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A major construction project begins today on the first 8 blocks of Bourbon Street. Director of New Orleans Public Works Col. Mark Jernigan says they’ll remove and replace the existing pavement, drainage lines, waterlines, sewer lines, and gas lines. He says this is much needed repair work on New Orleans’ most historic street.

“Bourbon Street is historic, and actually the utilities underneath Bourbon Street are really historic in that most of them haven’t been touched in about 90 years,” Jernigan said.

Jernigan says some very important work will be done under the pavement as their aging waterlines need to be replaced. He says this stretch has had 92 water leaks in the past decade, an average of two leaks per block every year. He says pedestrians will have access to Bourbon Street during construction, even if the block is closed to vehicular traffic.

“We’ll have temporary ramps in place to make sure that pedestrians can move up and down Bourbon Street, go into the businesses on Bourbon Street, and continue to enjoy it while we do our reconstruction project,” Jernigan said.

Jernigan says the project will cost a total of $6 million, and construction is expected to wrap up by the end of the year. He says visitors can expect to see a new and improved Bourbon Street, but it’s what they won’t see that’s really important.

“They won’t see the standing water. They won’t see the pavement where you have to watch your step. Everything will be smooth. It will be very easy to walk on,” Jernigan said.

 
 
 
 

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The House Ways and Means Committee has set aside two days to dive into the intricate Commercial Activity Tax proposed by Governor John Bel Edwards. The CAT is a sales tax businesses pay on their transactions. So far there’s very little support for the proposal. Franklin Representative Sam Jones will present the bill to lawmakers today and he hopes they will change their mind after learning more about it.

“Until you get into the details and people get to understand it, people’s reactions normally are ‘No, I’m going to stick with what I know as opposed to what the changes might be,’” Jones said.

Jones says so far this is the only plan that’s been presented in this session to deal with the $1.3 billion fiscal cliff in 2018, when the extra penny of the sales tax and other temporary taxes expire.

“If you have a better plan, heck, you can change my mind. What is not going to be successful is for us to fail to balance the budget, for us to fail to fund TOPS,” Jones said.

The biggest opposition to the Commercial Activity Tax comes from businesses, who say it’s a burdensome tax at a time when the state’s economy is struggling. But Jones says something must be done to address looming budget shortfalls and provide a predictable revenue stream.

“Entities that are making $10 million, $15 million, $20 million, and sometimes billions of dollars and paying no taxes is not a sustainable tax process to fund government,” Jones said.

 
 
 
 
 

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It was a miserable day in Lexington on Sunday. Cold, breezy and bone-chilling rain fell for much of the game. But that didn't seem to bother Kentucky. The Wildcats jumped on LSU starting pitcher Eric Walker early and kept adding on as the game went for a 10-2 victory over the Tigers.
 
Walker (5-1) has been LSU's most consistent starter in SEC play, but he didn't have it against Kentucky. He gave up four runs in the first inning and was pulled in the third inning after giving up seven runs.
 
LSU's starting pitchers allowed 15 runs in 11 innings in Lexington.  
 
Kentucky would score three more runs off of reliever Austin Bain.
 
LSU gave up a season-high 18 hits.  
 
Meanwile, LSU's hitters could only muster six hits against Kentucky starting pitcher Justin Lewis. The tall right-hander allowed one earned run in a complete game effort and struck out five.
 
A Josh Smith RBI single and a Nick Coomes solo home run was the only offense for the Tigers. Coomes has an 11-game hitting streak. Zach Watson extended his hitting streak to 15 games, while Greg Deichmann's ends at 11 games. 
 
The defeat drops LSU's record  27-14, 10-8 in the SEC, 5th place in the West Division. The Tigers were 10-8 at this same point last season. 
 
