Wednesday, a Madison County man pleaded guilty today in federal court to being a convicted felon and trying to buy a pistol with counterfeit money. Montez Chebeir Martin, age 33, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon to one count of passing counterfeit obligations or securities and one count of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
The plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town, U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Michael Williams and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Marcus Watson.
“Felons who desire to buy firearms will be aggressively prosecuted and should concern all of us. Felons who desire to buy firearms with counterfeit bills exacerbate our concerns even more,” Town said. “Thanks to the victim’s quick action in reporting the crime to police, and to the dedicated work of ATF and the Secret Service, this felon will serve federal punishment in a federal facility under the federal guidelines.”
“This individual was prevented from illegally purchasing a firearm with counterfeit currency,” Williams said. “This case highlights one of the many ways the U.S. Secret Service collaborates with local, state, and federal agencies to combat financial crimes affecting our communities.”
“This court action demonstrates ATF’s commitment to target illegal firearms trafficking in all forms, to include the use of the internet,” Watson said. “ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence leverages technology to reduce violent firearms-related crimes.”
According to Martin’s plea agreement with the government, he answered an individual’s advertisement of a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber pistol and 450 rounds of ammunition for sale on the website, armslist.com, in September 2017. Martin and the seller agreed to meet in a Decatur business parking lot so Martin could buy the gun. Martin lied when the seller asked Martin if he were a felon. The seller gave Martin the pistol and ammunition. The agreed price for the gun was $450. Martin gave the seller $400. While the seller was counting the money, Martin started walking quickly away. The seller realized the money was counterfeit after seeing Chinese characters on three $100 bills. The seller pulled a pistol and jumped in front of the vehicle Martin was in, telling Martin to open the door and place the pistol and ammunition on the ground an. Martin complied before driving away. The seller reported the incident to police and later picked Martin out of a photo lineup.
The maximum penalty for passing counterfeit obligations is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the maximum penalty for being a felon in possession of a firearm is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Martin’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 2.
The Secret Service and ATF investigated the case in conjunction with the Decatur and Huntsville police departments. Assistant U.S. Attorney Davis Barlow is prosecuting the case.
Saturday is Rosa Parks Day
Saturday, December 1 has been designated as Rosa Parks Day by the Alabama Legislature and there are a number of activities to honor the Civil Rights legend.
Under Alabama’s Jim Crow era laws, the law required that any Black person must give up their seat in the front of a bus if a White person wanted their seat. Eventually civil rights activists decided to challenge the bizarre “go to the back of the bus” law. On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks, then a 43-year-old Montgomery seamstress, sat in the front of a Montgomery bus. A White man got on the bus and expected the Black woman to get up and let him have the seat as the law required. Parks refused to move. The bus driver called the police and Parks was arrested for her act of defiance. Parks’ arrest and the NAACP reaction in support of Parks led to Black people across Montgomery boycotting the transit system for 381 days, eventually forcing city leaders to back down.
The boycott got national and international press coverage and established Montgomery Pastor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the leader of the Civil Right Movement. Eventually the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government enforced segregation on public transportation was unconstitutional.
Montgomery is holding a number of events to remember Parks on Saturday.
At 8:00 a.m. there will be a Unity breakfast at Saint Paul AME Church at 706 E. Patton Avenue in Montgomery. A 10:00 a.m. there will be a short film screening at the Rosa Parks Museum. At 11:00 a.m. there will be a spoken word ceremony at Saint Paul AME Church. At 12:00 p.m. there will be a Rosa Parks tribute at Alabama State University’s Tullibody Hall. At 3:00 p.m. there will be a Rosa Parks Commemoration program at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. At 3:30 p.m. there will be a celebratory march beginning at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church to the Rosa Parks Museum. At 4:30 p.m. there will be commemoration program at the Federal Courthouse (featuring Keith Watkins and Myron Thompson). At 5:30 p.m. there will be closing ceremonies and unveiling of the official Rosa Parks marker at Saint Paul AME Church.
The Alabama Legislature passed the Rosa Parks holiday bill unanimously and the bill was signed by Governor Kay Ivey (R).
Parks eventually had to leave Montgomery to find work. She worked for Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) for 20 years and died in 2005 at the age of 92.
Rosa Parks Day is not an official state holiday so most of the businesses, including banks, schools and government offices that would be open on a regular Saturday will still be open.
Expert witness tells Mo Brooks nuclear energy is necessary, utterly unique
Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, questioned Edward McGinnis, who is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, Thursday about the importance of nuclear power production in America during a Science, Space, and Technology Committee Energy Subcommittee hearing.
