Tuesday, December 19, 2006

David Gest Signs $1 Million Book Deal

Posted By on Tue, Dec 19, 2006 at 4:00 AM

According to a British news Web site, Memphis-based music producer and reality TV star David Gest has reportedly signed a $1 million deal to share his life in an autobiography.

The 53-year-old estranged husband of Liza Minnelli will lift the lid on all aspects of his life, including his high-profile marriage and split from Minnelli, his music industry success, and his close friendship with Michael Jackson, the site says.

A source says: "David's got no obvious talents. He can't sing or dance - but he is absolutely charming. The book will reveal what his secret is."

No word on whether Gest will finally reveal the whereabouts of his myterious Memphis maid, Vaginica Seaman.

Text Us

Posted By on Tue, Dec 19, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Ever tried finding something to do on a weekend night without a Memphis Flyer in sight? It’s no easy task... Well, it used to be hard.

Now with FlyerMobile, you can text “flyer” to “27538” and sign up to have Flyer music listings sent straight to your cell phone. Once you’ve signed up, text the genre of music you’re interested in (like “classic rock,” “karaoke,” or “folk”), and you’ll receive listings in a reply message. The service will cost you — but only $2.50 a month. And the first month’s free! To sign up, go here.

City Council members Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford indicted.

Staff

Posted By on Tue, Dec 19, 2006 at 4:00 AM

City Council members Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford were indicted on federal bribery charges Tuesday.

The indictments were released as Peete and Ford attended a council meeting across the plaza from the federal building. They had previously been named in a criminal complaint on November 30th. The indictment says Joe Cooper paid $8,900 to Ford and $14,500 to Peete. Cooper is cooperating with the government in hopes of getting leniency on a drug case.

Peete and Ford allegedly sold their influence to help a developer win approval for a planned development and a billboard near Interstate 240. The federal grand jury meets again Wednesday.

The complete press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office follows:


U.S. Department of Justice

United States AttorneyWestern District of Tennessee

800 Federal Office Building Memphis, Tennessee 38103 Ph: (901) 544-4231 Fax: (901) 544-4230 TTY: (901) 544-3054

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 19, 2006 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: CONTACT: Leigh Anne Jordon (901) 544-4231

INDICTMENTS RETURNED AGAINST MEMPHIS CITY COUNCILMENRICKEY PEETE AND EDMUND FORD

Memphis, TN - David Kustoff, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, My Harrison, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Memphis Division, and Andrew Dimond, Resident Agent in Charge of the DEA's Memphis Resident Office, announced the indictments of Memphis City Councilmen Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford, who are charged with bribery offenses. These defendants were previously charged in complaints unsealed on November 30, 2006.1 The cases were developed as part of Operation Mainstreet Sweeper.

As alleged in the indictments, Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford are members of the Memphis City Council. The indictments allege that, in exchange for their assistance in influencing City Council votes on certain matters, Peete and Ford received cash payments from Joseph Cooper ("Cooper"). According to the indictments, Cooper assisted individuals who had interests in matters pending before the Memphis City Council. The indictments allege that, in August 2006, Cooper agreed to assist federal agents in investigations with the

1

See prior press release: Complaints Unsealed Against Memphis City Councilmen Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford and Former Shelby County Commission Candidate Joe Cooper (Nov. 30, 2006).

hope that this cooperation will be taken into account in the disposition of a pending federal criminal case against Cooper. As part of this cooperation and under the supervision of federal agents, Cooper made the payments to Peete and Ford from August 30, 2006, through November 30, 2006, that are alleged in the indictments.

The indictment against Peete alleges that Cooper had an ongoing relationship with Peete whereby Cooper periodically made cash payments for Peete's influence. The indictment against Ford alleges that Cooper had an ongoing relationship with City Council member Ford whereby Ford regularly supported proposals backed by Cooper. According to the indictment, Cooper performed favors for Ford, including assisting in Ford's acquisition of a Cadillac with financing in the name of a third person, although Ford was responsible for making the payments. In addition, according to the indictment, Cooper assisted Ford in obtaining a loan to remodel his mortuary.