LSU will be on the road this week. They will visit Tulane on Tuesday and then travel to Tuscaloosa for a three-game series that begins Thursday at Alabama. The Crimson Tide has the worst record in the SEC at 2-16

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U.S. Representative Mike Johnson believes members of the House are moving closer to agreeing on a bill that would overhaul healthcare in the country. Johnson says many Congressmen were frustrated with the previous legislation that was pulled at the last minute but he’s hopeful new amendments will secure passage through the House and Senate.

“The amendments that we’ve gotten together, I think will accomplish that and then that will get the consensus we need to get the bill passed and we’re excited to get it done. I think it’ll happen in the next couple of weeks.”

Johnson says one provision that’s gained support would put cancer patients and individuals with a chronic illness in a separate market place funded by the federal government. Johnson says the state of Maine has done this and it’s lowered health care costs for many.

“The state then subsidized their premiums because otherwise they would not be able to afford health insurance. What happened though is for the 95% of the rest of the population, their premiums went down.”

Johnson says Congress remains committed to replacing Obamacare, because it has caused premiums in Louisiana, on average, to increase by over 32-percent. He also says part of the plan is to give states more flexibility to pull out of Affordable Care Act provisions.

“Basically eliminating some of the mandates in Obamacare, where there are other cost drivers, the reasons that costs are going up on everyone.”

 

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For the first time in a long time, an LSU spring game didn't feature a toss dive. Instead, we saw all kinds of pre-snap shifts, motion and a bunch of fake hand-offs. But it didn't produce many points, as defensive coordinator Dave Aranda had his guys ready.
 
The Purple team led the White team 7-3 when the game was halted 4:02 before halftime.


Cornerback Kevin Toliver had a rough fall, but played well in the Spring game, as he had one interception and a pass break-up.
 
Incoming safety freshman Grant Delpit also looked good with four tackles and new middle linebacker Devin White had a solid performance with 4 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss.
 
Quarterback Danny Etling started sharp, completing his first four passes. But finished 4-of-11 for 53 yards and one interception.
 
D.J.Chark had two catches for 45 yards, but also had a drop on a pass over the middle of the field.
 
Fournette was the leading rusher and scored a touchdown. No not Leonard Fournette, but his little brother Lanard, who had 8 carries for 28 yards and one touchdown.
 
When lightning halted play, the spring game resumed inside the team's indoor faility.  

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The state Parole Board has rescinded the parole for convicted killer and rapist Samuel Galbraith. The former Ft. Polk soldier was set to be released Sunday, after he was granted parole in November. But it has been learned the state failed to properly notify the victim's mother. A notification letter was sent to an address in Albany, New York, instead of her home in Albany, Illinois.


The Board will reschedule a subsequent parole hearing for Galbraith, so the victim's mother and the District Attorney can fully participate in the process.
 
In 2000, Galbraith pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated rape in the brutal murder of 21-year-old Karen Hill. Galbraith kidnapped the convenience store clerk in Vernon Parish and took her to the Kisatchie National Forest near the military base in 1988. The Texas native tied her to a tree and shot her in the eye with a .22-caliber handgun.
 
Hill's lifeless body was found the next day.
 
The murder took place in 1988, but he wasn't arrested until DNA evidence linked him to the crime in 1997. Authorities believe he could be responsible for two other murders. 
 
Galbraith was eligible for parole, because of a law that is no longer on the books that says first-time offenders can seek parole once they turn 45 and served at least 20 years of their sentence.
 
Under current laws, Galbraith would have never been eligible for parole.
 
He was sentenced to 71 years in prison.  

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If you love to eat, LSU needs your help. The Sensory Services Lab on the Baton Rouge campus is recruiting Tiger Tasters to sample tasty new foods before they hit the shelves. Sensory Services Lab Manager Ashley Gutierrez says the AgCenter works with food companies developing new healthy food items.

“So basically what we need is consumers to come test food products to contribute to the LSU community and then also to assist the food industry to come up with new and healthier food products,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez says anyone over 18 can sign up to be a Tiger Taster. She says the companies involved in the taste tests decide who they want to sample their products.

