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Prop 8: Cali. Supreme Court to hear arguments on standing

The California Supreme Court will weigh into the Proposition 8 battle after a three judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court said it could not rule on the on-going case until it knew whether or not the law's backers had the legal standing to defend the law in court.

A Tweet sent by American Foundation for Equal Rights late this afternoon read: “Calif. Supreme Court to hear #Prop8 case with expedited schedule. Oral arguments as soon as Sept 2011."

Supporters of the marriage ban were challenging a lower court's ruling that struck down the law last August as unconstitutional because it violated equal protection guarantees. State officials, including then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Attorney General Jerry Brown, refused to appeal Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling. A supporters group appealed the ruling after the state refused to do so.

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Lead investigator of Eagle arrested for DUI, marijuana possession now suspended without pay

Atlanta Police Chief George Turner has now suspended Investigator Bennie Bridges without pay after he was arrested in Cobb County for DUI and possession of marijuana.

Bridges was arrested Feb. 3 and put on administrative leave — with pay — while an internal investigation was conducted.

A press release from the APD now says Bridges has been suspended without pay after meeting with Turner today and while the Office of Professional Standards continues to investigate the matter.

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Atlanta Eagle plaintiffs to receive checks Thursday from city settlement

The plaintiffs in the Atlanta Eagle lawsuit will be picking up their checks on Thursday.

The $1.025 million settlement the city entered into with the plaintiffs — patrons of the bar the night it was raided by the Atlanta Police Department — was entered into an escrow account of Lambda Legal, an LGBT legal advocacy organization. Lambda Legal assisted in the lawsuit with lead attorney Dan Grossman and the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Johnnie Curran, one of the plaintiffs, confirmed he received an email telling him the checks were available for pick up at the Atlanta Lambda Legal office on Thursday. He did not disclose the amount he received, but did say the average amount for the plaintiffs was approximately $10,000. There were 26 individual plaintiffs as well as two companies that were part of the federal civil lawsuit.

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Atlanta Eagle officers racked up large bar bills hours before raid

Atlanta police officers involved in the Atlanta Eagle raid spent a great deal of money on shots of liquor before the actual raid began, according to a news report.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that officer Bennie Bridges, the lead investigator of the raid and who was working undercover, spent $50 of APD funds on drinks on Sept. 10, 2009, the night of the raid. The AJC also states that Bridges spent another $60 on drinks on May 29, 2009, while working undercover into allegations of illicit sex and drug use taking place at the Midtown gay bar.

Another officer the night of the raid, Jared Watkins, also working undercover, spent $60 on drinks the night of the raid.

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Atlanta Pride to overlap Jewish holiday

Rabbi Josh Lesser at the Atlanta Pride Commitment Ceremony

When Atlanta Pride announced yesterday that this year’s festival will be held Oct. 8-9, several community members were quick to point out the scheduling conflict with the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

“When I first heard the news, I was terribly disappointed,” Rabbi Josh Lesser of Congregation Bet Haverim said in a phone interview. “Yom Kippur is the most holy day of the year.”

Lesser said that James Parker Sheffield, executive director of the Atlanta Pride Committee, has reached out to Atlanta's LGBT Jewish community and will work toward providing Jewish-specific events that recognize the community at this year's Pride.

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‘Eagle 8’ trial prosecutor fired for not paying bar dues

Larry Gardner, prosecutor against the Eagle 8 has been disbarred

The prosecutor of the Eagle 8 trial has been fired after it was learned he had not paid his State Bar of Georgia dues, according to a statement from the Atlanta Solicitor’s Office.

The GA Voice learned Larry Gardner, a prosecutor for the Atlanta Solicitor’s Office, had not paid his bar dues when the Eagle trial occurred in March 2010, which is necessary to practice law in Georgia. By not paying dues, attorneys are put on administrative suspension.

