The Carolinas

From wire reportsJuly 2, 2011 



U.S. citizens sworn in at Middleton Place

The S.C. home of a man who signed the Declaration of Independence was the site where some of America's newest citizens took their oath of citizenship Friday.

An official from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration administered the oath at Middleton Place, the historic home on the Ashley River that belonged to Arthur Middleton.

Middleton Place Foundation president Charles Duell opened the ceremony under the canopy of grand oaks outside the home site.

More than 60 citizen candidates participated. The event was open to the public. Visitors could tour the site's gardens afterward.


Meeker to hand off command of base

The Air Force colonel who oversaw the combination of most of Charleston's military units into one joint base is leaving for a new post in Europe.

Col. Martha Meeker steps down next month for her new assignment with the title special assistant to the commander, U.S. European Command, in Mons, Belgium, among other ranking duties.

The move is part of the military's regular rotations. She is being succeeded by Col. Richard D. McComb. The formal change of command ceremony is set for July 14 at the base.


Drug dealers given long prison terms

Two men in separate cases were each sentenced to more than 20 years in federal prison this week for selling drugs.

Kenneth "Shooter" Lavar Watkins, 25, of Columbia was sentenced Thursday to more than 21 years in federal prison for drug dealing and illegal gun possession.

The sentence reflects Watkins' "substantial prior record of crimes of violence and drug trafficking" which qualified him as a career offender under the U.S. sentencing guidelines, the U.S. Attorney's office in Columbia said.

Watkins was sentenced for possession with intent to distribute heroin and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. He came to the attention of federal authorities when he arranged to buy an AK-47 assault rifle and 9mm handgun from an ATF informant. He paid for the weapons with cash and heroin.

Also in federal court Thursday, 26-year-old Robert Pope of Columbia was sentenced to 20 years in prison for running a large cocaine and crack cocaine business in Columbia. According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Pope sold cocaine and crack cocaine to undercover agents on "multiple occasions."


Woman pleads guilty in IRS fraud case

A woman has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a tax-preparation case that defrauded the Internal Revenue Service of at least $13 million, according to prosecutors and court records.

Federal court records show Teresa Marie Bravo, 29, of Pacolet, entered the plea in U.S. District Court. U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said 16 people have been convicted in the case, which one prosecutor has described as the largest tax-fraud probe in memory in the district of South Carolina. The investigation is continuing, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Bravo faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine and will be sentenced later.


Thief breaks church window, takes kit

Rock Hill police say someone broke into the Eastside Baptist Church through a window Tuesday night or Wednesday morning and stole a first aid kit after getting cut.

Officers found blood near the window and bloody napkins on the table. A first aid kit worth about $50 was stolen. Someone also took about $10 worth of cookies and chips. No arrests have been made.



Mom charged after daughter's wreck

A Fayetteville woman has been charged with child abuse after police say her 15-year-old daughter caused a wreck involving five vehicles.

Winona Marie Simmons was charged Friday with two counts of misdemeanor child abuse and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. It couldn't be immediately determined if she has a lawyer.

Police say Simmons' underage daughter was behind the wheel of a car that caused a wreck involving a motorcycle, two pickup trucks and another car.


3 groups sue over bridge replacement

Three environmental groups are suing over the plan to replace the bridge that connects Hatteras Island to the rest of North Carolina's Outer Banks.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, the Defenders of the Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association filed the lawsuit Friday in federal court. They're suing the state Department of Transportation and others over the plan to build a bridge that's parallel to the Bonner Bridge, a deteriorating structure built in 1963 and designed to last 30 years.

The proposed replacement goes through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and is estimated to cost $300 million. Environmentalists support a 17-mile alternative that would bypass the refuge. Its estimated cost is $1 billion.

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