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Gov. Kay Ivey orders a halt to early parole hearings

Brandon Moseley



Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) met with the three members of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles after the board scheduled early parole hearings for 150 violent offenders including dozens of convicted murderers.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Governor Ivey announced that she has designated Lyn Head as the Chairperson of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. Ms. Head will take over those responsibilities from Clifford Walker, who remains a member of the Board.

Governor Ivey also signed Executive Order 716 which, effective immediately, imposes a temporary moratorium on early parole hearings and requires the submission and implementation of a corrective action plan by the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

“Today, I have taken decisive action to address the alarming concerns surrounding the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles,” Gov. Ivey said in a statement. “First, through Executive Order, I am directing a halt on all early parole hearings, so that the Board’s focus remains entirely on addressing the problems at hand. To shift the direction of Pardons and Paroles, I have also designated new leadership. The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles’ decisions are crucial to the safety of our state, and the issues here are not to be taken lightly. I directed the Board to produce a detailed, corrective action plan, which they will report back to the Attorney General and myself. It’s clear that things need to change, and I assure the families of victims and all Alabamians that I am working diligently to solve this problem.”

“I joined @GovernorKayIvey in reviewing recent actions of State Board of Pardons & Paroles and fully support the Gov’s executive order imposing a temporary moratorium on early parole hearings and requiring a corrective action plan for the Board,” AG Marshall said on social media.


The emergency meeting came after the Board had announced that the October sessions would include early parole hearing for 150 violent offenders for good behavior. These hearings were much earlier than what they were supposed to be eligible for.

Freddy McCarthy was horrified when he was notified out that the woman who murdered his daughter was scheduled for early release this month, just two years after her murder conviction. Dominique Atkinson had received a life sentence. In 2013, she and her boyfriend, Marquis Cheatham, shot Ashley McCarthy, age 20, to death. Cheatham was the victim’s husband.

Freddy McCarthy reached out to Channel 12 for their assistance leading to the news reports that put into motion the chain of events that resulted in today’s action by Gov. Ivey.

Another man was shocked when he was notified that his brother’s killer was slated for an early parole hearing after serving just five years of his life sentence.

After WSFA TV did an investigative report on the planned hearings, the Board removed 47 felons, most of them murderers, from the list, still leaving over 100 violent offenders. Those hearings that were scheduled for today are now suspended after Gov. Ivey’s announcement of a moratorium on Monday.

Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey has called for the entire board to be removed after over 200 inmates were released in September including one sentenced to two life sentences for murder after just 16 years in prison.

“I am calling for the Governor to remove the Board and remove them swiftly,” Bailey told Channel 12.

Marquelle Sweeting received a 25-year sentence after he robbed and assaulted three people, shooting one. A class A felony is supposed to mean that the felon must serve 85 percent of that sentence or 15 years. Sweeting was released after serving just five years even though he has committed a number of infractions in prison, including assaulting a prison guard.

Alabama has chronically underfunded the Alabama Department of Corrections for decades and does not have sufficient space to house all of the very violent criminals that are convicted in this state. The federal court system has been putting pressure on the state to decrease prison overcrowding and improve prisoner services including mental health.

Gov. Ivey is seeking to build more prisons and improve the chronic understaffing of the system; but thus far her efforts are not keeping up with the growing demand for prison beds.

Alabama has the fourth highest murder rate in the country.

Lyn Head is the former District Attorney for Tuscaloosa County. She was appointed by Gov. Robert Bentley. Ivey made her the Chair on Monday. Former Chair Clifford Walker was appointed to the Board in 2009 by Gov. Bentley after serving on a special pardons board for Gov. Bob Riley. He worked in the Department of Agriculture in the 1990s after a career in the securities industry. Dwayne Spurlock is a retired federal probation officer appointed to the Board on May 29 by Gov. Ivey.

(Original reporting by WSFA TV channel 12’s Jennifer Horton contributed to this report.)