According to the indictments, Cooper made the following cash payments to Peete and Ford to help secure City Council approval for a real estate development and a billboard alongside Interstate 240:

On or about August 30, 2006, paid $3,000 to Ford.

On or about October 2, 2006, paid $1,900 to Ford.

On or about September 12, 2006, paid $3,000 to Peete.

On or about September 20, 2006, paid $4,000 to Peete.

On or about October 4, 2006, paid $5,000 to Peete.

In addition, according to the indictment against Ford, on or about October 27, 2006, Cooper paid $2,000 to Ford in exchange for his vote and his support in overturning a portion of the sign ordinance.

In addition according to the indictments against Peete and Ford, on or about November 30, 2006, Cooper paid $2,500 to Peete and $2,000 to Ford in exchange for their support in placing on the City Council meeting agenda an item concerning the reappointment of the chairman of the Board of Adjustments.

The total of the payments allegedly received by Ford total $8,900. The total of the payments allegedly received by Peete total $14,500.

The indictments against Peete and Ford charge violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) based on the receipt of cash bribes. Section 1951 provides in relevant part that:

(a) Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both. ....(b)(2) The term "extortion" means the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.

[emphasis added]

The penalties for a violation of section 1951 are a maximum prison term of 20 years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000 and a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years.

The indictments also charge that Peete and Ford violated 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(B). Under this statute, it is a crime for an agent of a local governmental agency that receives more than $10,000 in Federal assistance in a year to solicit or accept a bribe in connection with a transaction or series of transactions of that agency involving any thing of value of $5,000 or more. The penalties for a violation of section 666(a)(1)(B) are a maximum prison term of 10 years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000 and a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years.

These indictments result from multi-agency cooperation in a series of investigations. The affidavit supporting the complaint against Cooper alleges that the case against him arose from a long-running narcotics investigation that has already resulted in indictments charging 26 defendants. Those charged in the other cases include a Shelby County Deputy Sheriff and a Shelby County Deputy Jailer.2

The investigation of Cooper and the related investigations of drug dealers were conducted by the Memphis Resident Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration in partnership with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office. The investigations of Peete and Ford -- which as alleged in the indictments utilized Cooper's assistance -- were conducted by the FBI's Memphis Division, with assistance from the DEA and the Shelby County Sheriff's Office.

These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tom Colthurst, Vivian Donelson and Larry Laurenzi, with the Office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.

Operation Mainstreet Sweeper is a continuing investigation.

# # # # Note: Charges brought against a person through an indictment are accusations only. That person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. In addition, the fact

2

See prior press releases: Complaint Unsealed in Drug Conspiracy Case Charging Eight Defendants, Including a Shelby County Deputy (October 25, 2005); Complaint Filed Against Deputy Jailer Charging That She Stored Cocaine at Her Residence (December 6, 2005); Superseding Indictment Unsealed after Arrests in Cocaine and Marijuana Conspiracy Case (August 4, 2006).

that a matter is under investigation is not a reflection on the guilt or innocence of any person.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Commercial Appeal Writer to Appear on Jeopardy

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Commercial Appeal writer and local "Trivia Quiz" whiz Jody Callahan will be appearing on Jeopardy this afternoon at 3:30 on WREG Channel 3. Stay home from work and cheer him on. Or just quit. We're betting it will be worth it. Good luck, Jody, and may the force be with you.

John Ford Indicted on OmniCare Charges

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Former state senator John Ford was indicted Monday in Nashville on federal charges related to his consulting work for OmniCare Health Plan.

Ford is already under indictment on other federal charges in the Tennessee Waltz investigation for allegedly taking bribes from a phony company set up by the FBI.

The new indictments allege that from 2001-2005 Ford received more than $800,000 in payments from TennCare contractors. OmniCare is a subsidiary of United American Health Care. The other contractor named in the indictment is Doral Dental, a managed care organization that had TennCare's dental services contract.

