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Health-care
featured
Staubus, Goodwin make pitch: 'Hold on to the money'

BLOUNTVILLE — Second Judicial District Attorney General Barry Staubus and Criminal Court Judge James Goodwin made a pitch on Thursday to the Sullivan County Commission: “Hold onto the money.”

Staubus and Goodwin were speaking of Sullivan County’s $3 million share of a $35 million settlement of the “Sullivan Baby Doe” opioid lawsuit. Staubus said all the Northeast Tennessee counties involved in the case have received their shares of the settlement, which was reached in late July.

The two men urged commissioners to wait until they bring forth a plan for a regional inpatient treatment center before spending Sullivan County’s share.

Sullivan Count Mayor Richard Venable confirmed to the Times News the county received a $3 million settlement check last week.

Staubus said the goal should be to use the money to most effectively address drug addiction in the county and across the region. And he, Goodwin, and their fellow district attorneys and judges continue to develop a plan involving establishment of a regional treatment facility.

Goodwin, who presides over the 2nd District’s drug recovery court, said an inpatient program greatly increases the likelihood of treatment succeeding.

“We don’t want to squander the money,” Staubus said. “We want to think out of the box. We want to do something we think is truly innovative.”

What’s being proposed is gaining use of the former Roan Mountain Work Camp, which some call the Mountain City Annex, to offer inpatient treatment to addicts sent there by recovery courts in the three judicial districts covering Northeast Tennessee.

If the three judicial districts join together and are able to gain use of the property — currently owned by the Tennessee Department of Corrections — it would be an “ideal” location from which to provide long-term inpatient treatment.

Goodwin said his experience has shown him inpatient treatment is absolutely a key to success when helping addicts become sober and lead productive lives.

“Opioid and meth addicts can’t be treated in a few days,” Staubus said. “Or even a month.”

Instead, the proposed facility would likely provide inpatient treatment for 12 to 18 months, Staubus said, and have components to address sobriety, mental health, vocational training, and lessons on how to get and keep a job.

The Roan Mountain facility has 185 beds, Goodwin said, and when TDOC removed its last inmates a few months ago the facility was in pristine condition.

“So that’s going to serve the citizenry from Morristown to Mountain City,” Goodwin said. “We wouldn’t have to do a lot to get it up and running.”

Goodwin said the treatment program offered there will be abstinence-based. In other words, no suboxone or methadone.

“We don’t want to substitute one addiction for another,” Goodwin said.

Staubus said over time such a program will cut the cycle seen in local courts and jails now, which see repeat offenders arrested, jailed, and released repeatedly.

Goodwin said the purpose of the Baby Doe lawsuit was to hold drug companies accountable.

“We have the opportunity ... actually we have an obligation, to use that money to fight the very thing that caused “Baby Doe” to be born addicted to drugs,” Goodwin said.


Honors-awards
centerpiece
Kingsport Chamber celebrates strong and successful year

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Chamber highlighted a successful year at the State of Your Kingsport Chamber Holiday Breakfast on Friday.

The event showcased the Kings- port Chamber’s achievements from this past year and previewed plans for the com- ing year, including the organization’s preparations to celebrate its 75th year in 2022.

Outgoing King- sport Chamber Chair Brian Miller, utilities division director with Eastman, showcased some of the organization’s numerous accomplishments from 2021, and incoming Kingsport Chamber Chair Russ Rogers, general manager with Honda Kingsport, previewed the organization’s plans and goals for 2022.

“It’s been my heartfelt privilege and a true honor to have served as your Kingsport Chamber Board chair this year,” Miller said. “The breadth and depth of the work of your Kingsport Chamber is staggering and makes a colossal difference in our community and for your business and it has been a genuine pleasure to watch this great organization and all it does for our city.”

Rogers said: “I am so honored and excited to be the next board chair of your Kingsport Chamber. It’s humbling to see all of the names of incredible leaders who have been so fortunate to have held this important post in the Chamber’s 75-year history.”

For 2021, Miller highlighted the following accomplishments and actions taken by the Kingsport Chamber, including: Membership obtaining more than 70 new members; KOSBE assisting and training more than 400 new businesses; Workforce Development working on a number of initiatives to build tomorrow’s workforce; Government Relations reviewing more than 1,000 pieces of legislation that make an impact on business; Finance managing 17 budgets with assets exceeding $31 million; Leadership Kingsport graduating 16 new community trustees; Visit Kingsport hosting, supporting or operating more than 30 sporting events with an estimated economic impact of $27 million; Fun Fest celebrating its 40th festival; Keep Kingsport Beautiful receiving another Award of Excellence from Keep America Beautiful; Move to Kingsport welcoming more than 1,197 families from 49 states to Kingsport (since the start of the pandemic); Healthy Kingsport initiating 61 water refill stations for area schools and distributing more than 25,700 reusable water bottles within Kingsport City and Sullivan County school systems; and the Downtown Kingsport Association welcoming 21 new businesses to downtown.

