News Shorts 

Updates and Statistics from around the region

"I'm killing a vampire!"


The purported exclamation of an unknown man who witnesses say attacked a peacock in front of a New York fast-food restaurant claiming it was the blood-sucking Halloween favorite. We're assuming the bird wasn't in costume, because that would just be asking for trouble. Source: The Associated Press

July 23

That's when cigarettes get snuffed out by Charleston's citywide smoking ban, which includes bars and restaurants.

Ravenel Pleads Not Guilty to Drug Charges
Former state treasurer Thomas Ravenel has pleaded not guilty to cocaine charges in federal court.

Ravenel's attorneys entered his plea on Friday at his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Columbia. Ravenel, who is undergoing drug treatment in Arizona, did not attend the hearing.

U.S. Magistrate Joseph McCrorey set a $100,000 unsecured bond each for Ravenel and his co-defendant, Michael L. Miller. Each man faces a charge of possession of less than 500 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Ravenel's father, local politician Arthur Ravenel Jr., and his sister Suzie attended the hearing.

"If you're a parent or brother or sister or grandparent, you can imagine how I and Thomas's sister feel today, right now," Arthur Ravenel Jr. said in a press conference after the hearing, adding that he and his daughter were traveling to Arizona the next day.

Ravenel's attorneys, Gedney Howe III and Bart Daniel, declined to comment on the case.

Ravenel must appear in federal court within 48 hours of his expected release from rehab on July 22.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, declined to comment much on the investigation or say whether there were additional suspects. Miller, Ravenel's co-defendant, also pleaded not guilty. But he appeared in court for his arraignment in handcuffs, ankle chains, and a jumpsuit. McCrorey appointed a federal public defender to represent him. As of Friday, Miller was still in state custody on drug charges related to the case.

Miller's family attended the hearing, but declined to comment. —Mary Ellen Cheatham

Fire Investigators Get OK For Visit
Charleston was back in the news last week, with federal investigators forced to plead with local Fire Chief Rusty Thomas and Mayor Joe Riley to let them interview firefighters regarding the June 18 sofa store blaze that killed nine city firemen. Riley told the Post and Courier that the perceived refusal by Thomas was a misunderstanding and that the city would allow the interviews in coordination with state investigators who will also be speaking with firefighters this week.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health investigates firefighter fatalities in an effort to prevent similar deaths or injury in the future by offering prevention strategies.

Questions regarding the fire have included what could have been done to better protect the building from fire damage and how the department managed the fire scene when battling the flames. All nine firefighters died from smoke inhalation and severe burns but in different areas of the building.

Late last month, Thomas had responded to calls from fire union leaders for change by saying that the city wouldn't make any changes to the way it fights fires. A day later, with the mayor at his side, Thomas clarified that the city wouldn't have fought the sofa store fire any differently, but that he would wait out investigations before closing the door on potential changes. —Greg Hambrick

Own Your Own Bit of Scandal
Former Charleston economic guru Al Parish, awaiting trial for allegedly bilking locals out of millions of dollars, will have most of his worldly possessions on the auction block this week. While Parish may not have much economic advice these days, but it seems his best piece of advice for securing your junk is to buy stuff no one else could possibly want. Like, for example, a gnome of Ben Franklin who, based on the angle of one photo, appears to be crapping on the lawn.

There's a host of other items viewable at www.a-a.com/parish, including cameras, copiers, exotic pens, and other unique art only a delusional investment broker could love. There's a $1,000 bill we're hoping to snag for 50 bucks, a collection of Disney and Looney Tunes prints, and Garfield art signed personally by the artist for Parish. The prize finds for those who truly want a piece of the scandal may be Parish's personal shredder and his safe. Let's hope enough of his memory has returned from a claimed case of amnesia to pass on the combination, or the winner may be getting a large paperweight.

The auction will begin at 11 a.m. July 13 and 14, with doors opening at 9 a.m. at the North Charleston Convention Center. There will also be a special preview from 2-7 p.m. Thursday, July 12. Admission is $5 per day. —Greg Hambrick

100,000

That's about how many homes will receive a voucher for a free spay or neuter surgery for their pet (no philandering husbands, please) courtesy of the John Ancrum Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animal and Humane Net. The vouchers will be inserted into Charleston Water System bills as part of a larger campaign to reduce the number of animals overcrowding local shelters.

$1.5 Million
That's the latest total for the city's Firemen's Fund.


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