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28 November 2017

Georgia Officials Continue Fight Against Human Trafficking Despite Challenges

The “Dateline NBC” special, “To Catch a Predator,” regularly brought the network high ratings during its initial run.

Many Americans tuned in each week to chuckle as host Chris Hansen and undercover police officers caught individuals seeking sex from minors. Behind the laughter, however, a disturbing secret exposed itself for the world to see.

Demand for sex with underage boys and girls exists. And unfortunately, some suppliers frequently exploit children to meet that need.

(Officials are posting notices like this one in public restrooms across the state, so that sex trafficking victims know they have a way out. Photo credit: Andre Walker)
In 2014, a study from the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute estimated the underground sex trade in Atlanta generated $290 million annually. The state could do without this commercial activity. In fact, public officials want to stop sex trafficking entirely.

“The Office of the Attorney General remains dedicated to eradicating human trafficking in Georgia,” said Attorney General Chris Carr.

Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are continually battling to break the back of this seedy economy.

Just last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with 18 other departments including Savannah-Chatham Metro Police and the Richmond County Marshal’s Office, netted 60 arrests in Georgia as part of a national operation to combat underage human trafficking.

Numbers provided by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation indicate 170 people were arrested and charged with violating the state’s human trafficking law between 2016 and 2017.

Despite the cops’ best efforts to slow it down though, Georgia’s illegal sex industry continues growing.

03 November 2017

MARTA Continues Community Outreach in Clayton County

Mass transit officials in Atlanta have expansion on their minds.

MARTA wants to add high capacity lines to existing bus service in Clayton County. This could mean that trains from the airport might travel further south to the cities of Jonesboro, Morrow or Riverdale.

Town halls seeking public input on future transit options are happening across the county, including a recent one at Clayton State University.

“We’re at a point where we’ve identified the number one corridor that we want to pursue,” Don Williams, the Director of Long Range Planning at MARTA, told residents in attendance. “This is your opportunity to say well, you got it right or you got it wrong.”

MARTA Continues Community Outreach in Clayton County

Local residents at this meeting seemed supportive of MARTA’s expansion plans. But they were slightly discouraged at the time it takes to get those trains rolling through their communities.

“Speeding up looks like speeding up is not happening,” said Brenda Harrison, “based on the fact that there are processes that MARTA says they have to go through to get federal funding. And that takes years.”

Harrison lives in Morrow and voted for the MARTA referendum in 2014. She believes more buses can help make Clayton more accessible while transportation leaders go through the slow process of securing money.

“We need to add more routes that accommodate community centers,” Harrison said. “There is no bus line that connects the citizens of Clayton County to International Park, which is a total activities center.”

MARTA officials welcomed the feedback they received from Harrison and others at the hearing.

“I am very very happy with the response we got from the community group,” Williams said. “The questions were indeed what we are looking for. Because until we know what’s going on and what they’re thinking about, we want to make sure, in terms of our planning effort, that it has the support of the community.”

19 October 2017

A Note About Plagiarism and Extreme Edits to Our Stories

Plagiarism is wrong.

Publishing someone else's work without giving them the credit can cause a lot of problems, especially when that person's work is sliced and diced so that the original publication no longer appears as the author intended.

Two days ago, I published an article that gave details about the death of a 19-year-old who attended Imagine Music Festival last month. The 500-plus word piece was the result of repeated calls and emails to the Henry County Coroner, Henry County Police Department, and Imagine Music Festival representatives.

An extremely edited version of our article appeared on EDMTunes ( Other outlets like "EDM All Day," ( "Music Junkie TV," ( "This Song is So Sick," ( and others ran the EDMTunes version of my work on their respective sites.

I received an email from Imagine representatives this evening, expressing concerns about my reporting. I sent them a link directly to Georgia Unfiltered's coverage, and highlighted the differences between my work and the plagiarized content appearing on other web pages.

I stand by my reporting and I stand by the story I wrote.

I have no control over how other people warp, maim, and mutilate my work, except to say, don't do it again.

17 October 2017

19-year-old Miami resident hit, killed by car while attending Imagine Music Festival

A weekend filled with music and fun ended in sorrow for the loved ones of 19-year-old Fabian Gonzalez.

Gonzalez had his life cut tragically short after a car struck and killed him while he attended a concert at Atlanta Motor Speedway last month. Police reports say Gonzalez was just a few hundred feet away from the venue’s entrance when the accident occurred shortly before midnight on September 23.

The Miami, Florida, resident was in town for the annual Imagine Music Festival.

Gonzalez and his friends were among an estimated 30,000 people who flocked to Hampton, Georgia, for the event that featured world famous DJs like Tiesto, DeadMau5 and Above & Beyond.

The 3-day festival started ordinarily for Gonzalez and his companions. They arrived at the track, normally used for NASCAR races, expecting to party late into the night. Their expectations quickly changed when Fabian Gonzalez disappeared.

Gonzalez’s friend, Eric Same, posted a desperate plea on the social media app Radiate.

“Guys, help! Hey everyone, my friend Fabian is missing. If you’ve seen him, hey me plz! [sic],” Same’s message read.