Ford is charged with two counts of wire fraud and four counts of concealing his business interests in the TennCare contractors. He was chairman of the Senate's General Welfare, Health and Human Resources Committee and a member of the TennCare Oversight Committee.

OmniCare was run by former city of Memphis employees in the administration of Mayor Willie Herenton. The CEO was Osbie Howard, who was finance chairman of Herenton's reelection campaign in 1999. The COO was Stephanie Mebane Dowell, who was Herenton’s administrative assistant.

OmniCare enrolled more than 100,000 uninsured West Tennesseans in its managed care network. The indictment says Doral paid monthly payments to a company called Managed Care Services Group of which Ford was 40 percent owner. Ford also did numerous favors for OmniCare, according to the indictment.

"The facts alleged in this indictment reveal an appalling willingness to violate (his) duty by using his public position for personal gain," said U.S. Attorney Craig Morford.

The Flyer will update this story as developments warrant. — John Branston

Memphis City, Shelby County Schools Get Nearly $3 Million in Software Vouchers in Lawsuit

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2006 at 4:00 AM

The Tennessee Department of Education will distribute more than $15 million in software vouchers to state school systems as a result of a settlement in a lawsuit against the Microsoft Corporation. The suit alleged that Microsoft used unlawful trade practices to maintain a monopoly and overcharge Tennessee consumers.

Each school district will receive $16.40 per student in vouchers. Shelby County Schools will get $755,000; Memphis City Schools will receive $1.9 million.

John Ford Indicted on OmniCare Charges

Former city treasurer, Herenton aide possibly implicated

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Senator John Ford was indicted Monday in Nashville on federal charges related to his consulting work for OmniCare Health Plan.

Ford is already under indictment on other federal charges in the Tennessee Waltz investigation for allegedly taking bribes from a phony company set up by the FBI.

The new indictments allege that from 2001-2005 Ford received more than $800,000 in payments from TennCare contractors. TennCare started in 1994 as the replacement for the federal Medicaid program. ... For rest of story, go to "Political Beat".

Callahan's Jeopardy Appearance is History

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Earlier, we alerted you to Monday afternoon's Jeopardy appearance by Commercial Appeal writer, Jody Callahan. So how did he do?

The good news: He won $4,600. The bad news: He came in third behind a woman from New Jersey and a woman from Maryland.

You can check out some video of JC here.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Concert Tonight to Benefit Ethiopian Orphans

Posted on Sat, Dec 16, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Reading an article about a cause close to your heart can inspire. But many people promptly lose interest as soon as the phone rings or some other distraction diverts their attention. But not Rachel Mays.

After reading in the Flyer about Tom Rand, a local teacher who biked across the country to raise $100,000 for Ethiopian orphans, Mays was moved to do something to help Food for the Hungry, the same organization Rand's bike mission supported.

For the past several months, she's been busy organizing musicians, dancers, and poets for a benefit to raise funds for Ethiopian orphans. The result -- KNOW Orphans -- will feature African dance by the Nubian Theatre Company and live music by Valerie June, hip-hop trio End of Circle, banjo-pickin' Richard Ford, and sax musician Lee Sharp. Also performing are spoken-word poet I.Q., belly dancer Renae Taylor, and dancers from the African Students Association.

A silent auction features theater and sporting-event tickets, art, and gift certificates to restaurants and liquor stores.

KNOw Orphans Benefit for Food for the Hungry, Newby's, 539 S. Highland, Saturday, December 16th, 8 p.m., $10. Call 487-1259 or e-mail flecktoness@yahoo.com.

More Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Sightings in Arkansas

Posted By on Sat, Dec 16, 2006 at 4:00 AM

The Associated Press is reporting that two Arkansas men, Kip Davis and Jay Robison, saw what they believed was an ivory-billed woodpecker on Thursday.

Davis, the city planner for McCrory, Arkansas, and Robison, who works for the Arkansas Department of Economic Development, said Friday they were driving near Cotton Plant, Arkansas, when a female ivory-billed swooped in the sky behind an oncoming truck.

