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Parole hearings this Week

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles announced in a statement to the press that it will hold parole hearings for twenty violent offenders this week. Among them one murderer, three sex offenders, and eight who were convicted of robbery.

Deashton Luvoris Hayes is a two-time convicted robber. He was sentenced in 2010 to two years in prison for third-degree robbery and first-degree theft of property in Madison County. In 2011, Hayes robbed another man of a remote-controlled car by force. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for that second robbery, to go along with his original 10-year sentence. In 2018 he was convicted of distribution of controlled substances in Madison County and was sentenced to five years in prison. Hayes has only served just fifteen months of that last five-year prison sentence and is already eligible for parole.

Deandre Quintero Love was convicted in 2009 of second degree assault and discharging a firearm into an occupied building or car. He received ten and fifteen year sentences for those crimes. Love was convicted of robbery in 2012 and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. In 2017 he received a six year sentence for two counts of possession and receiving controlled substances. Despite this he was paroled last year. In April he was sent back to prison for five years for a drug crime. Despite being a captured parole violator he is again eligible for parole.

Ervin Cornelius Smith was sentenced in 1987 to two years in prison for two second-degree robberies in Mobile County. In January of this year he was sent back to prison on an eight-year sentence for possession and receiving controlled substances in Mobile County.

In 2003 Diangelo Tarez Dudley received a three year sentence for first-degree burglary in Tuscaloosa County. His sentence for the burglary was extended in 2006 to 10 years after he was also convicted of two counts of drug possession and sentenced to three years. In 2011 he was convicted of drug possession. In November 2018 he was sentenced to five years for drug distribution in Tuscaloosa County. Dudley has served only thirteen months of that sixty month sentence.

Toney Jeffery Hughes was sentenced on Oct. 17, 2018 to three years, 10 months for third-degree burglary and drug possession, and to seven years, six months on two counts of drug possession, all in Madison County. He has served just fourteen months of his eighty four month prison sentence.

Bryant Lamar Sparks is presently serving a 20-year sentence for a 2013 first-degree escape conviction in Montgomery County. Sparks is also serving varying sentences for theft of property, fraudulent use of a credit card and receiving stolen property, for crimes committed in Montgomery County. Sparks is also serving an eight-year sentence from 2014 for theft of property in Lee County. Sparks first conviction was in 2006 in Lee County in 2006 for theft of property. In 2008 he was sentenced to three years for receiving stolen property and fraudulent use of a credit card.

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Hayes, Love, Sparks, Hughes, Smith, and Dudley will all have parole hearings today.

In 2005 Colony Nicole Wilson was sentenced to 20 years in prison for child abuse in Jefferson County. The Gadsden Times reported her infant had “13 broken bones in the first four years of her life” due to abuse by Wilson. According to the newspaper, the child sustained broken bones in her collarbone, skull, legs, arms, ribs and shoulders over a two-month period. Wilson has served 14 years and three months of her 20-year prison sentence.

In 2010 Keeondray Rashone Sterling was convicted of murder for shooting a man to death in Tuscaloosa County and was sentenced to four years and six months. In 2016 Sterling shot a nine year old boy and shot at a seventeen year old. He received a fifteen year sentence for that episode in Tuscaloosa County. Despite serving just sixty five months of that fifteen year sentence Sterling is up for parole again.

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In 2004 John Hardy Jordan Jr. was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree sexual abuse in Lee County. He has served 16 just years of the life sentence and is eligible for parole.

Jimmy Wayne Karr has a long criminal history that dates back to 1983 for third-degree burglary in Clay County. He was paroled in 1984, but received a two year sentence in 2003 for a 1999 conviction for drug possession in Chambers County. Karr received a 25 year sentence for second degree sexual abuse for attacking a sleeping victim. He served only eight years and ten months of that sentence. In 2016 Karr received an eight year prison sentence for another theft of property conviction in Chambers County.

In 2002 Christopher Michael Poe was sentenced to 25 years in prison for first-degree sodomy in Shelby County. He has served 17 years of that 25-year sentence. Poe also was sentenced to 10 years in 2003 for felony DUI.

Derek Gregory Clay is serving life in prison for three first-degree robbery convictions in 2007 in Madison County and 18 months for a March 2019 conviction for illegal possession and fraudulent use of a credit card in Shelby County. He has served less than 13 years of the three life sentences. Clay was sentenced in 2002 to 10 years for the first of his robberies in Madison County, but he was released from prison early and went on to commit the three additional robberies.

