- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Winter storm causes wrecks, gridlock in the South

ATLANTA (AP) - The mad rush began at the first sight of snow: Across the Atlanta area, schools let out early and commuters left for home after lunch, instantly creating gridlock so severe that security guards and doormen took to the streets to direct cars amid a cacophony of blaring horns.

Highways surrounding the city that rarely sees snow were converted into treacherous paths of ice Tuesday, causing hundreds of cars to slide off the road, slam into each other, or crawl bumper to bumper in gridlock. Children were stranded at schools with their teachers, while Gov. Nathan Deal made a late-night announcement that he would send state troopers to rescue them.

Deal said state and local officials also would try to rescue those stranded along highways that were at a standstill even close to midnight.

The rare Southern winter storm dropped more than 3 inches of snow in some areas of north Georgia, while 2.3 inches were recorded at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport after hours of snowfall Tuesday afternoon and evening, said National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Willis.

While such amounts barely qualify as a storm in the north, it was enough to paralyze the Deep South. Many folks across the region don’t know how to drive in snow, and many cities don’t have big fleets of salt trucks or snowplows, and it showed. Hundreds of wrecks happened from Georgia to Texas. Two people died in an accident in Alabama.

In Atlanta, the gridlock was so bad, a baby girl was delivered alongside Interstate 285, said Capt. Steve Rose, a spokesman for Sandy Springs police in suburban north Atlanta. He said an officer made it to the mother and her husband in time to help with the delivery, which he described as “flawless.” There were no complications and the family was taken to a hospital.


12 artists inducted into Musicians Hall of Fame

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Musicians Hall of Fame inducted 12 new members across the genres, including bluesman Buddy Guy, British rock guitarist Peter Frampton and pedal steel player and country singer Barbara Mandrell.

Also inducted during Tuesday’s ceremony in Nashville were Randy Bachman from The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive, country musician Jimmy Capps, bass guitarist Will Lee, rhythm guitarist Corki Casey O’Dell and country guitarist Velma Smith. Posthumous inductions went to Stevie Ray Vaughan, along with his band Double Trouble, and pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith.

The Musicians Hall of Fame also gave their first Iconic Riff Award posthumously to Roy Orbison for his guitar work on “Pretty Woman,” and their first Industry Icon Award to Mike Curb, the founder of Curb Records. Performers for the awards show included Neil Young, Duane Eddy, Brenda Lee, The Oak Ridge Boys and Chris Isaak. This was the first induction since the Musicians Hall of Fame moved to its new permanent museum location inside Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium.

“I don’t like the word ‘rock star’ or ‘super star,’” said Bachman after the induction ceremony. “I am a guitar player, a songwriter who got lucky because I stayed at it and didn’t give up, long enough that people noticed me.”

“A lot of the people like myself and other fellow inductees are in here, without a name on the marquee, that actually made the sounds that you hear when you hear some of your favorite things that you find yourself humming from day to day,” said Lee, who is best known for performing in the CBS Orchestra on the “Late Show With David Letterman.”

Barbara Mandrell, who was the first artist to win the CMA Entertainer Of The Year for two consecutive years, said learning how to play the steel guitar and the saxophone helped to launch her career while still a teenager.


Death penalty possibility in post office killings

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A former prison guard charged with killing two Tennessee postal workers during a robbery that netted $63 is eligible to face the death penalty at trial, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

In a 261-page ruling, U.S. Senior District Judge Jon P. McCalla said 50-year-old Chastain Montgomery is not mentally disabled and thus eligible to face the punishment on charges that he killed Paula Robinson and Judy Spray in the post office in rural Henning in October 2010.

U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton announced in March that he planned to seek the death penalty against Montgomery at the trial scheduled to begin April 7. Executions of federal inmates are rare - only three men have been carried out under the federal death penalty since 1963.

Prosecutors say Robinson and Spray were fatally shot during a robbery committed by Montgomery and his 18-year-old son Chastain Montgomery Jr. The pair opened fire after they became angry that the post office had just $63 to steal, prosecutors said.

The younger Montgomery was killed in a shootout with police in Mason in February 2011, after he was stopped while driving a stolen truck. The elder Montgomery was arrested at the crime scene when authorities said he showed up in the car used as a getaway vehicle in the post office shooting and tried to get to his son’s body.

Defense attorneys Michael Scholl and Anne Tipton filed a motion to determine that Montgomery was mentally disabled and unfit to face the death penalty under the guidelines presented by the U.S. Supreme Court case, Atkins v. Virginia. They claimed that the death penalty violates his right to due process and right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.


Judge orders activists to pay full restitution

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A sentencing hearing for an 83-year-old nun and two other Catholic peace activists was delayed Tuesday after the federal courthouse in Knoxville shut down because of snow.

A judge ordered Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed (bohr-CHEE’ OH-bed’) to pay full restitution of nearly $53,000 for damaging the primary U.S. storehouse for bomb-grade uranium.

But after four hours of argument and emotional testimony, U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar announced that the courthouse was closing and sentencing would have to wait, likely until Feb. 18.

The three were convicted of sabotage last year after they broke into the nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The restitution covers damage incurred at the plant when the three cut through fences and painted slogans on the outside wall of the uranium processing plant there.

The government has recommended sentences of about six to nine years in prison. More than 100 supporters from across the country had come to Knoxville on Tuesday to hear whether Thapar would heed the defendants’ pleas for leniency.

The three have argued that their actions were symbolic and meant to draw attention to America’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, which they believe to be immoral and illegal.

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