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The Political Fray

'G' man to help Nodine; Newcomb nod to Green;
GOP county commission candidate forum July 8

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Some political quick-hitters, short and sweet ...

The federal defenders' office here has asked to withdraw from representing former Mobile County Commissioner and accused murderer Stephen Nodine who drew a federal gun charge tied to his alleged addiction to prescription pain killers.

Carlos Williams, who heads the federal defenders office, is married to Nodine's erstwhile colleague on the county commission, District 1 Commissioner Merceria Ludgood.

"We see a potential conflict," said Williams. "I have filed a motion to withdraw for that reason."

Nodine is charged with murder in the Mother's Day evening shooting death of his paramour Angel Downs who died in the drive-way of her Fort Morgan Road townhouse in Gulf Shores of a gunshot to the head. Neighbors reportedly saw a red truck with public plates, matching Nodine's F-150 pick-up, leaving the scene shortly after the gunshot.

Mobile criminal defense attorneys John Conrad Williams and Dennis Knizley are representing Nodine in the murder case as well as a minor Mobile County drug indictment stemming from the discovery late last year by mechanics at the county garage of marijuana and prescription medication in his truck.

Nodine's court appointed attorney in the federal case will be experienced criminal defense lawyer Gordon "G" Armstrong, a private attorney who is on the Criminal Justice Act appointment list for this district. Armstrong has practiced law here for more than 20 years.

"I consider it an honor for the federal bench to have the confidence in my abilities to choose me for such a unique and challenging case," stated Armstrong. "I will find out as much as I can about the current status of the case and then travel to the Baldwin County jail to meet Mr. Nodine and advise him of my appointment. At this point, I have not seen the indictment nor the discovery so I have no information other than that Mr. Nodine has pled not guilty and the law presumes that he is innocent of the feds' accusation. I anticipate that this will be a very interesting case legally." 

With privately retained counsel on the murder charge, Nodine said he was not able to also pay them to represent him on the federal firearms charge and requested a court-appointed defense attorney. He has entered "not guilty" pleas to all the charges against him.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine "Kit" Nelson approved Nodine's request. Assistant Federal Defender Fred Tiemann stepped in for the initial hearing and asked for more time to prepare for a detention hearing which was reset from June 8 to June 14. Now, with the withdrawal of the federal defenders office from Nodine's representation, Armstrong is expected to stand with the reeling political figure.

Almost two weeks ago, in the wake of the sensational murder allegations against Nodine, federal authorities charged the the 46-year-old GOP firebrand with violating federal law by possessing a firearm while addicted to drugs. They allege that Nodine illegally obtained more than 2,400 hydrocodone (Lortab) pills at nine pharmacies in four states within a year. At the same time, Nodine possessed a county-issued .40 caliber Glock handgun, and other firearms.

Nodine remains in federal custody, although he made a $250,000 bond on the Baldwin County murder charge. A detention hearing is set in federal court next Monday.

Green to get Newcomb nod
Look for Baldwin County District Attorney Judy Newcomb later this week to endorse David Green publicly in the July 13 GOP runoff over Hallie Dixon. Dixon had served as an assistant under Newcomb until a split sent Dixon to the Attorney General's office for a stint. Newcomb trailed Dixon and Green in the June 1 primary election, with polling results as follows:

Hallie Dixon  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     9,897   33.02
David Green .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     9,224   30.78
Ken Hitson .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     1,973     6.58
Judy Newcomb  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     8,877   29.62

"I will be supporting David Green for District Attorney," Newcomb said. "I will explain the many reasons for my decision later this week."

A call to Hitson wasn't immediately returned. He reportedly will return later this week from a holiday with his family. Green expressed optimism that Hitson would also back him in the runoff. 

Sheriff Hoss Mack will remain neutral.

"No, I will not make an endorsement in this race," said Mack. "I personally know both candidates and they each have respected backgrounds. I will work with either of them, whomever gets elected, and I am excited about that prospect."

Mack clobbered the provocative preacher Orlando Bethel to win another term as sheriff.

"Judy called me after the election," said Green. "She was very professional. She congratulated me on running an excellent campaign. She paid me a wonderful compliment when you consider we had been competing so intensely with one and other. She said she was supportive of me and I took that as testament to me of the type of campaign that we've run. She said she would offer her support to me in any way that I felt would be helpful. It was unsolicited and I'm very appreciative."

Green said his runoff strategy would be no different than his primary campaign.

"I'll do the same things I've always done: Be myself, don't compromise my integrity, campaign positively," he said. "We're all human. We all have strengths and weaknesses. All I'm trying to say is: Here I am, I'm running for this job. I've never run against an individual so much as I say, 'This is what I believe my skill sets are and I want to apply those to this office,' and that's it."

Green said he had heard the rumor mill chatter of a quid pro quo such as a job offer to Newcomb in exchange for her endorsement.

"Nope, there was zero discussion of that," said Green. "She never brought it up. I never brought it up. It never entered my mind and I doubt that it entered hers. You have to remember the fact that we ran against one another."

Although Dixon was not surprised by Newcomb's endorsement of Green, she noted that the decision seemed to conflict with Newcomb's previous contention that felony prosecution experience was critical to providing effective leadership in the district attorney's office.

"Regardless, our message remains the same: I am the only candidate with the qualifications to serve this county as its chief prosecutor," said Dixon. "My campaign will continue to be based on qualifications, hard work and commitment, with total transparency and a promise that we will not play 'politics' with an Office so critical to our safety and security. We led the ticket by earning our votes with our message and our work ethic." 

Dixon and Green will vie to claim the district attorney post in a runoff July 13.

Local GOP to sponsor county commission,
District 2 candidate forum/debate
The Mobile County Republican Executive Committee on July 8 will sponsor a forum/debate involving candidates in the special election for Mobile County Commission District 2.

The resignation of ex-Commissioner Steve Nodine created a vacancy that will be filled by special election set July 13. Candidates thus far include Sheriff's Office administrator Ralph Buffkin, Mobile City Councilwoman Connie Hudson, conservative political organizer Pete Riehm, Semmes barber Carmen Tillman and School Board member Ken Megginson. All are Republicans. No Democrat has yet announced for the open seat.

The program is tentatively set for 7 p.m. at a place to be determined.
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