Damon Lamar Calhoun is a parole violator and repeat felon with ten convictions in Mobile County. In 2015 Calhoun was sentenced to 18 years for third-degree burglary. He has served just five years, six months of the 18-year prison sentence. Calhoun was sentenced in 2016 to 15 years for third-degree robbery and breaking-and-entering a vehicle. He violated parole and was sent back to confinement in 2018. In 2011 he was sentenced to 10 years for four convictions for receiving stolen property and two convictions for third-degree burglary, and five years for breaking-and-entering a vehicle.

Jimmy Claude Harmon Jr. is a parole violator with two conviction for assault. In 1997 he was convicted in Calhoun County of third degree burglary and breaking and entering a vehicle. In 2001 he was sentenced to two years for second-degree assault in Madison County. In 2004 he was sentenced to 15 years for assault. Harmon was granted parole in 2006 but violated parole and in 2009 was sent back to prison for second-degree assault in Cleburne County. He was resentenced in 2017 to 14 years and five months for the 2009 assault. Harmon has served less than five years of the 14-year, five-month sentence.

In 2015 Christopher Dewayne Stewart was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a 2007 first-degree robbery of a Grub Mart in Etowah County in which Stewart discharged a firearm. Also in 2015 Stewart was convicted of third-degree burglary, three counts of theft of property, and two counts of unlawful breaking and entering a vehicle, all in Etowah County.. Stewart has served only 10 years, seven months of the 20-year sentence. Public records show he was granted probation at one point but then probation was revoked, and he was rearrested on April 18, 2013.

In 2018 Carlos Braxton was sentenced to eight years in prison for third-degree robbery, first-degree theft of property, unlawful breaking and entering of a vehicle and two counts of offenses against a person (Class B Felony) in Jefferson County. He has served just two years of the eight-year sentence.

In 2017 Lauren Ashley Finney was sentenced to six months for second-degree assault and a drug conviction in Mobile County but was resentenced in those cases in January 2019 to five years. She has served just one year of that five-year prison sentence.

In October 2018, Cori Noelle Lawrence was sentenced to five years in prison for second-degree assault and six years for second-degree arson, and three years for possession and receipt of a controlled substance in Covington County. She has served only one year, three months of the six-year prison sentence. Lawrence was arrested by state fire marshals for burning a trailer in Opp.

In 1998 William Ferrell Travis was sentenced to fifteen years in prison in Madison County for second degree robbery. In 2001, Travis was convicted of promoting prison contraband in Elmore County and sentenced to five years. In 2015 Travis was sentenced to three months for third degree burglary in Madison County. That was extended to ten years after he reoffended In 2016 he was sentenced to 15 years for obstruction of justice and criminal possession of a forged instrument in Madison County. He has served just three years, two months of that 15-year prison sentence.

Michael W. Vincent was sentenced in 2008 to 20 years in prison for third-degree robbery in Autauga County. He has served less than 12 years of that sentence.

The parole hearings for Vincent, Travis, Lawrence, Finney, Braxton, Stewart, Harmon, Clay, Poe, Karr, Jordan, Wilson, Sterling, and Calhoun will be on Wednesday.

Retired Judge Charlie Graddick is the Director of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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U.S. Supreme Court rules Alabama can ban curbside voting

“The District Court’s modest injunction is a reasonable accommodation, given the short time before the election,” the three dissenting justices wrote. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision, allowed Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill to ban curbside voting, staying a district court injunction that had allowed some counties to offer curbside voting in the Nov. 3 election amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Supreme Court’s majority in its order declined to write an opinion, but Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor’s five-page dissent is included.

The lawsuit — filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program — was brought on behalf of several older Alabamians with underlying medical conditions.

“The District Court’s modest injunction is a reasonable accommodation, given the short time before the election,” the three dissenting justices wrote. 

Sotomayor, who wrote the dissent, closed using the words of one of the plaintiffs in the case. 

“Plaintiff Howard Porter Jr., a Black man in his seventies with asthma and Parkinson’s disease, told the District Court, ‘[So] many of my [ancestors] even died to vote. And while I don’t mind dying to vote, I think we’re past that – We’re past that time,’” Sotomayor wrote. 