"I saw something come off the tree, like the truck has spooked it," Davis said in a telephone interview from his office in McCrory. "It came by again and it had its wing span out and it just kind of glided back into the woods, and I said 'Is that what I think it is?'"

Davis, who has attended workshops about identifying the ivory-billed woodpecker, said he and Robison believe it was a female because the bird had a black head and body with white wing-tipped feathers, but no red. The male ivory-billed has a red crest.

Connie Bruce, a spokeswoman for Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology, which is researching the possible re-appearance of the ivory-billed woodpecker, said the search continues despite no evidence being turned up last winter.

Go here for more details.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Timberlake's Movie to be Released

Posted By on Fri, Dec 15, 2006 at 4:00 AM

From MTV.com: After months of legal wrangling, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that "Alpha Dog" — a crime thriller starring Justin Timberlake — can be released in theaters January 12 despite objections from murder suspect Jesse James Hollywood, on whom the movie is based. According to The Hollywood Reporter, an attorney for Hollywood said he will file an appeal on the ruling based on his belief that releasing the film will make it impossible for his client to get a fair trial. The film, which also stars Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone, changes the characters' names, but Hollywood's attorney is concerned that the big-screen retelling of his client's alleged kidnapping and murder of California teen Nicholas Markowitz over a $1,200 drug debt could taint a jury pool.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Give Somebody Gas for Christmas

Or lights, or water, or trash pickup.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 14, 2006 at 4:00 AM

This could be the adult version of receiving socks and underwear for Christmas, but it could also be the perfect gift for someone who has everything -- except, well, electricity. Wednesday afternoon, Memphis Light, Gas & Water announced its "Gift of Comfort" program, which allows you to help pay someone else's utility bill as a gift. Which reminds us of that old Tom Bodet Motel 6 ad: "We'll keep the lights on for you."

Go here for more info.

David Gest Gets Off

Sexual harassment lawsuit dismissed

Posted By on Thu, Dec 14, 2006 at 4:00 AM

The New York Post is reporting that a federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit by a man who claimed he was tormented, taunted and touched by producer David Gest.

Charles Beyer alleged that during the four months he worked as Gest's assistant, the estranged husband of Liza Minnelli grabbed his butt, mocked his manhood, told people he was a transsexual and wrote directions in his calendar such as "shake my penis" and "dip it in chocolate."

But Judge Bernice Bouie Donald threw out his $300,000 sexual-harassment suit Friday, finding that Beyer didn't have standing to sue Gest because the producer doesn't employ more than 15 people.

In other news, Gest announced that "David's Chocolate-Covered Penis Tips" would be in candy stores early next year.

Molly Ringwald and Sweet Charity Head to The Orpheum

Posted By on Thu, Dec 14, 2006 at 4:00 AM

The musical comedy hit Sweet Charity, starring film and television star Molly Ringwald, comes to the Orpheum January 16, 2007. Sweet Charity is directed by Scott Faris and choreographed by Tony Award winner, Wayne Cilento.

With a book by Neil Simon, based on an original screenplay by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli and Ennio Plaiano, Sweet Charity is billed as a "funny, poignant, and tender look at the misadventures of Charity Hope Valentine, a dance hall hostess who always gives her heart and earnings to the wrong man."

Molly Ringwald's screen success began with the romantic comedy Pretty In Pink. Other notable films include The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, The Pick-Up Artist and Betsy’s Wedding. Ringwald has returned to the stage in recent years and received rave reviews as Sally Bowles in another Bob Fosse masterpiece, Cabaret.

For ticket info and show times go The Orpheum Web site.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Billy Lee Riley is Not Dead

Posted By on Wed, Dec 13, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Apparently confusing seminal Memphis rocker Billy Lee Riley with the Memphis Manatee, The Commercial Appeal in a photo caption this morning declared Riley dead. He's not. Just so you know.

The manatee, however, still is.

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