An update later confirmed the worst.

“He’s in the hospital. It’s looking bad. He was found in his underwear with his bag stolen a few miles away from the festival. Looks like he might’ve gotten hit by a car,” Same posted online.

Fabian Gonzalez, 19, died at the hospital on September 26.

Major Mike Ireland, a spokesman for the Henry County Police Department, provided additional details about the incident.

“Mr. Gonzalez was running in the middle of the street, at 11:39 p.m., without clothing when he was struck by a vehicle,” Ireland said. “He was transported to Atlanta Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead a few days later.”

(Three people witnessed a fatal car accident occur on this quiet two-lane road in Hampton, Georgia. Photo Credit: Andre Walker.)
The Henry County Police report, obtained through an open records request, indicates that Gonzalez was hit 325 feet away from the intersection of Oak Street and U.S. Highway 41 in Hampton. Atlanta Motor Speedway is located across from an Exxon gas station where the two roads cross.

Asked if the motorist driving the car that hit Gonzalez would be charged, Ireland said no. Ireland also noted that a toxicology report would not be compiled on Gonzalez either.

Imagine Music Festival organizers say they were informed of the incident shortly after it occurred.

“Imagine have been cooperating with this ongoing investigation, given the proximity to the festival, but cannot comment further,” festival spokesman Chad Shearer said.

Gonzalez’s death marks the second time an Imagine ticketholder lost his life while attending the festival in the past year. 21-year-old Kurt Stelzig of Rock Hill, South Carolina died from injuries sustained in a fall during the 2016 Imagine Music Festival. Neither incident occurred on festival grounds, however.

Still, safety at Imagine remains a hot topic for some.

Many Imagine festival-goers complained about safety, security and the lack of water stations to WSB-TV last year.

The festival is also the defendant in a civil suit filed by Suzanne Randall. Randall claims the organizers’ negligence caused her to be hit by a vendor’s car on festival grounds, and is seeking an undisclosed amount of monetary damages. The legal action is currently pending in DeKalb County State Court.

Opinion: Presentism Dooms Us to Repeat the Mistakes of the Past

Historical presentism is the act of applying modern morals, standards and values to the past.

Many historians warn against historical presentism. Presentism, they say, does not promote understanding of bygone eras. We're not asking how historical events occurred. We're not asking why historical figures made their decisions. We are passing judgment upon the past, not learning from it.

A debate rages across the country about the role monuments to great men of the past should play in modern society. This question started anew following the violent Charlottesville, Virginia protests.

Should statues of former Confederate leaders, like Robert E. Lee, come down? A reporter asked President Trump this exact question.

"So this week it's Robert E. Lee," the president replied. "I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"

Where does it stop?

Vandals in Yonkers, New York decapitated
a statue of explorer Christopher Columbus. Maryland removed a statue of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, author of the infamous Dred Scott decision, from the state capitol steps in Annapolis. A Chicago pastor demanded a new name for Washington Park because its current moniker honors a former president who owned slaves.

Each of these incidents is textbook presentism; present-day values applied to the past.

Dr. Lynn Hunt, a distinguished research professor at UCLA, had this to say about the historical fallacy known as presentism:

"Our forebears constantly fail to measure up to our present-day standards."

"Presentism, at its worst, encourages a kind of moral complacency and self-congratulation. Interpreting the past in terms of present concerns usually leads us to find ourselves morally superior," the former American Historical Association president concluded.

Presentism runs rampant across the United States these days.

To quote a few lines from "Fahrenheit 451," "It came from the people; the people demanding not to be offended; the people demanding that something be done about this language and that language they don't like.

A not-so-original-observation from Spanish philosopher George Santayana goes like this:

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

We aren't learning anything. By engaging in presentism, we're just finding new ways to make the same old mistakes.

27 September 2017

The Truth Never Stops with Singer-Songwriter Vérité

2017 started off right for 27-year-old Kelsey Byrne.

(Kelsey Byrne, better known by her stage name, Vérité, continues to redefine success for herself and her music career. Photo credit: Eric Ryan Anderson.)
Entertainment Weekly magazine premiered her new single, “Phase Me Out,” to its loyal readers. Radio personality Elvis Duran named her his Artist of the Month. And the New York-born singer-songwriter, who goes by the stage name, Vérité, made her national television debut with a performance on NBC’s “Today” show.

Three years ago, if anyone were to ask Vérité her definition of success, she likely would have pointed to the first few months of this year as her measuring stick. Byrne admitted as much in a recent telephone interview.

Now, with fourteen singles and several tours under her belt, the State University of New York at Purchase graduate displays a maturity unexpected from someone not yet 30.

“Success is ever-changing,” Vérité says.

Indeed. Success means never resting on your laurels, and Vérité is not resting.

The grit Vérité showed while working up to 70 hours a week at the Applebee’s restaurant in Times Square remains a significant part of her musical career today. She toured North America this summer, often scheduling three or four straight days’ worth of shows before taking a break.

The multi-city tour came in support of her first full-length studio album, “Somewhere in Between,” released in June.