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill on Wednesday applauded the Supreme Court’s decision. 

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“I am proud to report the U.S. Supreme Court has now blocked a lower court’s order allowing the fraudulent practice of curbside voting in the State of Alabama,” Merrill said in a statement. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked diligently with local election officials in all 67 counties to offer safe and secure voting methods – including through the in-person and mail-in processes. I am glad the Supreme Court has recognized our actions to expand absentee voting, while also maintaining the safeguards put into place by the state Legislature.”

“The fact that we have already shattered voter participation records with the election still being 13 days away is proof that our current voting options are easy, efficient, and accessible for all of Alabama’s voters,” Merrill continued. “Tonight’s ruling in favor of election integrity and security is once again a win for the people of Alabama.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, expressed frustration after the ruling in a tweet.

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“Another devastating loss for voters and a blow for our team fighting to ensure safe voting for Black and disabled voters in Alabama. With no explanation, the SCOTUS allows Alabama to continue making it as hard as possible for COVID-vulnerable voters,” Ifill wrote.

Curbside voting is not explicitly banned by state law in Alabama, but Merrill has argued that because the practice is not addressed in the law, he believes it to be illegal. 

A panel of federal appeals court judges on Oct. 13 reversed parts of U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s Sept. 30 order ruling regarding absentee voting in the upcoming Nov. 3 elections, but the judges let the previous ruling allowing curbside voting to stand. 

In his Sept. 30 ruling, Kallon wrote that “the plaintiffs have proved that their fears are justified” and the voting provisions challenged in the lawsuit “unduly burden the fundamental Constitutional rights of Alabama’s most vulnerable voters and violate federal laws designed to protect America’s most marginalized citizens.”

Caren Short, SPLC’s senior staff attorney, in a statement said the Supreme Court’s decision has curtailed the voting rights of vulnerable Alabamians.

“Once again, the Supreme Court’s ‘shadow docket’ – where orders are issued without written explanation – has curtailed the voting rights of vulnerable citizens amidst a once-in-a-century public health crisis. After a two-week trial, a federal judge allowed counties in Alabama to implement curbside voting so that high-risk voters could avoid crowded polling locations,” Short said. “Tonight’s order prevents Alabama counties from even making that decision for themselves. Already common in states across the South and the country before 2020, curbside voting is a practice now encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It should be a no-brainer to implement everywhere during a pandemic; the Alabama Secretary of State unfortunately disagrees, as does the Supreme Court of the United States.”

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Sean Worsley, Black disabled veteran arrested for medical marijuana, gets parole

The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Worsley parole on Wednesday.

Brandon Moseley

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Sean Worsley (VIA ALABAMA APPLESEED)

Sean Worsley, the disabled Black veteran who spent eight months incarcerated for possession of legally prescribed medical marijuana, has been released on parole.

The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles granted parole on Wednesday for Worsley. Worsley served in the Iraq War where he received a Purple Heart. Unfortunately, he also returned from the war with injuries and chronic PTSD, which he treated with legally prescribed marijuana in his home state of Arizona.

In 2016, Worsley and his wife were driving through Alabama on their way to visit relatives in North Carolina, when they stopped for gas in Gordo. The Worsleys were apparently playing their music too loud so were approached by a Gordo police officer for violating the Gordo noise ordinance.

The Worsleys granted the officer’s request to search the vehicle. He found the marijuana, which Worsley claimed was legally prescribed.

Medical marijuana is legal in most of the country, but not in the state of Alabama. While Worsley did not have enough marijuana in his possession for a trafficking charge, the arresting officer charged him with possession of marijuana for other than personal use, a felony in Alabama. The assistant district attorney prosecuting the case agreed.

Worsley agreed to a five-year probation, including drug treatment, as part of a plea deal to avoid prison in 2017. Worsley claims that the VA would not let him get their drug treatment because he does not have a problem.

The district attorney’s office in Alabama told APR that Worsley was kicked out of the VA for failure to comply with the program. Alabama ordered Worsley to appear in court in Pickens County. Worsley claims that he did not know about this court date. The court charged him with failure to appear, revoked his probation, and declared him a fugitive from justice.

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Worsley was arrested in Arizona for possession of marijuana with an expired medical marijuana card.

