Austin O. Jones - Loganville City Council

Location: Loganville, Georgia, United States

I was born in Loganville, Georgia in 1976. I spent the first 20 years of my life here before moving to Athens in 1996 to finish college at UGA (Go Dawgs!!) I attended John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, graduated in 2003, and passed the bar on my first attempt. I married the love of my life, Elizabeth, in May of 2003, and we welcomed our first child, Owen, into this world on March 7, 2006. I proudly classify myself as a conservative, and I believe in strong, traditional family values, the abolition of our current tax code in favor of a fair tax, and a strong military. Loganville is a great town, and I have taken a pledge to keep it that way.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Congratulations Loganville Chamber of Commerce - Readers' Choice Award Winner!!

Congratulations to the Loganville Chamber of Commerce on winning the 2006 Walton/Loganville Tribune Readers' Choice Award for the best community event - The Loganville Christmas Parade! Great job as always, Betty, in getting the largest participation yet in our Parade. You and your volunteers' hard work paid off again.

I'm looking forward to the Scholarship Run this Spring. The date for the run is April 20th, 2007. Ads are now being sold to go on the backs of the run t-shirts. Contact Betty at the Loganville Chamber at 770/466-1601, or drop by the Chamber Office, located at 254 Main Street, Suite 200, in downtown Loganville to inquire about buying an ad. All money raised from the run is used for scholarships for Loganville High School seniors. Let's make this the best run ever!
I'll post more information as it comes available.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ribbon Cutting Today

I had the honor of welcoming The Community Bank's Mortgage Center to the City at their ribbon cutting this morning, hosted by the Loganville Chamber of Commerce. And although the weather was bitterly cold, the atmosphere at the ribbon cutting was warm and happy. Coffee, hot chocolate, cider, Chic Fil-A chicken biscuits and cookies helped everybody get rid of that winter chill. They're located at the corner of C.S. Floyd Road and Logan Drive in downtown Loganville. Stop by and let them handle all of your mortgage needs. Again, welcome to Loganville, folks!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Businesses Knocking on the Door

At the Loganville Chamber of Commerce luncheon today, the Executive Director of the Chamber, Betty McCullers, made two huge announcements. First, the Chamber and the City have landed a new Kroger shopping center, which will go in on Highway 78 across from Waffle House. Second, the Chamber and the City were successful in convincing Chili's to choose Loganville as its newest location. Chili's will go in the Logan Village shopping center, near the newly-opened Starbucks.

This is great news for the city of Loganville, as both of these new businesses will employ dozens of people in the area, and bring much-needed tax revenue into the city's "coffers." Good job, Betty! We are truly fortunate to have you working for the good of our town.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More Good News

House passes sex offender bill

Mary Dalrymple - Associated Press
Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Washington --- Finding the nearest convicted child molester will be as easy as punching in a ZIP code on a computer keyboard, thanks to a bill that cleared Congress on Tuesday.

The House passed and sent to President Bush a bill establishing a national Internet database designed to let law enforcement and communities know where convicted sex offenders live and work.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales applauded its passage. "America's children will be better protected from every parent's worst nightmare: sexual predators," he said.

The most serious offenders will be registered on a national database for a lifetime. All sex offenders will face a felony charge, punishable by 10 years in prison, for failing to update the information.

The House passed the measure by voice vote. The Senate approved it on a voice vote last week.
Convicted criminals required to register will have to do so in person in each state where they intend to live, work or go to school.

"It's time for all of our families to have access to this information," said Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.).

Child advocates have said the bill offers the most sweeping effort to combat pedophiles in years.

It creates a pilot program in which sex offenders wear tracking devices during supervised releases.

It increases criminal penalties for child predators, including a mandatory minimum 25-year prison sentence for kidnapping or maiming a child and a 30-year sentence for sex with a child under 12 or for sexually assaulting a child between 13 years old and 17 years old.

A new racketeering-style offense for people who commit two or more crimes against children will carry a mandatory 20-year sentence.

A Victory of Sorts

Judge drops ban blocking Georgia sex offender law

Jill Young Miller, Nancy Badertscher - Staff
Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that he cannot continue to block enforcement of a new law intended to keep sex offenders away from children.

But his ruling suggests a technical flaw in the law makes it unenforceable --- at least for now.

The law forbids sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of school-board approved bus stops, but U.S. District Court Clarence Cooper said he could find no evidence that any local school board had ever formally signed off on its share of the thousands of school bus stops that exist across the state.