“I know I threw a lot of facts, stats and information at you just now and what’s most impressive is that all of what I just highlighted is just touching the surface,” Miller said about the Kingsport Chamber’s accomplishments from the past year. “And, while you may not remember any of it, I hope your takeaway from all of this is to see what an incredible organization your Kingsport Chamber truly is and how active and involved they are on so many levels.”

For the coming year, Rogers focused on the organization’s continuing efforts to be the promoter and protector of business and announced the Kingsport Chamber is planning a big year to celebrate its 75th year in 2022.

“We have a huge year planned for next year,” Rogers said. He said the chamber will champion the small business owner, lobby for legislation that protects business, be an advocate for education, train the leaders of tomorrow, promote tourism, and welcome a host of sports tournaments, meetings and conventions to Kingsport.

Additionally, he said the chamber will encourage healthy lifestyles and workplaces, protect and preserve natural resources, create fun and impactful events, and recruit more families to Kingsport.

“And, in 2022, your Kingsport Chamber will celebrate 75 years,” Roger said. “We plan on having a big year-long celebration to commemorate this significant accomplishment.”

The Kingsport Chamber also recognized the MeadowView Marriott on marking its 25th year of business this month by presenting a commemorative gift to Ramona Jackson, the resort’s general manager and the membership chair for the Kingsport Chamber.

Some of the Kingsport Chamber’s numerous accomplishments from 2021 included:

Membership

By the end of this year, the Kingsport Chamber’s Membership program will have brought in more than 70 new members — resulting in more than $30,000 of new revenue … and the team hosted more than 20 ribbon cuttings, groundbreakings and other events.

Kingsport Office of Small Business Development & Entrepreneurship

In a typical year, KOSBE deals with 150 clients. This past year, that number has grown to more than 400 businesses assisted and trained by the team at KOSBE.

So far this year, KOSBE has assisted 24 loans; helped clients create 43 jobs; saved/retained 464 jobs; formed $4 million in capital infusion; facilitated 26 business training events covering myriad topics, including COVID-19 relief options, Paycheck Protection Program, and the SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund; and KOSBE promoted Minority Enterprise Development Week.

Workforce Development

The program hosted the Tennessee Chapter of Women in Engineering, coordinated the Education and Industry Collaboration meetings, hosted a job fair with the American Job Centers, supported the Construction Trades Institute, managed the Tennessee/Virginia Scholars program and produced a manufacturing video series.

Project Hope created and led activities for the YMCA Summer Students at Roosevelt Elementary and Sevier Middle School; created a new teacher’s lounge for Roosevelt Elementary; and developed a BTA (Business Teacher Association) for Roosevelt Elementary.

Government Relations

The Kingsport Chamber’s legislative affairs committee reviewed more than 1,000 pieces of legislation and took positions on several bills that impacted business.

The program also hosted 10 events with local, state and national elected officials, held candidate forums for the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and Board of Education, and presented at the Tennessee Chamber Government Public Policy meeting in Nashville.

Finance & Human Resources

Kingsport Chamber’s finance team manages the financial accounts for several city and county organizations: Kingsport Chamber of Commerce (two programs), Kingsport Chamber Foundation (11 programs), Clinchfield Condo Association, Downtown Kingsport Association, NETWORKS and the Kingsport Economic Development Board.

Total assets for all of the accounts managed by your Kingsport Chamber’s Finance team exceeds $31 million dollars.

Kingsport Leadership

Leadership Kingsport graduated 16 new leaders for the community and conducted four community impact projects.

SHOUT!® Youth Leadership had 30 students representing five school and home school.

PEAK Young Professionals created a “Get Out To Vote” awareness campaign, held a backpack drive for local students, and hosted a professional development series.

YELL Mayor’s Youth Council created professional development opportunities for fellow students, led efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, and helped with a number of community service projects.

SCREAM Middle School Leadership started its inaugural year in 2021 with 32 students participating.

Vanessa Bennett, executive director of operations and talent development, received the Robert Smith Educator of the year Award from the Tennessee Association of Community Leadership. The TACL also named Leadership Kingsport as the outstanding program of the year.