Alabama asked that Worsley be extradited back to Pickens County where he was jailed. The trial judge ordered the disabled veteran to serve the full five years in prison. Due to the incredible overcrowding of the Alabama Department of Corrections and the coronavirus crisis, ADOC could not find the space for him, so left him in the Pickens County Jail for five months.

Worsley spent the last three months with ADOC in the aging Draper Correctional Facility. Worsley was denied Community Corrections because he has a nonviolent felony record in 2011 in addition to his Alabama offense.

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Civil libertarians, marijuana advocates, veterans advocates and justice reform advocates were horrified by Worsley’s treatment by the Alabama court system after Alabama Appleseed’s Research Director Leah Nelson first publicized the case.

Worsley’s bid for parole was supported by a coalition of advocates and service providers, including John Carroll, a retired federal magistrate judge and Vietnam War veteran who now teaches at the Cumberland School of Law; Beau Armistead, a Birmingham-based counselor who specializes in treating veterans like Worsley who live with PTSD and has offered to treat Worsley pro bono on his release; BLOX LLC, an architecture and manufacturing firm that has offered Worsley a job; the Dannon Project, a re-entry provider that will help guide Worsley’s transition out of prison; and dozens of veterans who signed a letter to the Parole Board supporting Worsley’s release.

Online supporters raised over $100,000 to cover legal costs and other financial consequences of his conviction, including his wife Eboni Worsley’s move to Birmingham.

“Sean Worsley, was shown compassion by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles,” said Chey Lindsey Garrigan, executive director of the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association. “This is a commendable act that should be acknowledged.”

Garrigan’s group is lobbying the Alabama legislature to legalize medical marijuana in the state and to guarantee safe passage for travelers from other states, where marijuana is legal so that other visitors are not at risk of being jailed while passing through Alabama.

“My faith in THE MOST HIGH has been further solidified in the demonstration of the law functioning in Alabama to help and not harm individuals via the parole board,” Eboni Worsley said in a statement. “We’re grateful to be able to pick up the pieces and begin rebuilding our lives once Sean is released. I am very grateful to the Parole Board of Alabama for showing the public the heart of the warm welcoming spirit of the people I’ve met since transitioning to Alabama.”

Worsley’s situation attracted national attention in July following a blog post by the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. APR picked up the story as well as The Washington Post and Fox News.

“After three months covering Sean’s case and learning about his life and his service to this country I am thrilled he will no longer be held in prison for the mistake of stopping for gas in Alabama with his legally prescribed medicine,” Nelson said. “At the same time, I can’t say justice has been served, because Sean should never have been arrested or jailed at all.”

“A extraordinary group of advocates finally achieved a good outcome for Sean, but until Alabama fixes its overly punitive marijuana laws, struggling people will continue to be harmed and precious state resources will be wasted on enforcement of laws that have no connection to public safety,” said Appleseed executive director Carla Crowder.

“The case of Sean Worsley deals with a convergence of several issues,” said State Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham. “It deals with Alabama’s harmful marijuana laws, particularly concerning medical marijuana. It deals with our country’s misunderstanding and treatment of veterans returning home and transitioning to civilian life. And it deals with excessive policing – that put suspicion on a man doing nothing more than listening to the radio and playing air guitar to his wife.”

Rafferty is a post-9/11 veteran who advocated for Sean’s release.

“While the news of Sean’s parole is welcomed and to be celebrated, it only serves to highlight the legislative chamber’s duty to make right these wrongs and allow our criminal justice system to focus on crimes that actually endanger community safety,” Rafferty added.

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Lawsuit alleges “religious test” on Alabama voter registration form

Plaintiffs say the phrase “so help me God” amounts to a mandatory religious oath.

Micah Danney

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A lawsuit filed in federal court is challenging language on Alabama’s voter registration form, saying that the phrase “so help me God” amounts to a mandatory religious oath prohibited by the Constitution.

Alabama is the only state that requires voters to swear the truthfulness of their voter registration information by signing a form that includes those words without any option of a secular affirmation.

The lead plaintiff is Randal Cragun, an atheist who has sought to register to vote in Alabama since November 2019. He noticed that on the mail-in form that is downloadable from the secretary of state’s website, a warning states: “Read and sign under penalty of perjury,” and, “If you falsely sign this statement, you can be convicted and imprisoned for up to five years.” The declaration begins “I solemnly swear or affirm” and ends with “so help me God.”