“Sometimes it’s open to everybody, and sometimes they’re looking for only certain demographics, certain age groups. So the more people we have in our database, the more companies we can serve,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez says all you have to do as a Tiger Tester is come to their state of the art lab and sample foods. She says the great thing about this program is it gives consumers a chance to tell companies what they think about the product before it’s released.

“That’s one of the great things that consumers can do is they can have a voice and give their opinion before it comes out on the shelf,” Gutierrez said.

To sign up to be a Tiger Taster, visit the LSU School of Food and Nutrition website.

 
 
 
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards admits there's not much legislative support for his controversial Commercial Activity Tax, which would raise hundreds of millions dollars to help stave off a looming budget crisis. But Edwards says he's disappointed that an alternative plan hasn't been proposed by House Republican leaders.
 
"And to sit down and overlay the two plans to find out where there's agreement and get those things done very quickly and to also find out where there's not agreement," Edwards said.  
 
The Commercial Activity Tax is a corporate sales tax on businesses. It would generate at least 400-million dollars and replace tax revenue scheduled to fall of the books next year, when a one-cent sales tax expires. Edwards says the CAT will make sure businesses pay their fair share.
 
"It literally is the case that we have low-level employees at some of the most profitable corporations in Louisiana who are pay more income tax than the businesses they work for," Edwards said. 
 
The Commercial Activity Tax will get its first legislative hearing on Monday, but public support is low and business groups staunchly opposed it. Edwards says with one-point-three billion dollars in temporary taxes set to expire next year, another special session maybe called if an adequate funding plan is not approved.
 
"Having another plan out there that we can at least talk about, I think would be helpful, we don't have that right now. But we are going to fix this problem before July 1, 2018. one way or another," Edwards said.  
 
 
 
 
 
 

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A group opposing Governor John Bel Edwards tax plan has paid for a poll that shows a majority of Louisiana residents are concerned about the economy and oppose higher taxes on businesses.

Truth in Politics Executive Director Kelli Bottgher says respondents listed jobs and the economy as their top concerns.

“I think the fact that 70 percent said employment is scarce or hard to get is because they have firsthand experience with it. They either know somebody or are somebody that can’t find a job,” Bottgher said.

Bottgher says respondents also oppose tax hikes on businesses, with over half saying they do not support the governor’s proposed Commercial Activity Tax. She says 60 percent also say they expect business conditions to stay the same or get worse in the next 6 months.

“It’s hard when you continue to propose taxes, as our governor is doing, to really get the economy moving and going, and so we’re going to see fewer and fewer jobs, which has been the trend before,” Bottgher said.

Bottgher says the public does not want to see their taxes go up anymore. The survey finds 80 percent say government spends too much, taxes too high, or both. She says 75 percent of respondents also oppose a 23 cent hike on the state’s gasoline tax.

“When we raised the gas tax decades ago, that money wasn’t used for what it was said it would be used for, and there’s not a whole lot of faith that the governor is going to take this money and actually repair infrastructure,” Bottgher said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Law enforcement around the state are teaming up in the Buckle Up in your Truck campaign to make sure pickup truck drivers are wearing their seatbelts. Starting today and lasting until next Thursday, expect to see an abundance of police officers looking for passengers in pickup trucks that are not buckled up.

“Basically what we’re doing is reminding people that it doesn’t matter what vehicle you’re in, be it a car, an SUV, or a pickup truck, we want you to wear that seatbelt at all times,” said State Police Sergeant Jared Sandifer.

According to the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, pickup trucks account for 25 percent of vehicles on the road. Sandifer says for some reason they see less seatbelt compliance in pickup trucks than other vehicles. He says some drivers may feel safer in a big vehicle, but they’re not.

“Pickup trucks are just as susceptible as any other vehicle to being involved in crashes, and people can still get seriously injured or even killed in those pickup trucks,” Sandifer said.