Visit Kingsport

Visit Kingsport hosted, supported or operated more than 30 sporting events with an estimated economic impact of $27 million and welcomed the inaugural season of the Kingsport Axmen, which keeps a vital part of the economy here in Kingsport.

Visit Kingsport also brought and hosted 22 group meetings and conventions to our city that made a near $4 million impact on Kingsport’s economy.

Fun Fest

Fun Fest welcomed thousands of visitors from 36 states, including 40 Tennessee cities and 24 Virginia cities. Fun Fest’s social media platforms obtained a reach of more than 750,000 viewers. Fun Fest’s total economic impact on Kingsport exceeds $6 million.

Keep Kingsport Beautiful

KKB received an Award of Excellence from Keep America Beautiful for its environmental protection and sustainability efforts.

KKB held seven Trashercise events in the spring of 2021, with 255 volunteers collecting about 18 tons of trash.

Move to Kingsport

Since the start of the pandemic, Kingsport Chamber’s Move to Kingsport program has helped bring 1,197 families from 49 states to Kingsport from more than 35 miles away. This represents a total value of $194 million of real estate purchased.

Each newcomer generates $25,000 in buying power.

The top five states from where families are moving to Kingsport are Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and California.

MoveToKingsport.com witnessed 17,842 total page views (with 71% unique visitors), and the program had 667 requests for relocation guides and 102,047 successfully delivered e-mail campaigns.

The Move to Kingsport Facebook page reached 436,678 people.

Healthy Kingsport

To date, 303 Kingsport businesses and organizations are part of Healthy Kingsport’s Live Sugar-Freed effort with 106 not selling, providing or promoting sugary sweetened beverages.

Healthy Kingsport has initiated and acquired sponsorship for 61 water refilling stations for area schools and distributed more than 25,700 reusable water bottles within the Kingsport City and Sullivan County school systems.

Downtown Kingsport Association

DKA held 11 First Thursday Shop & Hops, welcomed more than 3,000 to the Independence Day concert and fireworks celebration, hosted the Downtown Mile (the first time the event was in Kingsport), had more than 1,000 people attend the Downtown Street Fair, held a successful Wine & Whiskey Festival, hosted Trick or Treats on the Streets, and helped a number of businesses with grants and support for COVID relief, among many other initiatives.

As of just last month, 21 new businesses had opened in downtown and more are on the way.

Kingsport Chamber 75th Annual Dinner

The Kingsport Chamber will continue to celebrate Kingsport at its 75th Annual Dinner. “Kingsport’s Social Event of the Year” is slated for 6 p.m. on Feb. 4, 2022, at the MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort & Convention Center. Tickets go on sale in January.


Honors-awards
featured
Kingsport Chamber honors Lynn Shipley with Lifetime Member Award

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Chamber honored longtime Kingsport banking executive, business and community leader Lynn Shipley on Friday with its Lifetime Member Award during its State of Your Kingsport Chamber Holiday Breakfast.

Shipley is the award’s 37th honoree.

“We are proud to present this most deserving honor to Lynn Shipley,” said Brian Miller, Kingsport Chamber chair and utilities division director for Eastman.

Miller said Shipley served in a number of leadership positions for the Kingsport Chamber and the community for numerous years. “We congratulate Lynn on this wonderful accolade.”

Shipley received a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 100 people at the MeadowView Marriott Convention Resort & Convention Center.

“Lynn Shipley is a true gentleman, community servant and great example of what it means to be a business leader,” said Miles Burdine, Kingsport Chamber president and CEO.

“Lynn is largely responsible for the MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center being built in our community and he chaired and led the Model City Coalition’s efforts to create the future blueprint plan of what our downtown has and will become. A lot of what we see and enjoy in Kingsport today is thanks to Lynn Shipley and his tireless efforts and the immense amount of time he put into these important endeavors. Lynn Shipley’s impact on this community will be felt for years to come and we are most grateful for all he has done and continues to do.”

The Kingsport Chamber Lifetime Member Award goes to an individual who has made an enormous contribution to the Kingsport Chamber and the community throughout his or her lifetime.

As a recipient of the Kingsport Chamber Lifetime Member Award, Shipley will receive complimentary membership to the Kingsport Chamber for life and will always be recognized with this distinction.


National
AP
Jury finds Rittenhouse not guilty in Kenosha shootings

KENOSHA, Wis. — Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges on Friday after asserting self-defense in the deadly Kenosha shootings that became a flashpoint in the debate over guns, vigilantism and racial injustice in the United States.