Cragun contacted Secretary of State John Merrill’s office to ask how he could register without signing the declaration as it is written, according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which filed the suit on behalf of Cragun and three other plaintiffs. The next day, Cragun was told by the director of elections that no legal mechanism existed to provide an alternative, and that crossing out any portion would result in the application being rejected.

“It is deplorable that in our secular nation nontheistic citizens are encountering a religious test to register to vote,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of FFRF. “No citizen should have to choose between their right to vote and their freedom of conscience.”

Before filing the lawsuit, the organization sent a letter to Merrill’s office saying that the oath violates the First Amendment. It cited Torcaso v. Watkins, in which the Supreme Court ruled that neither a state nor the federal government can force a person to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.

Merrill declined to comment until his office has been served with the lawsuit, but according to FFRF, he has maintained that the registration forms are “prescribed by statute” and “that any changes would require legislative action.”

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The lawsuit alleges that his office has the authority to create and amend voter registration forms. In a statement, FFRF noted that in all other states, voters are provided either a secular registration form or are not required to submit an oath or affirmation.

The group added that government officials routinely allow people who must take an oath, including attorneys, jurors and witnesses, “to make a secular affirmation instead when they are unable to swear ‘so help me God’ as a matter of conscience.”

The plaintiffs are seeking a permanent injunction that prohibits the secretary of state from requiring voters who register to swear “so help me God” and that requires his office to provide voter registration forms that don’t include the phrase as a requirement. They are also asking for a declaratory judgment that Merrill has violated the Constitution by not providing a secular alternative.

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“The secretary of state has willfully excluded nontheist citizens from registering to vote and is coercing a statement of belief in a monotheistic god by requiring nontheists to swear a religious oath,” said Patrick Elliott, FFRF’s senior attorney in the litigation.

In its letter to Merrill, FFRF said that a constitutional ban on mandatory religious oaths is a “well-settled issue.” 

In a 1972 case, Nicholson v. Bd. of Comm’rs of Ala. State Bar Ass’n, the court ruled, “We hold that it is a violation of the Constitution for the state of Alabama to compel plaintiff to swear an oath invoking the help of God as a prerequisite to entering upon the practice of law.”

The suit’s three other plaintiffs are Chris Nelson, Heather Coleman and Robert Corker. 

It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division. Steven P. Gregory, of the Birmingham-based Gregory Law Firm, is local counsel. FFRF associate counsel Liz Cavell is also involved in the case.

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Vestavia doctor sentenced to 30 years for producing child porn

A federal judge sentenced Ronald Tai Young Moon Jr. of Vestavia Hills, 56, to 30 years in prison.

Brandon Moseley

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A federal judge sentenced a former Vestavia Hills doctor to 30 years in prison for producing and possessing child pornography, U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. announced Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Annemarie Axon sentenced Ronald Tai Young Moon Jr. of Vestavia Hills, 56, to 30 years in federal prison.

“Unfortunately, this sentence will not undo the harm suffered by Moon’s victims,” Escalona said. “However, understanding that the consequences of this conduct is severe might discourage other sexual predators from victimizing innocent children in this district.”

Moon worked as a doctor at the Industrial Athlete clinic in Birmingham until his license was revoked earlier this year. Moon went to trial in February. After four days of testimony, a jury convicted Moon of possessing, producing and attempting to produce child pornography.

“I am proud of the effort put forth by my agents in order to ensure this defendant was brought to justice and will no longer be able to harm children,” Sharp said. “Moon serving the next 30 years in federal prison ensures there is one less predator victimizing the most innocent and vulnerable members of our community.”

Federal prosecutors presented evidence at trial proving that between the mid-1990s and 2012, Moon secretly recorded neighbors and guests in his own home including girls as young as 12 years old.

Some of those individuals were filmed naked, dressing and undressing. The footage was located on VHS videotapes found in the defendant’s locked private office with other pornographic VHS tapes, steps away from a TV and VCR set that was working and plugged in.

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Evidence of multiple hidden-camera devices was also found in the defendant’s office.

Moon will also serve five years of supervised release after he gets out and, by law, will also be required to register as a sex offender.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Ward and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Lloyd Peeples III prosecuted the case.

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The United States attorney’s office also thanked members of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General for assisting in the investigation.

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