Pickup trucks are twice as likely to roll over in a crash, according to the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. Sandifer reminds the public that it’s not just the driver who has to buckle up.

“Lot of times these days we see extended cab pickup trucks, and they have seatbelts in the back too. We just want to remind people that even if you’re sitting in the backseat of that pickup truck, you still have to wear that seatbelt,” Sandifer said.

 
 
 
 
 

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A coalition called Louisianans for Prison Alternatives made their case for criminal justice reform during a rally on the State Capitol steps. Foundation for Louisiana President Flozell Daniels served as a member of the governor’s Justice Reinvestment Task Force and he’s pushing for legislation to reduce the incarceration rate and save the state millions of dollars.

“I know we can be successful and we can win because the state budget is short and we don’t have the resources. We cannot wait to decarcerate.”

Governor John Bel Edwards legislative package contains bills that he says can reduce the state’s prison population by at least 13%. Former Angola inmate Norris Henderson says now is the time for legislators to act.

“I’m reminded by Dr. King, Dr. King said ‘wait almost means never’. So we can’t wait. Wait is not in our vocabulary.”

The governor is urging legislators to pass bills that will give some inmates more parole hearings, alternatives to prison and shorter sentences for those who commit non-violent crimes. Henderson says non-violent felons can change and learn from their mistakes while in prison.

“All we’re asking for is giving people an opportunity, we’re not saying this is going to be a jailbreak. Give our folks an opportunity to present themselves.”

 

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U.S. Senators John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy met with a Trump administration official this week about providing Louisiana an additional $2-billion in federal flood aid. Kennedy says they asked the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, to include the $2 billion in a budget bill that needs to pass to keep the federal government running through September.

“Our people are not asking for any handouts. This is their tax money, that’s what they pay taxes for is to get a little help after a natural disaster. We sure had a disaster.”

Congress has already appropriated Louisiana $1.6 billion in flood recovery dollars. But Congressman Garret Graves says the state has not moved fast enough to get the money in the hands of flooded homeowners. The governor’s office blames federal red tape. Kennedy admits this dispute could hurt the state’s effort in getting the additional two-billion dollars.

“I don’t know who’s at fault, I don’t care who’s at fault. I just know the money is still sitting in the bank. I’ve encouraged the governor and I think he’s going to do it, to try to get that money into the hands of the people as quickly as he can.”

Kennedy says he’s thankful for the financial assistance Congress has provided to flood victims, but it is not enough to help the middle class and the small businesses fully recover.

“I’ve never seen a flood this bad, it may not have had a name like a hurricane but it packed a punch like a hurricane. We need the help and we’re not asking for a handout.”

 

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A Shreveport man has been arrested for pretending to be a state trooper. LSP Trooper Matt Harris says they received a complaint about a door to door steak salesman impersonating a trooper. He says after detectives obtained a warrant for his arrest, they requested 47-year-old Lester Wells’ service at the criminal investigations division in Bossier City.

“Mr. Wells responded to what he thought was a routine sales call, and upon his arrival troopers and detectives took Mr. Wells into custody and arrested him for fraudulent portrayal of a police officer,” Harris said.

Harris says during an interview with detectives, Wells confessed to crime, claiming it helped his sales to portray himself as a state trooper. But Harris says Wells got more than just a sales boost by impersonating a trooper.

“He had used this to get free merchandise, discounts, other things people were offering in support of law enforcement to a man that they thought was a law enforcement officer,” Harris said.

Harris says if someone comes to your door claiming to be police, you have the right to ask to see their credentials. He says law enforcement doesn’t ask for handouts for what they do, and they won’t allow anyone else to take advantage of a good citizen by claiming to be police.

“We took an oath to protect the citizens of the state of Louisiana, and we take it very serious when someone tries to utilize our position to gain control over someone else,” Harris said.

Wells is being held in the Bossier Parish Jail awaiting extradition to Caddo Parish on one count of fraudulent portrayal of a law enforcement officer.