Rittenhouse, 18, began to choke up, fell forward toward the defense table and then hugged one of his attorneys as he heard a court clerk recite “not guilty” five times. A sheriff’s deputy whisked him out a back door.

“He wants to get on with his life,” defense attorney Mark Richards said. “He has a huge sense of relief for what the jury did to him today. He wishes none of this ever happened. But as he said when he testified, he did not start this.”

The verdict in the politically combustible case was met with anger and disappointment from those who saw Rittenhouse as a vigilante and a wannabe cop, and relief and a sense of vindication from those who regarded him as a patriot who took a stand against lawlessness and exercised his Second Amendment right to carry a gun and to defend himself. Supporters donated more than $2 million toward his legal defense.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the longtime civil rights leader, said the verdict throws into doubt the safety of people who protest in support of Black Americans.

“It seems to me that it’s open season on human rights demonstrators,” he said.

Rittenhouse was charged with homicide, attempted homicide and reckless endangering for killing two men and wounding a third with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle in the summer of 2020 during a tumultuous night of protests over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer.

Rittenhouse, a then-17-year-old former police youth cadet, said that he went to Kenosha to protect property from rioters but that he came under attack and feared for his life. He is white, as were those he shot.

The anonymous jury, whose racial makeup was not disclosed by the court but appeared to be overwhelmingly white, deliberated for close to 3½ days.

President Joe Biden called for calm, saying that while the outcome of the case “will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken.”

Former President Donald Trump, who at the time of the shootings said it appeared Rittenhouse had been “very violently attacked, ” issued a statement Friday congratulating Rittenhouse on the verdict, adding “if that’s not self defense, nothing is!”

Rittenhouse could have gotten life in prison if found guilty on the most serious charge, first-degree intentional homicide, or what some other states call first-degree murder. Two other charges each carried more than 60 years behind bars.

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said his office respects the jury’s decision, and he asked the public to “accept the verdicts peacefully and not resort to violence.”

Ahead of the verdict, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced that 500 National Guard members stood ready in case of trouble. But hours after the jury came back, there were no signs of any major protests or unrest in Kenosha.

As he released the jurors, Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder assured them the court would take “every measure” to keep them safe.

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is Black and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, denounced the outcome. He, like many civil rights activists, saw a racial double standard at work in the case.

“Over the last few weeks, many dreaded the outcome we just witnessed,” Barnes said. “The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is what we should expect from our judicial system, but that standard is not always applied equally. We have seen so many black and brown youth killed, only to be put on trial posthumously, while the innocence of Kyle Rittenhouse was virtually demanded by the judge.”

Other political figures on the right welcomed the verdict and condemned the case brought against Rittenhouse.

Mark McCloskey, who got in trouble with the law when he and his wife waved a rifle and a handgun at Black Lives Matter protesters marching past his St. Louis home in 2020, said the verdict shows that people have a right to defend themselves from a “mob.” He is now a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri.

Fifteen minutes after the verdicts, the National Rifle Association tweeted the text of the Second Amendment.

The Kenosha case was part of an extraordinary confluence of trials that reflected the deep divide over race in the United States: In Georgia, three white men are on trial in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, while in Virginia, a trial is underway in a lawsuit over the deadly white-supremacist rally held in Charlottesville in 2017.

The bloodshed in Kenosha took place during a summer of sometimes-violent protests set off across the U.S. by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other cases involving the police use of force against Black people.

Rittenhouse went to Kenosha from his home in nearby Antioch, Illinois, after businesses were ransacked and burned in the nights that followed Blake’s shooting. He joined other armed civilians on the streets, carrying a weapon authorities said was illegally purchased for him because he was underage.

Bystander and drone video captured most of the frenzied chain of events that followed: Rittenhouse killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, then shot to death protester Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded demonstrator Gaige Grosskreutz, now 28.

Prosecutors portrayed Rittenhouse as a “wannabe soldier” who had gone looking for trouble that night and was responsible for creating a dangerous situation in the first place by pointing his rifle at demonstrators.

But Rittenhouse testified: “I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself.”

Breaking into sobs at one point, he told the jury he opened fire after Rosenbaum chased him and made a grab for his gun. He said he was afraid his rifle was going to be wrested away and used to kill him.

Huber was then killed after hitting Rittenhouse in the head or neck with a skateboard, and Grosskreutz was shot after approaching with his own pistol in hand.

Under questioning from the prosecution, Grosskreutz said he had his hands raised as he closed in on Rittenhouse and didn’t intend to shoot the young man. Prosecutor Thomas Binger asked Grosskreutz why he didn’t shoot first.