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Jones calls for Trump to approve individual assistance for Alabamians affected by Hurricane Michael

Chip Brownlee



U.S. Sen. Doug Jones urged President Donald Trump last week to push for approval of individual assistance grants for Alabamians impacted by Hurricane Michael.

While a Major Disaster Declaration was approved last week, it only provides public assistance grants. Public assistance grants help local governments and community organizations, but can’t be disbursed to individuals recovering from a disaster.

“The people of Alabama are grateful for the Public Assistance grants approved in the Major Disaster Declaration dated November 5, 2018, but more relief is clearly needed,” Jones wrote in a letter to Trump. “I am aware that a determination as to the availability of Individual Assistance (IA) grants is still under review, and I urge you to approve IA grants as soon as possible. The effects of Hurricane Michael have been devastating to our state, and without individual federal assistance, many areas may never fully recover.”

IA grants are vital in order for impacted Alabamians to fully recover, Jones’ office said. The Alabama Emergency Management Agency has requested IA grants. AEMA also provided additional evidence to demonstrate that certain Alabama counties qualify for assistance.

Neighboring counties in Florida and Georgia have already received IA grants.


“The people and the State of Alabama are resilient, but as in Georgia and Florida, the recovery efforts in this case require resources beyond their reserves,” Jones wrote.

Jones’ office said the senator continues to engage with federal, state and local leaders and residents to ensure that Alabama gets the resources it needs to fully recover from Hurricane Michael, which was one of the most powerful hurricanes to make landfall in the continental United States.

Jones visited the Wiregrass region earlier this month to listen to local farmers to better understand the extent of the damage their crops sustained as well as their unique recovery needs, Jones’ office said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has not yet approved the State of Alabama’s application for an agricultural disaster declaration, which Jones supported in a recent letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.


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Bill Britt

Opinion | Will Republicans bring change or status quo?

Bill Britt



For eight years, Republicans have dominated state government in Alabama, but those years are not a fair representation of Republican leadership because, for most of that time, corrupt, crazy or compromised men were at the helms in the State House, the governor’s office and throughout the political infrastructure.

Already, Republicans are laying the groundwork for the next four years by determining who will staff the governor’s office and cabinet, the committee chairs in the House and Senate and key leadership roles within the caucus. Those choices will show whether there will be a change in character, conduct, and competence or status quo.

Beginning in 2008, then-Gov. Bob Riley, ALGOP Chair and minority leader Mike Hubbard, along with BCA’s Billy Canary, began to methodically execute a plan to take control of Alabama’s political structure. While they personally failed due to greed and incompetence, their plan succeeded and even today, after Hubbard’s felony conviction and Canary’s ouster at BCA, many of their handpicked legislators, cronies and co-conspirators still enjoy dominant positions in government and the accompanying political apparatus.

Reportedly, Riley is laying low but will seek a comeback in the run-up to the 2020 U.S. Senate election, positioning either himself or his son Rob to take on Democrat U.S. Senator Doug Jones.

A scan of Hubbard’s book, “Storming the State House,” offers a look at those candidates who Hubbard, Riley and Canary selected and groomed to do their bidding. Some of their staunchest allies have either quit government or have been indicted or convicted, but still many remain.


Some have changed horses, but not everyone is happy that their former masters do not still hold the reins.

Some miss Hubbard’s whip hand, Riley’s conniving and Canary’s money and outsized influence.

The Republican House caucus will meet Tuesday to determine key leadership roles.

Current Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon will not face a challenge even though there are some among his ranks who would like to return to a Hubbard-style leadership.

Rep. David Standridge has put his name forward for House Pro Tem, a position presently held by Rep. Victor Gaston. Standridge, it is believed, wants to bring new life into the position, however, Gaston is a well-known fixture. What is unclear is why U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers is lobbying for Gaston’s return as Pro Tem?

It is not sure if House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter will face opposition or if he should.

Where the rubber wheel hits the road is with committee leadership assignments that will come later. Several committees are still chaired by Hubbard loyalists who, again, long for his dictatorial command. Even the House Ethics Committee is currently headed by a man who believes Hubbard’s conviction was a grave conspiracy involving prosecutorial misconduct.

