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Marietta Daily Journal Podcast

Supreme court rules capping damages did not violate sexual assault victim's rights

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The Supreme Court of Georgia announced it ruled that state law capping punitive damages at $250,000 did not violate the constitutional rights of a Cobb County sexual assault victim.

The case stems from an April 2012 sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl while she was living at the Devereux Foundation’s behavioral health treatment facility in Kennesaw. The girl filed a civil lawsuit against Devereux. In this case, she is represented by the executor of her estate.

The assault was perpetrated by a Devereux employee, Jimmy Anthony Singleterry, who was criminally prosecuted and pleaded guilty to several charges, the MDJ previously reported. Singleterry was sentenced in October 2013 to 20 years, 12 to be served in prison. In 2019, a Cobb jury returned a verdict for $10 million in compensatory damages, finding both Devereux and Singleterry at fault, and $50 million in punitive damages against Devereux.

But a Cobb trial court later capped the punitive damages at $250,000, a standard set by state law.

The plaintiff appealed, Devereux cross-appealed, and last October, the high court heard arguments in the case. Lawyers for the estate argued the cap violates the plaintiff’s constitutional right to a trial by jury in this case. The court disagreed in a majority opinion authored by Justice Sarah Hawkins Warren.

But the court also ruled against Devereux’s arguments, deciding that there was evidence to support awarding punitive damages and attorney fees to the estate.

Police arrested a suspect in connection with the Sunday morning crash which injured two pedestrian construction workers in Marietta. The suspect has been charged with DUI, hit and run and several other charges.

Malik Branch is accused by police of hitting the two workers while driving drunk on Roswell Road under the Interstate 75 overpass, then fleeing the scene on foot before first responders arrived.

According to police, the crash occurred around 1:40 a.m. Sunday. Workers Jimmy Varraza and Oscar Aguilar were struck while placing a message board on the roadway for a lane closure. Branch, of Dallas, was driving a gray 2019 Volkswagen Jetta eastbound when he struck the workers, per police. The workers were transported to Grady Memorial Hospital. While Aguilar is recovering and has been released from the hospital, Varraza remains in critical condition, police said Wednesday.

Marietta Police arrested Branch Tuesday night and booked him into the Cobb County jail, where he remains. He is not eligible for bond. According to an arrest warrant, police obtained video surveillance footage of Branch leaving Sage Restaurant and Lounge shortly before the crash, “stumbling and almost falling in the parking lot with a beer bottle in his hand.” The restaurant on Roswell Street is less than half a mile from the crash site.

The car Branch drove had two bald front tires, two rear tires inflated to double the recommended tire pressure, and a rear tire which was the wrong size, according to the warrant.

Atlanta United 2 announced Wednesday that it had signed midfielder Alan Carleton, a Powder Springs native, to an MLS Next Pro contract through the 2024 season. The 17-year-old Carleton was a member of the first Atlanta United Academy team to take the field in 2016 at the Generation Adidas Cup. He has continued to progress through the academy ranks and made his professional debut for Atlanta United 2 on April 3, 2022, in a 2-1 win at Hartford. His first start came Aug. 10, 2022 at New York Red Bulls II. Carleton finished his first professional season with 12 appearances, including two starts, and 276 total minutes played.

Carleton's older brother, Andrew, was Atlanta United's first homegrown signing in 2016 and went on to play 10 games for the MLS club and 29 games for Atlanta United 2 from 2017-19. He is now part of the Las Vegas Lights of the USL Championship league.

Atlanta United 2, marking its first season with the MLS Next Pro circuit after previously being part of USL Championship, will open the season March 26, hosting New England Revolution II at Kennesaw State's Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

 It was all relief for Commissioner JoAnn Birrell this week as she and her peers on the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved more than $9 million in funding for a rebuild of Gritters Library in east Cobb.

The project will take it from an aging 7,000-square-foot building to a new 14,000-square-foot facility that will also house community and workforce resource centers.

Major features of the new building will include reading and study rooms, expanding an existing multipurpose room, creating an outdoor programming space, and consolidating services into a one-stop service desk.

Birrell said the rebuild is needed because the current one is too small for the surrounding community, not to mention outdated: Gritters was built in 1972 and opened November 19, 1973.

According to the county, the current facility has dealt with mold and mildew problems as well as plumbing issues, and it has become increasingly challenging for the county to maintain.

The library will be closed during construction, at which time patrons will be directed to other county libraries. Cobb’s mobile book service will also assist in serving the surrounding community.

Travis Stalcup, the country’s property management director, said he expects construction to start sometime this spring or early summer and last around 14 months, though that schedule is subject to change.

Marietta High School and IT company Apto Solutions are teaming up to provide exciting job training for students with disabilities.

The newly converted lab space welcomed students, teachers, Board of Education members and community members to a ribbon cutting in February. With input from industry experts, this cutting-edge lab equips students with skills they wouldn’t normally get in the classroom.

The Apto/MPower Learning program was designed to help students transition into post-secondary life after high school and provide them with soft skills they need for lifelong employment. The six students currently enrolled learn how to safely and effectively dismantle and dispose of electronic devices such as laptops, servers and cell phones. Students break apart and sort device components and send them back to Apto for recycling.

In addition to Apto Solutions, MCS also collaborated with Blue Star Recyclers and Parallel International Consulting's Founder, Meaghan Timko to create the program.

With municipal elections in Mableton less than a week away, one of the four services the city will offer is gaining more scrutiny than the others: trash.

That’s trash hauling, to be more specific, and rumors are swirling that a set of pro-Mableton cityhood advocates are pushing for a one-hauler-for-all system.

While it is disputed what exactly those advocates said in a recent meeting with trash haulers, residents have begun to question how sanitation will look in Mableton. Since one of the four candidates for mayor will be leading the city’s policy, the MDJ polled the candidates on their proposals.

Aaron Carman, who has been endorsed by proponents of de-annexation from Mableton, said that from the start, he did not want sanitation to be one of the four services the city offered, a stance he maintains.

Currently, the county allows residents to negotiate with individual haulers on their trash service.

Carman said he has heard from residents that they are happy with their haulers. Michael Murphy, a former aide to the late Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce who is also in the race for mayor, said he is focused on making Mableton more sustainable in regard to trash service.

He wants to divert the trash thrown out by Mableton residents away from landfills, though he supports letting residents continue to choose their own trash haulers. In an email to the Journal, candidate LaTonia Long, a public policy manager stated she thinks Mableton should enter into a contract with Cobb County to extend the current services and management options to Mableton residents for at least one year. Mayoral candidate Michael Owens, former chair of the Cobb Democratic Party, speaking at a meet and greet last week, offered his vision on trash collection in Mableton. It involves the city requesting proposals from small trash haulers for offering their services to each of the city’s six districts, an idea he said would not risk putting smaller haulers out of business. Mableton elections will be held on Tuesday. More information about the election can be found on the Cobb Elections website.

#CobbCounty #Georgia #LocalNews     






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