Rep. Brooks asked McGinnis:
“In 2017, there were 99 nuclear power plants in 30 states in the United States operating fleet which generated approximately 805 billion kilowatt hours of energy,” Rep. Brooks stated. “This is equivalent to 20 percent of total United States electrical output and 60 percent of its emissions free electricity. There’s been some comment to that already, I wanted to reemphasize it. One fingertip sized uranium fuel pellet, about this big (Brooks holds up a finger), can generate as much energy as 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas or 149 gallons of oil or one ton of carbon to kind of put it into perspective. We’ve got some political interest groups that would just assume that we not have any nuclear energy in the United States, or on planet Earth for that matter. Very quickly, can you describe what the impact on America would be if we were to suddenly decide that we’re no longer going to have nuclear energy over the next year or two? What would be the impact on the power grid and the ability of America to continue to function as we are today?”
“The impact would be incredibly negative, substantive, and long-term, not only from a resiliency perspective, needing to have twenty-four seven 365 days a year nuclear or electricity available, not just when the sun is shining and when the wind is blowing,” McGinnis answered. “I would submit that nuclear energy has an absolute necessary role in and all of the above, and don’t get me wrong, we need all of the above, but nuclear energy still remains utterly unique, as you indicated, sir, density of power, there is no other power source that provides the density of power.”
Chattanooga real estate developer, billionaire and top Trump donor, Franklin Haney, has purchased the abandoned and never finished Bellefonte nuclear power plant and is seeking financing, including a $5 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy to finish the power plant.
Haney, who made his fortune in real estate, purchased the unfinished nuclear power plant from the Tennessee Valley Authority in 2016 and has been busy trying to obtain the funding to get the nuclear power plant up and running. He has a November deadline to complete the deal.
The Bellefonte project has been endorsed by both Congressmen Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville).
Brooks told McGinnis, “TVA has spent over $6 billion on this facility. They recently sold it at public auction for $111 million which may very well make it the biggest boondoggle in the history of the federal government, particularly in relation to non-defense.”
“There is an effort now to get that facility completed by the private sector,” Rep. Brooks said. “There are things that have to be done by the Department of Energy. If there is anything that you can do to send the message back the people of Jackson County would very much appreciate it because the University of Alabama has projected that the completion of this plant would generate over one thousand jobs, with an average salary of $136,000 per job. That is pretty dog gone good for the state of Alabama.”
It is not known what progress Haney has had in his efforts to get government assistance to complete the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant.
Congressman Mo Brooks is seeking a fifth term representing the Fifth Congressional District. He faces former Huntsville city attorney Peter Joffrion in the November 6 general election.
Vote on Kavanaugh could come as early as Saturday: Doug Jones is voting No
Senate Republicans held a closed-door meeting Thursday night to determine where everyone in the caucus was on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
After meeting, the GOP senators said that they will move ahead on trying to confirm Kavanaugh.
The GOP senators said that the Senate Judiciary Committee will meet Friday morning to consider the nomination. They are expected to vote to confirm Kavanaugh and forward the nomination to the full Senate. The Senate could vote on Kavanaugh as early as Saturday.
“The sooner we vote, the better,” said U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala.
On Thursday, Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate claiming that when they were teenagers at a party, a drunken Kavanaugh tried to remove her swimsuit with no success.
Kavanaugh denies ever even meeting Ms. Ford and claimed his innocence.
“I’m here today to tell the truth,” Kavanaugh told the Senate. “I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone.”
Kavanaugh ripped pro-abortion Senate Democrats for turning the confirmation process into a circus.
“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” Kavanaugh said. “The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process. But you have replaced advise and consent with search and destroy.”
“Over the past few days, other false and uncorroborated accusations have been aired,” Kavanaugh said. “There has been a frenzy to come up with something, anything, no matter how far-fetched or odious, that will block a vote on my nomination. These are last-minute smears, pure and simple. They debase our public discourse. And the consequences extend beyond any one nomination. Such grotesque and obvious character assassination, if allowed to succeed, will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham had a notable speech defending Kavanaugh and attacking Senate Democrats.
“Boy, y’all want power. God, I hope you never get it,” Graham said. “I hope the American people can see through this sham.”
“This is outrageous, internally inconsistent, and I hope the U.S. Senate will see this for the smear campaign that it is,” Sen. Graham said in a statement. “It is outrageous to suggest that Brett Kavanaugh at any time in his life behaved this way. His life is inconsistent with any of these allegations. All women who have worked with and for Brett Kavanaugh when he was in a position of power have nothing but glowing things to say about the way he has conducted himself.”
“Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him,” President Donald J. Trump said on Twitter. “His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!”
Responding to calls from the left that he withdraw, Kavanaugh said, “I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. This effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out.”
If confirmed, Kavanaugh would be President Trump’s second selection to the nation’s highest court. He chose Neal Gorsuch in 2017.