The law --- which the Legislature passed this spring --- defines a school bus stop as one "designated by local school boards of education or by a private school."

Cooper, who did not comment on the constitutionality of the bus stop provision, said his ruling will probably cause school boards to officially identify school bus stops.

"This ruling, therefore, may only result in delay, confusion, and inconsistent actions at the local level," he wrote, adding that his court "is powerless to alter this result."

On Tuesday afternoon, it was not yet clear how Georgia sheriffs would react to the ruling.

"I think right now, consistent with Judge Cooper's ruling, we do nothing," said Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton. "Until the board of education ... specifically designates bus stops, right now, as Judge Cooper has indicated, the law is unenforceable, anyway."

DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown, who had criticized the bus stop provision as impossible to enforce, was out of town Tuesday. He said through a spokeswoman, "We respect the judge's ruling, and we will enforce the law as it is written."

House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons), the bill's chief sponsor, and Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) issued a joint statement Tuesday saying they expect local school districts "will take whatever steps necessary to officially designate school bus stops with the goal of locating those stops as far as possible from the residences of convicted sex offenders."

They said, "Going forward, we hope that the courts will join us in protecting the children of Georgia from the vilest offenders."

Gov. Sonny Perdue said in a written statement that he appreciated Cooper's order. "The state's foremost obligation is to keep the people of Georgia safe. This includes doing everything within our power to keep sexual predators away from children."

Laura Reilly, director of communications for the Georgia School Boards Association, said she doesn't anticipate that local school boards will rush to respond to Cooper's ruling.

"I don't think that's the way our local boards operate," Reilly said. "Before anybody goes out and starts making policies and things, there needs to be some rational thought and [time to] step back a minute and look at what we have, what all the state board rules and regulations are, and what they need to do."

She said association and the school boards' attorneys are available to help. "There have been rulings in the past that have come down where you needed a new policy, and they've been able to handle it without mass confusion."

The school bus stop provision is being challenged in a federal lawsuit filed June 20 by lawyers from the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. It contends that enforcement of the bus stop rule would drive thousands of now law-abiding sex offenders from their homes. Violators face at least 10 years in prison.
A trial date has not been set.

Lisa Kung, director of the Southern Center, said Tuesday: "The good thing about the ruling is it made it clear that law enforcement can stop wasting its time trying to enforce an unenforceable law. For that, we can celebrate."

She said that under Cooper's ruling, "school boards themselves would have to take an additional step if they want to kick people . . . out of their homes." School boards should "stay away from this mess because that's the rational thing to do," Kung said. "But if they do try to wade into the morass, they're on very, very shaky legal ground."

In June, Cooper granted a temporary restraining order as to enforcement of the bus stop provision, and on July 11 extended it for an additional 10 days so the court could consider evidence and arguments from both parties and rule on the motion for a preliminary injunction.

As of last week, 10,592 registered sex offenders lived in Georgia, with 1,996 of them behind bars, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Staff writer David Simpson contributed to this article.

Vindication...for now

Judge paves way for enforcement

07/26/2006 -

By Dave Williams
Staff Writer

ATLANTA — A federal judge Tuesday lifted an order preventing the state from enforcing a major portion of a new law cracking down on sex offenders.

But U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper’s ruling appeared to leave open the possibility that he ultimately could reject the provision, which prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of school bus stops.

The law, which took effect July 1, increases prison sentences for defendants convicted of sex crimes involving children. When they finally are released, it imposes stricter monitoring requirements, including lifetime electronic monitoring for the worst offenders.

The law also contains restrictions on where registered sex offenders can live and work to keep them away from places where children congregate, including schools, day care centers, playgrounds and churches.

However, civil rights activists sued in federal court over a provision prohibiting sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of school bus stops and won a temporary restraining order preventing that part of the law from being enforced.

During a two-day hearing before Cooper earlier this month, lawyers for the Southern Center for Human Rights argued that there are so many bus stops across the state that the vast majority of the 11,000 registered sex offenders living in Georgia would be forced to move.

But lawyers representing the state lined up a series of school district transportation officials to testify that none of the bus stops in their counties had been formally designated by their local boards of education.

The law specifies that the residency prohibition on sex offenders only applies to such designated school bus stops.