Over at the Capitol, Gov. Ivey’s staff and cabinet have well placed Hubbard and Rileyites, but there are no signs that Gov. Ivey will replace them.

Most troublesome are rumors that Ivey’s Chief of Staff Steve Pelham is leaving to take a post at Auburn University. No one can blame Pelham given the enormous burden of guiding the office for nearly two years, but replacing him will be a difficult task.

As for the Senate, President Pro Tem Del Marsh will continue his business management approach with few surprises in store. There are rumors of some significant changes, especially among budget chair assignments, but even that is mere speculation at this point.

Republicans have an opportunity to show their governing abilities beginning with its choice of leadership. This is extremely important because Republicans overwhelmingly control every office in state government. Moral, effective leaders are always essential but never more so than when there is no opposition.

If Republicans do not put forward honest leaders, they will be forced at some point in time to look around and say, “We have seen the enemy, and it is us.”

As President Harry Truman noted, “Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”

The people of Alabama have selected a Republican super-majority to lead the state. Let’s pray they are ready to prove the people were right.


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Brooks supports Trump’s changes to American amnesty laws

Brandon Moseley



Friday, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) announced his support for President Donald J. Trump’s (R) Presidential Proclamation addressing mass migration through the southern border of the United States and the Department of Homeland Security’s newly released asylum rule.

“Each year, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens furtively thumb their noses at America’s sovereignty by clandestinely violating our borders and laws,” Congressman Brooks said. “Now, Central American caravans openly and brazenly seek to do the same. This outrageous conduct cannot be, and should not be, tolerated by America. As a sovereign nation, the American people have every right to expect their government to secure our borders.”

“Illegal immigration hurts American workers and taxpayers,” Brooks continued. “According to the Center for Immigration Studies, illegal aliens are a net $116 billion annual cost to American taxpayers. That’s $300 in additional taxes each man, woman and child in America is forced to pay for people whose first act on American soil is to violate American law.”

“Fraud and abuse plague America’s asylum system. Let me make this clear: no one has a right to demand asylum from any nation,” Brooks concluded. “Asylum and sanctuary is a discretionary benefit given by nations to those with clear justification. Too often, illegal aliens are coached by attorneys to say ‘magic words’ that help them take advantage of America’s generosity. Their exploitation of America’s already generous immigration laws must stop! As such, I support President Trump’s steps to close asylum loopholes and stop the damage to America caused by illegal aliens’ wrongful conduct.”

Mo Brooks office shared some information about the border:
So far in FY18, 500,000 people apprehended attempting to cross the border, about 100,000 at checkpoints and 400,000 in the interior. According to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, “[i]n recent weeks, United States officials have each day encountered an average of approximately 2,000 inadmissible aliens at the southern border.”


According to data provided by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, “[o]ver the past decade, the overall percentage of aliens subject to expedited removal and referred, as part of the initial screening process, for a credible-fear interview jumped from approximately 5% to above 40%, and the total number of credible-fear referrals for interviews increased from about 5,000 a year in Fiscal Year (“FY”) 2008 to about 97,000 in FY 2018.”

Last year, nearly half of the completed cases that involved aliens who claimed credible fear resulted in the alien failing to show up at a hearing or even to file an application for asylum.

“Illegal aliens will no longer get a free pass into our country by lodging meritless claims in seeking asylum,” President Trump said. “Instead, migrants seeking asylum will have to present themselves lawfully at a port of entry.”

President Trump’s proclamation declared that migrants seeking asylum along the southern border must present themselves lawfully at a port of entry. Those who arrive at a port of entry will remain eligible for asylum. The President also deployed additional resources to support our ports of entry.

Last week, the Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives. This likely effectively kills any serious efforts to construct the President’s border wall and makes it even less likely that a comprehensive immigration reform bill is going to be passed that upgrades border security.

Congressman Brooks has been a strong proponent of limiting immigration and getting cracking down on illegal immigration.