Senator Shelby is expected to vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Senator Doug Jones, D-Ala., said Thursday that he will vote against confirming Kavanaugh.
“The Kavanaugh nomination process has been flawed from the beginning and incomplete at the end,” Sen. Jones said in a statement. “Dr. Ford was credible and courageous and I am concerned about the message our vote will be sending to our sons and daughters, as well as victims of sexual assault. I will be voting no.”
Jones has called for a delay in the process in order the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct a full investigation of Kavanaugh’s conduct in the 1980s, while in high school.
(Original reporting by the Washington Post, Fox News, and WBRC Fox 6 contributed to this report.)
FBI and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute issue joint statement on human trafficking
Monday, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s Birmingham Division issued a joint statement calling for greater public awareness and engagement on the crime of human trafficking. The statement comes in conclusion of the 13th annual BCRI-FBI joint conference held in Birmingham on September 16 and 17.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. and BCRI President and CEO Andrea Taylor said in their joint statement, “Human trafficking is slavery. It involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain free or cheap labor or commercial sex. It happens everywhere across all socioeconomic backgrounds. The chances are high that most of us unknowingly come in contact at least one person directly impacted by either labor or sex trafficking on any given day. We ask that the public become familiar with the warning signs of human trafficking and report suspicious activity of any kind.”
Keynote speaker Elizabeth Neumann, Assistant Secretary for Threat Prevention and Security Policy, Department of Homeland Security Office of Strategy, Policy and Plans urged conference attendees to respond with a call to action and a commitment to building a new sensitivity to addressing the societal consequences of human and labor trafficking in their networks.
“Labor trafficking is a serious problem locally as well as across the nation,” Sharp and Taylor continued. People are profiting from the de facto imprisonment of fellow human beings and are using every conceivable method to continue these practices unnoticed. We need both our law enforcement partners and the entire community to work together with us in this alarming phase in the fight for human rights. If you see signs of anyone who may be abused or who seem to be unduly under the control of someone else, please report it to your local law enforcement office, the FBI or DHS Homeland Security Investigations.”
During the 2018 Legislative Session, the Alabama House of Representatives gave final passage to a bill that established more severe penalties for those found guilty of obstructing an investigation into human trafficking.
The bill, SB179, was sponsored by State Senator Cam Ward, R-Alabaster. It also targeted those involved in child sex trafficking rings. The legislation was a part of the Senate Republicans’ “Fighting for Alabama” agenda during this year’s legislative sessions.
“We want to give law enforcement every tool they need to ensure no child is ever harmed in this manner,” Ward said.
Even though it was a Republican “Fighting for Alabama” agenda item, the bill received broad bipartisan support from both chambers.
Previously the offense was only a Class C felony, punishable by only a year in prison. SB179 made the maximum offense of first-degree obstructing a human tracking investigation a Class A felony instead, meaning a conviction would likely result in more than ten years in prison.
Ward said at the time, “By increasing penalties for those who would aid traffickers, we will hold them just as accountable as the traffickers themselves.”
The average age of a sex trafficking victim is between 11 to 14 years old, according to the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, and it is estimated that two children are trafficked into sexual exploitation every minute.
For more information on Human Trafficking go to:
The Blue Campaign is the unified voice for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to combat human trafficking. Working in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, the Blue Campaign is working to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.
Through the Blue Campaign, DHS raises public awareness about human trafficking, leveraging partnerships to educate the public to recognize human trafficking and report suspected instances. The Blue Campaign also offers training to law enforcement and others to increase detection and investigation of human trafficking, and to protect victims and bring suspected traffickers to justice.
DHS is responsible for investigating human trafficking, arresting traffickers, and protecting victims. DHS also provides immigration relief to non-U.S. citizen victims of human trafficking. DHS utilizes a victim-centered approach to combat human trafficking, which places equal value on identifying and stabilizing victims and on investigating and prosecuting traffickers. Victims are crucial to investigations and prosecutions; each case and every conviction changes lives.
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) is part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. The BCRI is a cultural and educational research center that promotes a comprehensive understanding for the significance of civil rights developments in Birmingham that changed our world. Celebrating its 26th anniversary, BCRI reaches more than 150,000 individuals each year through teacher education (including curriculum development and teacher training), group tours, outreach programs (school and community), award-winning after-school and public programs, exhibitions and extensive archival collections.
The FBI is the primary federal agency responsible for investigating all allegations regarding criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes. The FBI is also responsible for investigating human trafficking, the illegal “business” of trafficking persons into forced labor and prostitution,
To learn more about the FBI, please visit:
Original reporting by the Alabama Political Reporter’s Chip Brownlee contributed to this report.
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