“The Georgia legislature provided a definition of school bus stop in the act,’’ Cooper wrote in Tuesday’s ruling. “The court is bound to apply that definition as written and must presume that the legislature means what it says.’’

However, the judge went on to assert that local law enforcement agencies cannot enforce the residential buffer provision until local school boards designate school bus stops.

In light of Tuesday’s ruling, House Republican leaders — who spearheaded the push for the law — urged school boards to do just that.

“We anticipate local school districts will take whatever steps necessary to officially designate school bus stops with the goal of locating those stops as far as possible from the residences of convicted sex offenders,’’ Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, and House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island, said in a joint statement. “Working together, we can ensure a safe environment for our children.’’

But Robert Phillips, school superintendent in rural Miller County, said coming up with a definitive list of bus stops won’t be a simple task. Echoing testimony heard during this month’s court hearing, Phillips said bus stops tend to change during the school year.

“We could come up with a resolution at the beginning of the year,’’ he said. “But changes during the school year just kind of happen.’’

In a prepared statement, the Southern Center for Human Rights took solace that Cooper’s ruling did not order local school boards to produce a list of designated bus stops.

“The function of a school board is to make our schools function, not to act as the police,’’ the statement said. “It’s up to the sheriffs to protect public safety.’’

The statement also cited criticism of the law delivered by law enforcement officials who testified during the hearing.

Those witnesses said they were afraid that imposing such tight residential restrictions on registered sex offenders would prompt many to stop reporting to their parole officers, making it harder to keep track of them.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Still up in the air...

Federal judge still considering sex offender challenge

07/25/2006 -

By Greg Bluestein
The Associated Press

ATLANTA — A federal judge has until today to decide whether to extend a temporary order that blocks a Georgia law banning sex offenders from living near school bus stops.

U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper’s ruling could decide the fate of the provision, which prevents sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of the stops. Extending the order would prevent the provision from taking effect until a class-action lawsuit is argued, which could take months.

In a federal lawsuit filed last month, the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights contends the law renders vast tracts of Georgia’s residential areas off-limits to Georgia’s roughly 11,000 offenders.

During two days of hearings in federal court, the civil rights attorneys wielded maps of Georgia counties, marked with brightly colored splotches, to show how the new law could banish sex offenders from most areas. Sarah Geraghty, the center’s staff attorney, called it a ‘‘mass forced exodus.’’

State attorneys argue that the provision, which prevents sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of the stops, is necessary to protect children. They also disputed claims that sex offenders would be forced to move, arguing that many of the state’s bus stops don’t meet the letter of the law, which requires that each stop be officially designated by the school board.

‘‘I don’t know where the sky is falling mentality came from, but it spread like wildfire,’’ state attorney Devon Orland told the judge at a hearing this month. ‘‘One sheriff talked to another and there they went.’’

The law, which Georgia lawmakers passed overwhelmingly, is the only one in the nation that bans offenders from living and working near school bus stops, the center’s lawyers said.

Cooper’s order last month only covered the school bus stop provision and allowed the rest of the law to take effect July 1.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Massage mentioned in "Cabs" article

Illegal cab crackdown continues


By Bryan Brooks
Staff Writer

LAWRENCEVILLE — Just as it did with illicit massage parlors three years ago, Gwinnett County is tightening its regulations for taxicabs. The move comes as authorities continue to crack down on cabs operating illegally in the unincorporated county.

To help shut down the massage parlors, the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners got input from the Police Department and adopted tougher rules that made it easier to get rid of the bad apples and prosecute offenders.

Please visit the Gwinnett Daily Post for the rest of the story, centered around illegal cab regulation.

Right next door in Gwinnett County

Women coerced into sex trade: Gwinnett police fight ever-evolving prostitution rings

07/23/2006 -

EDITOR’S NOTE: The former prostitute interviewed for this story has cooperated with Gwinnett County Police Department to help bring down brothels in the Norcross area. Her story is substantiated by police reports and detectives. She agreed to be interviewed for this article only if granted anonymity. Her story was translated from Spanish to English by her boyfriend during a telephone interview. Both the woman and her boyfriend requested their names and likenesses not be used because they fear retribution from others in the underground sex market. For the purposes of attribution, the woman is referred to as “Clara” and her boyfriend as “Marco.”
By Andria Simmons
Staff Writer

LAWRENCEVILLE — Clara thought she was leaving behind a rural Mexican farm life for better opportunities in America when she snuck away from her family home with her boyfriend four years ago.