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Ga. Supreme Court to hear case of gay man convicted of murder

The case of Samuel Mitchell Abernathy goes before the Supreme CourtThe case of a gay man convicted of killing a man who allegedly called him and his boyfriend “faggots” will go before the state Supreme Court on Monday.

The state is appealing a White County judge’s ruling granting a new trial to Samuel Mitchell Abernathy. Abernathy was convicted of stabbing and killing Darrin Ramey after Ramey called Mitchell and his partner at the time, John Geren, “faggots.” The incident occurred in the parking lot of the Southside Bar in Helen, Ga., in January 2008.

Mitchell was convicted in November 2008 of malice murder and sentenced to life in prison.

According to a press release from the state Supreme Court, Abernathy said he was jumped by Ramey and acted in self-defense. Abernathy and Geren were both charged with murder but the state dropped its charges against Geren after he agreed to testify against Abernathy.

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Atlanta organization lands federal HIV/AIDS grant

The Atlanta AIDS Partnership announced a $250,000 grant from the White House's Social Innovation Fund through AIDS United (formerly the National AIDS Fund). The grant, one of 10 given to HIV/AIDS organizations around the country, will go to providing HIV care through primary health care providers in Atlanta’s most affected communities.

According to the Atlanta AIDS Partnership, transportation issues and the stigma of visiting an AIDS service organization prevent many people living with HIV/AIDS from getting the care they need to live a healthy life. In an effort to address the imbalance, the grant money will be directed to free and low-income clinics as well as toward federally qualified health care centers.

“Increasing the ability of smart, effective organizations to reach more individuals is critical to the work of The Community Foundation,” Alicia Philipp, president of the Atlanta AIDS Partnership, said in a press release. “As a local partner in this effort, our role is to bring resources to meet the demand in our region to help tackle an issue that affects so many in our communities.”

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Atlanta police to disband controversial Red Dog Unit

Atlanta Police Chief George Turner

The Atlanta Police Department will disband its controversial Red Dog Unit in 60 days, Chief George Turner announced at a press conference this morning.

The paramilitary-style unit had come under scrutiny for its supporting role in the 2009 police raid on the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar on Ponce de Leon Avenue, and recent complaints from two men that Red Dog officers — including two who also took part in the Eagle raid — subjected them to a strip search on a public street in broad daylight.

The Red Dog unit will be replaced by a new elite unit that has yet to be named, Turner said. The new unit will focus chiefly on violent crime, whereas the primary focus of Red Dog was street-level drug activity. Current Red Dog officers will have to apply to be part of the new unit, and will have to meet stringent standards including physical fitness and being free from any sustained complaints against them, Turner said.

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Atlanta police lead investigator of Eagle raid arrested

The Atlanta Police Department's lead investigator in the Atlanta Eagle raid was arrested this week for driving under the influence of alcohol and possession of marijuana.

The news was first broken Saturday by Stephanie Ramage, former news editor at the Sunday Paper, who now writes her own blog.

Officer Bennie Bridges, 41, of the Vice unit was the lead investigator into the anonymous complaints that led to the Eagle raid in September 2009. Bridges was arrested in Cobb County on Thursday at about 3 a.m. The booking report shows that Bridges was arrested at I-285 East and Cobb Parkway and charged with speeding, DUI and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. He was released on $1,900 bond, according to the Cobb report.

APD spokesperson Officer Kimberly Maggart said Saturday night that Bridges is on administrative leave with pay.

"This matter has been referred to the department's Office of Professional Standards for investigation. Further comment on this specific incident would be inappropriate. However, Chief Turner expects Atlanta police officers to follow the laws they are sworn to uphold and enforce. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action," she added in a statement.

Carlos Campos, spokesperson for the APD, confirmed Monday that Bridges was driving an unmarked city vehicle when he was arrested.

"Officer Bridges is still assigned to APD's Vice Unit (though, as noted before, he is presently on administrative leave with pay as a result of the arrest). The vehicle is assigned to him as part of his job duties," Campos said in a statement.