Brooks was re-elected to his fifth term representing the Fifth Congressional District on Tuesday.

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The Lodge at Gulf State Park opens on schedule

Brandon Moseley



Friday, November 2 the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) was on hand for the event.

“I’m thrilled to be here to have this grand opening that we’ve been waiting a long time to have,” said Governor Ivey. “There’s just no more beautiful place than Alabama’s Gulf Coast with the white sand and sparkling waters. That’s why I made it my mission to protect this part of the state and grow it. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan came through and damaged parts of our great state. It also destroyed a very special spot on the Gulf Coast – the lodge. However, in the resilient spirit of Alabama, we find a way to make good out of a bad situation.

“I am proud to be with you for the ribbon-cutting for The Lodge at Gulf State Park,” Gov. Ivey said. “This will be a centerpiece for this area but also for the great state of Alabama. We’re located on the doorstep of the Gulf, and this will be a way to show a piece of Alabama to the world. Creating a new conference center has long been a part of discussions throughout numerous administrations. As Lieutenant Governor, I was a member of the Gulf State Park Committee. Today, I’m proud to take us across the finish line.”

“Gulf State Park will be a world-class place to visit, and it will be the crown jewel of tourism,” said Gov. Ivey. “People from around the world will want to come experience what we have in Alabama. I look forward to continued growth in the tourism industry. Thank you for allowing me to join you for this great event. May God continue to bless each of you and the great state of Alabama.”

Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the decision was made to forego the typical soft opening that new facilities hold before a general opening.


“Many of us were not sure if this day would ever come,” Blankenship said. “It has been a long journey, and I’m so glad to share this with you as we celebrate the work of so many who made the opening of this lodge a reality. This is truly a spectacular place. With the project’s high visibility and excitement in this community for the return of The Lodge, we wanted to open it as soon as possible to give the communities an opportunity to participate in the rebirth of this place. So, we opened the doors at the first possible moment.”

“When the resort was here, and the lodge was up and running it was an economic engine to help all our state parks,” said Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia). “So, when we lost this facility, it had a huge impact on our parks. When we came for a tour of the construction site, we walked out on the dunes, and I remember my children being there on the edge of the water when they were very, very little. Deb and I made a trip down here, and we stayed at the lodge that was here at the time. That was the first time my children got to feel the sand between their toes and feel the waves wash up on them. We built sandcastles. That was the first time for children who were raised in red land cotton fields to see what it was like to stand on the side of the Gulf of Mexico. That’s a great memory. Our best days are ahead of us in Alabama, and this great facility is symbolic of that.”

Economic Developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Aimed to appeal to both business and leisure travelers, The Lodge at Gulf State Park features 350 rooms, over 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, a ballroom that can accommodate up to 1,000 guests, on-site restaurants, a gulf-front infinity pool, a 900-acre freshwater fishing lake, and direct access to over 6,150 acres of trails and activities within Gulf State Park. The partnership with Hilton Hotels and Valor Hospitality will establish a world-class environment that guests can count on, which should generate repeat visits to a beautiful area of our state and a tremendous economic boost for the local economy and Alabama.”

For many years the Lodge at Gulf State Park was the most profitable lodge in the entire Alabama State Park System. That was until Hurricane Ivan destroyed it. Then Governor Bob Riley (R) wanted to build something much more elaborate than the old Lodge. Efforts to fund the new conference center and lodge ultimately were undone by the Great Recession. Eventually Governor Robert Bentley (R), after fighting a lengthy law suit opposing the project, funded the new Lodge with the help of BP oil spill money and a bond issue. Gov. Ivey built the new lodge after being elevated to governor in April of 2017

Nicole Jones shared, “On a more sentimental note, Gulf State Park is part of a tradition many of us grew up with. Now that The Lodge is up and running again, new generations will be able to create memories similar to the ones we all hold dear. Thank you to all who collaborated to bring this project to fruition.”

(Original reporting by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’s David Rainer contributed to this report.)

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Gov. Kay Ivey orders a halt to early parole hearings

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 4 min