Although Clara, then 20 years old, had only known him for two months, her boyfriend promised to make her his wife, build them a nice house and find a high-paying job for her in the United States. It sounded infinitely better than the life she knew in her tiny village in the Mexican state of Puebla.

There, she was one of eight sisters in a family struggling to get by, working long hours in the sweltering heat to cultivate fields of corn, and milking goats and cows. Clara’s family did not approve of her leaving the country, but she didn’t care.

She escaped with her boyfriend one night and traveled to the Texas border, where he paid a “coyote,” or guide, $2,700 to shepherd them safely into a land of promise. The couple then boarded a bus bound for Georgia.

But the farther she got from her family, the more Clara began to realize things were not going as planned.

The boyfriend who had been so caring at first began to beat her. And there was no high-paying job. Instead, the boyfriend demanded that she prostitute herself to repay him for smuggling her across the border. He threatened to kill Clara’s father and the rest of her family if she didn’t comply.

Within days of her arrival in Gwinnett, a strange woman came and got Clara, put her in a car and drove her to various apartment complexes in Norcross. The woman knocked on the doors of male customers and offered Clara to them. Fearing for her family’s life, Clara did what she had to do.

Brothels enter residential areas

Clara became a prostitute in a “$30 house” — so called by police because men pay $30 to have sex with a woman in the apartment or house. Several of the brothels are located in the Norcross area and are advertised only by word of mouth, usually at farmers’ markets, grocery stores and by taxicab drivers, said Sgt. David Butler, who supervises the Gwinnett County Police Department vice unit.

Clara and other women were transported between the houses each day and watched over by “cuidadores,” male caretakers who guarded the women and the profits. The caretakers were brothers or cousins of Clara’s former boyfriend, and each was responsible for three to four prostitutes.

Like Clara, many of the women were essentially sex slaves, forced into prostitution without pay. On any given day, Clara had sex with 20 to 35 men in cramped rooms that had been divided into cubicles.

“She felt like trash,” Marco translated for Clara. “She had to take showers; she was always taking showers and washing herself.”

Trying to escape was fruitless. She knew no one, she spoke no English, and the men running the operation didn’t permit her to telephone her family. So Clara submitted. Butler thinks a countywide crackdown two years ago that shut down several massage parlors serving as fronts for prostitution has fueled a demand for $30 houses, Asian brothels and street prostitutes. The world’s oldest profession has simply found another way to do business.

Now, instead of happening inside strip malls and shopping centers, the sex trade has gone underground. Prostitution rings are setting up shop in rental houses, apartment complexes and extended-stay hotels, Butler said.

Some of the brothels, primarily the Hispanic ones, are using human trafficking to staff their operation with unsuspecting women like Clara. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, between 45,000 to 50,000 women and children are brought to the United States every year under false pretenses and forced to work as prostitutes, abused laborers or servants.

Butler estimates there are five or six $30 houses operating in the Norcross area. “These women are pretty beat down,” Butler said. “There’s no doubt their self-esteem is at its lowest. There are no resources, nobody for them to call. They are usually working off some type of debt. They are promised certain things and then they are isolated after they get here. Some don’t even know what city they are in.”

The brothels are difficult to shut down, because police must prove money was exchanged for sex. Even if they find condoms lying everywhere in the house, scantily clad women and waiting customers, investigators often cannot make a case, said Detective Jason Rozier, who has investigated several of the Hispanic prostitution houses. Finding tangible evidence to put before a jury is exceedingly difficult, Butler added.

So far, only one $30 house has been shut down at Highland Walk Apartments off South Norcross Tucker Road. On July 9, two men were arrested there after officers found four prostitutes inside and questioned several customers. Most of the customers admitted to police that they were there to have sex with a prostitute, according to police reports. Silvestre Gonzalez-Hernandez, 29, and Jorge Martinez-Rivera, 50, both of Norcross, were charged with one misdemeanor count of keeping a place of prostitution.

Police believe the houses all operate in a similar fashion. They are usually open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. The women receive no pay. Fifty percent of the profits go to the house and the remaining half go to the woman’s handler.

The women are transported back and forth from a house where they all live together to $30 houses and are kept under guard by the caretakers, according to police reports. The caretakers that Clara encountered were all brothers or cousins of her former boyfriend.

Same business, different method

Other types of prostitution are also springing up.