 
 
 
 

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Louisiana lost the fight to become the home to the world's largest ethane cracker plant, as ExxonMobil announces the $10 billion plastics complex will be built in Texas. Louisiana Chemical Association President Greg Bowser says the Bayou State lost because of its poor business climate.

“We’ve been going through a series of tax increases. Business has been threatened with incentives being cut back and changing things. So it’s been a difficult time for us in Louisiana,” Bowser said.

The plant is expected to create 6,000 temporary jobs during construction and 650 permanent jobs with an annual payroll of $60 million. Bowser hopes officials at the Louisiana Economic Development use this loss as a learning experience.

“Anytime you lose something, whether it be a football game or a huge project, you always go back and look at the things you could have done better, and you get ready for the next one, and I think that’s what the state is going to do,” Bowser said.

Exxon cited Texas’ predictable tax climate and high quality school and community college systems as top reasons for choosing the Lone Star State. Bowser says LED does a good job of looking at what other states do and putting together incentive packages. He expects the state will be more competitive for the next project.

“This is our state. We’re not going to give up on it. We’re going to turn things back to where business people can look positively on our state, and I think they still do. We’ve just got some work to do,” Bowser said.

 
 
 
 
 

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The Orleans District Attorney’s office says they are disappointed Cardell Hayes was sentenced to 25 years behind bars for a fatal road rage shooting in New Orleans that left former Saints star Will Smith dead and his wife, Raquel, injured. Legal analyst Tim Meche believes Judge Camille Buras handed down a fair sentence.

“She’s probably handled or presided over a thousand cases like this. She knows what an appropriate sentence is for a case like this,” Meche said.

Hayes was facing 20 to 60 years in prison after being convicted of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter four months ago. During the sentencing phase of the trial, Hayes took the stand and apologized to the Smith family for their loss and once again claimed he acted in self-defense. The prosecution used Saints Head Coach Sean Payton as a character witness for Smith. But Meche says the judge was not swayed by the notoriety of Smith or his witnesses.

“She issued a fair, normal sentence that would have been issued to someone that the media would not have even covered under these circumstances,” Meche said.

Prosecutor Chris Bowman also said the Smith family was not happy with the sentence. But Meche says Buras realized this wasn’t a calculated coldblooded murder for no reason. He says Smith could have diffused the situation with Hayes that night, and he chose not to.

“The fact of the matter is Mr. Smith had something to do with his demise. He was drunk. He engaged in an encounter with Mr. Hayes,” Meche said.

The Hayes family says in response to the sentencing that they are hurt but not broken.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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State Police say charges are pending in the case of a fiery 5-vehicle, 18-wheeler involved crash on I-10 in West Baton Rouge Parish that claimed the life of a man from Alexandria. The victim is identified as 26-year-old Ronald Allen. Trooper Bryan Lee says traffic began slowing in the eastbound lanes near Port Allen around 5:30 Wednesday.


"One of the 18-wheelers failed to reduce its speed," said Lee. "There were several rear-end collisions, including one that caused Mr. Allen's vehicle to become trapped between the two 18 wheelers."

Lee says the impact caused the three vehicles to become fully engulfed in flames as Allen was trapped inside. He says investigators are turning over their findings to the DA in West Baton Rouge.

"They will talk about appropriate charges, but we think distraction is a contributing factor," said Lee.
 
 

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A man who was helping a judge in Lake Charles recover from a condition caused by alcohol abuse is under arrest for allegedly using the woman’s credit cards and checks. Kim Myers with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office says 28-year-old Justin Gray is accused of racking up charges without permission in excess of $64,000.


"The investigation revealed that Gray used three of the victim's credit cards and forged numerous checks between March 2016 to January 2017," said Myers.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi, who's been off the bench since late December, had reportedly solicited Gray as a caretaker sometime last year. Myers says Gray turned himself in Wednesday and bond was set at $56,000.

Gray is charged with three counts of unauthorized use of a credit card and 41 counts of forgery.
 
