax holiday, an opportunity for shoppers to save between 4 and 10 percent when shopping for some school-related items. The Alabama Legislature approved the holiday in April, joining 12 other states and Washington D.C. in offering the tax break to back-to-school shoppers. Alabama's holiday exempts the 4 percent state sales tax on purchases of:  

• Clothing up to $100 per item.

• Computers, software and computer supplies up to $750 per item.

• School supplies and textbooks up to $50 each.

• Other books up to $30 each.  

Many municipalities have opted to take part as well, allowing customers to save another 4 to 6 percent from the waiver of local taxes.

The tax holiday began Friday and will end Sunday at midnite.


Pell City woman killed in house fire 

Two people escaped a Pell City house fire that claimed the life of one woman Thursday morning. 49 year old Boyd Lane,  escaped the house fire authorities say took the life of 51 year old Gwendolyn Lane, of  Voncile St. in Pell City.

Lane said he smelled what he believed was a fire when he woke up. He got up and investigated and was engulfed by thick, hot, black smoke when he opened his sister-in-law’s bedroom door. Peggy Swain said she was downstairs when she realized there was a fire in the house. Authorities said they received the emergency fire call at 9:33 a.m. Thursday and arrived at the scene within minutes.  Family members hoped Gwendolyn Lane had already left the house for work and was not in the room at the time of the fire, but Fire Chief Mike Sewell said they found her on the floor about 4 feet from the sliding glass door to the upstairs porch. Sewell said authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire. It appears the fire was an accident, caused possibly by a lit cigarette. Sewell said Gwendolyn Lane apparently left the bedroom and returned to find the bed on fire.

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