Gwinnett police are also combating an Asian prostitution ring which operates differently than the Hispanic brothels. The Asian suspects are advertising openly in foreign-language publications.

Several alleged Asian prostitutes were arrested earlier this summer during undercover police busts — twice at a single-family dwelling on Samia Drive and once in Alara Pleasant Hill apartments at 2500 Pleasant Hill Road in Duluth.

Despite police efforts, it has been difficult to chase the Asian prostitution ring out of Gwinnett, said Detective John Dougherty, who is assigned to the Gwinnett Police vice unit. “We arrest them, but then someone bonds them out and they’re back at it again,” Dougherty said.

Dougherty said unlike some of the Hispanic prostitutes, most of the Asian hookers he encounters are willing participants in the sex trade. They typically charge $150 to $200 for their services in contrast to the $30 price of Hispanic prostitutes, Dougherty said.

A second chance

Clara spent 3 1/2 years in quiet desperation before she managed to escape from a brothel in December 2005 with the help of a female friend. The friend allowed Clara to temporarily move in with her, but Clara said she was constantly gripped by fear that the caretakers would find her.

For a brief time, she slipped back into the only lifestyle she knew. She began selling her body again — this time keeping her profits. But then she met a man who was different than the others.

One day at a drug store in Norcross, Marco, a 40-year-old man who had just moved to Georgia from New York to begin construction work, approached Clara and asked for her phone number.

They talked by phone several times over the next few weeks, and eventually Clara confessed to Marco about her checkered past. He was unfazed, and the couple fell in love quickly. Clara then moved in with Marco at his house in downtown Atlanta.

Instinctively protective of her, Marco refused to let Clara see her old friends who were still involved with prostitution. He even took her with him to work at construction jobs. It was evident to Marco that she had been mistreated.

“She was very quiet,” Marco said. “She never looked at my face, she was looking down all the time and afraid I would scream at or beat her. She never smiled.”

However, in the past six months Clara’s personality has changed dramatically, Marco said. He encourages her to express herself and be open with him.

“Now there is a big difference,” Marco said. “She smiles, now we are kidding each other. We make jokes.”

And it was Marco who gently prodded Clara to go to the police with her story. He knew that she still spent many nights crying and feared for her family’s safety.

Clara said she hopes that by cooperating with investigators, her experience won’t be repeated by others. She also plans someday to return to Mexico and see her family, whom she has not spoken with since she left the country four years ago.

She will not face prostitution charges, just as the four women whom police encountered at the $30 house at Highland Walk Apartments were allowed to go free, said Butler. Police want to focus their investigative efforts, which will continue mainly with undercover stings conducted by the vice unit, on the human traffickers and prostitution ringleaders.

“Some of these women are victims themselves,” Butler said. “We try not to victimize the girls again.”

Friday, July 21, 2006

Congratulations to Warren Auld

Auld returning to council
07/19/2006 -
By Bryan Brooks
Staff Writer

LAWRENCEVILLE — Attorney Warren Auld will return to the Snellville City Council after gaining enough votes Tuesday to avoid a runoff in a crowded five-way race.

Auld, who resigned from the council last year to run unsuccessfully for state House, got 60 percent of the vote, while runner-up Teresa “Terri” Dippel, a schoolteacher, got 21 percent.

Some expected the contest to be forced into a runoff because of the crowded field.

“I’m pleased that the voters of the city have given me an opportunity to serve again,” Auld said Tuesday night while eating ice cream and sandwiches with supporters at his law office. “It’s a real honor, and I’m humbled by the number of votes and the turnout.”

Auld attributed his victory to his network of volunteers, including homeowner associations that backed him.

He will complete the unexpired term of former Councilman Mike Smith, who resigned earlier this year on charges related to an Internet telemarketing scheme. About 31/2 years remain in the term.

After he returns to the council, Auld said he wants to review ways to make city government operate more efficiently, and he wants to make sure the Police Department is getting needed resources. Traffic and open communication between the city and homeowners is also on his agenda, Auld said.

Contacted at home, Dippell said, “I wish him well and I hope that he keeps his campaign promises.” Dippell was publicly backed by Snellville Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer and Rep. Melvin Everson, who defeated Auld in his earlier bid for state House.

Rounding out the pack were real estate attorney Kelly Kautz with 14 percent of the vote; Gary Lapides with 2 percent; and real estate businessman Vince Buono with nearly 1 percent.