“That’s not the kind of person that I am. That’s not why I was out there,” he said. “It’s not who I am. And definitely not somebody I would want to become.”

But during cross-examination, Rittenhouse defense attorney Corey Chirafisi asked: “It wasn’t until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him … that he fired, right?”

“Correct,” Grosskreutz replied. The defense also presented a photo showing Grosskreutz pointing the gun at Rittenhouse, who was on the ground with his rifle pointed up at Grosskreutz.

Grosskreutz, under follow-up questioning from the prosecutor, said he did not intend to point his weapon at Rittenhouse.

After the verdict, Huber’s parents, Karen Bloom and John Huber, said the outcome “sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.”

Rittenhouse’s mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, seated near her son on a courtroom bench, gasped in delight, cried and hugged others around her.

Richards, the defense attorney, said that Rittenhouse wants to be a nurse and that he is in counseling for post traumatic stress disorder and will probably move away because “it’s too dangerous” for him to continue to live in the area.

Going in, many legal experts said they believed the defense had the advantage because of provisions favorable to Rittenhouse in Wisconsin self-defense law and video showing him being chased at key moments. Testimony from some of the prosecution’s own witnesses also seemed to buttress his claim of self-defense.

Some witnesses described Rosenbaum as “hyperaggressive” and said that he dared others to shoot him and threatened to kill Rittenhouse earlier that night; others said he acted “belligerantly” but did not appear to pose a serious threat. A videographer testified Rosenbaum lunged for the rifle just before he was shot, and a pathologist said his injuries appeared to indicate his hand was over the barrel.

Also, Rosenbaum’s fiancee disclosed that he was on medication for bipolar disorder and depression. Rittenhouse’s lawyers branded Rosenbaum a “crazy person.”

Rittenhouse had also been charged with possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18, a misdemeanor that carries nine months behind bars and appeared likely to lead to a conviction.

But the judge threw out that charge before deliberations after the defense argued that the Wisconsin law did not apply to the long-barreled rifle used by Rittenhouse.

The verdicts end the criminal case against Rittenhouse. He does not face any federal charges and he is unlikely to because federal law only applies in very limited cases for homicides. No civil lawsuits have been brought against Rittenhouse yet, either, but there are lawsuits targeting others. Huber’s father is suing police and government officials in Kenosha alleging that they allowed for a dangerous situation that resulted in his son’s death. A group of protesters has sued the city and county of Kenosha alleging that curfew laws were enforced against them but not against armed people like Rittenhouse.


Crime
featured
First degree murder charge, $1 million bond in death of toddler

BRISTOL, Tenn. — A few days after what would have been Elijah Hakeem Ramey’s first birthday, a Sullivan County grand jury indicted Alexander Eugene Pender, 28, on first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse charges in the toddler’s September death.

According to the Bristol Tennessee Police Department:

• On Sept. 16 at about 1:50 a.m., officers responded with emergency medical services to 918 Hill St., Apt. B, in reference to an unresponsive infant. That 10-month-old later was pronounced dead at Bristol Regional Medical Center.

• Due to “suspicious circumstances surrounding the death,” the infant was sent to William L. Jenkins Forensic Center for an autopsy.

• Detectives conducted a lengthy investigation and the infant’s death was determined to be a homicide.

• On Nov. 17, a Sullivan County grand jury indicted Pender, of Bristol, Tennessee, in the baby’s death.

• Pender was arrested on Friday without incident and taken to the Sullivan County Jail.

According to a copy of the grand jury presentment obtained by the Times News:

COUNT 1

Charge: first-degree murder.

• Pender “unlawfully and feloniously” killed Ramey (date of birth, Nov. 13, 2020) between Sept. 15 and Sept. 16, with the “killing being committed in the perpetration or attempt to perpetrate the felony crime of aggravated child abuse.”

COUNT 2

Charge: aggravated child abuse.

• On or about Sept 15, 2021, to Sept. 16, 2021, Pender “unlawfully and knowingly, other than by accidental means,” treated Ramey “in such a manner as to inflict serious bodily injury on the child.”

Pender was jailed under $1 million bond, with his next court appearance scheduled for Dec. 6, District Attorney General Barry Staubus said.


FILE - A syringe is prepared with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at the Reading Area Community College in Reading, Pa., on Sept. 14, 2021. U.S. regulators have opened up COVID-19 booster shots to all and more adults, Friday, Nov. 19, letting them choose another dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.


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