 
 

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Even after the state finally gains access to federal flood recovery dollars, the feud continues between Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards and Republican Congressman Garret Graves. Graves said recently that he would resign if the federal government was the hold up in dispersing the funds.

But Edwards says the state didn’t have access to the money until last week.

“Not only was it not true, it just wasn’t helpful either because he’s adding to the frustration and anxiety of homeowners needlessly and making it harder to go to Congress and get the additional assistance that we need,” Edwards said.

Edwards says he doesn’t want anyone to resign over the issue. He says he’s tried to make amends with the Baton Rouge Congressman, but a meeting between the two hasn’t happened yet.

“I offered to Garret in Washington a couple of weeks ago to sit down with him and show him everything that we’ve had and give him the timeline. It’s not something he was interested in doing,” Edwards said.

But during an appearance on Talk Louisiana Graves told Jim Engster it’s the governor’s fault the two haven’t sat down for a discussion.

“The thing that really got me frustrated is when the governor made comments saying that I refused to meet with him. When the reality is, if you look at the emails, we offered times to meet with him in the window that they offered up, and the governor rejected it,” Graves said.

The federal government opened a line of credit for the state on April 10, giving state officials access to the money. Graves is frustrated the state is still not ready to dispense the funds. But he says he’s willing to patch things up with Edwards, if the governor stops feeding lies to the public.

“I don’t have a desire to have a bad relationship with the governor or anyone else, but you certainly have to start telling the truth at some point if you’re going to have a decent relationship with anyone,” Graves said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Race relations are worsening in eyes of the public, according to a recent LSU survey. Dr. Michael Henderson with the LSU Public Policy Research Lab says the share of people who believe race relations are getting worse rose by almost 20 percent since 2014.

He says there’s a racial divide in opinions on whether racial equality exists today.

“Most black residents of the state don’t feel like we as a state or as a country are there yet, whereas a majority of whites do feel like we’ve gotten to that point,” Henderson said.

Henderson says views are equally split in regards to confidence in local police. The survey finds 75 percent of white residents trust police not to use excessive force. He says whites are also twice as likely to think police will treat blacks and whites equally.

“A majority of black residents of the state have just some or very little confidence in police to treat races equally and likewise not to use excessive force,” Henderson said.

While 86 percent of black residents believe the country should continue to make changes to move towards racial equality, Henderson says there’s not a tremendous sense of optimism those changes will be made.

“About half of African-Americans in our state believe not only that the changes to make sure we have equal rights for blacks and white have not been made, but also believe they will never be made,” Henderson said.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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Today marks 7 years since an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 people off the coast of Louisiana. Twenty-eight-year-old Gordon Jones was one of those. His father, Keith Jones, told Jim Engster on Talk Louisiana that dealing with the loss of his son isn’t any easier 7 years later.

“I surround myself with mementoes of Gordon. His picture’s on two of my credit cards. I’m constantly reminded of him,” Jones said.

The film, Deepwater Horizon, documents the tragic events of April 20, 2010. Jones says the producers met with him before filming to learn more about his son, like his love for golf. He says Gordon’s big scene is when he gives a fossil to Mark Wahlberg, but he was also honored in another small tribute.

“In a little transition scene, they take a shot of the rig from some distance, and you see various guys on the rig doing things. Right in the middle is a guy in a red jumpsuit practicing his golf swing,” Jones said.

Jones says unfortunately, this kind of tragedy could happen again. He says there were lots of protections against blowouts on the Deepwater Horizon, but greed caused BP officials to strip those protections away in an effort to save money.

“As long as guys that make these decisions at their computers in Houston get yearend bonuses, there will be motivation to make these bad decisions,” Jones said.

Gordon’s wife, Michelle, was due to have their child, Max, just weeks after Gordon was supposed to come home. Jones says Michelle has since remarried, and they live now in the same subdivision as Jones, so the family can stay together.

 
 
 
 

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