Sunday, December 7, 2008

     

 

 

  Teen cleared
Terroristic threat charges dropped against Chris Underhill
By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff

ATHENS–Chris Underhill’s name has been cleared.
Underhill, the then-Eustace High School senior who missed graduation ceremonies in May after being jailed for allegedly making terroristic threats, has been No Billed by the Henderson County Grand Jury.
“No Bill” means the grand jury found there wasn’t enough evidence to hold a trial, and all charges against Underhill were dropped. The grand jury handed up its decision the week before Thanksgiving.
Underhill was arrested one week before graduation ceremonies in May after some students told school and law enforcement officials that Underhill had a “hit list” and was making threatening comments. He said he spent nearly three months in jail, not only missing graduation but also his 19th birthday.
Now that he is free and the cloud of prosecution that was hanging over his head is gone, Underhill said he feels vindicated.
Underhill’s attorney, Brian Schmidt, said “I’m happy for him. He’s a good kid, and I think he got a bum deal.”
Schmidt said he didn’t believe there was ever any legitimate evidence against his client. He said there was no consistency to the statements against him and there was never any hit list found.
“Not only was there no evidence, but I don’t believe it ever happened,” he said.
Schmidt said he thought the event may have been fueled by “rumors and hysteria,” which is not surprising, considering the tragedies which have rocked schools around the country in recent years.
Even Underhill himself said he does not blame school officials for what happened.
“I would have done the same thing if I was in (their) place,” he said.
While Underhill said he understands that school officials did what they had to, the students who gave statements about him are a different matter.
“There are three things my family hates: Liars, cheaters and thieves,” he said. “They stole my graduation from me … they lied about me giving threats and they cheated their way into getting rid of me.”
Underhill said he didn’t really fit in at Eustace. In a county where Wranglers and Justin boots are the rule, Underhill was Emo. For readers over 30, Emo (short for emotional) is a style which includes long dark hair hanging across the eyes, dark clothes and piercings.
He is also an artist who likes to draw things such as the Wraith of Shangri-La, a mythical characterization of the Grim Reaper. Being Emo is popular in some places around the country, but is not quite as hot in Henderson County.
Underhill’s grandfather, Dirk Braune, has been a vocal supporter of his grandson.
“We were not surprised (at the grand jury result). Very happy, but not surprised,” Braune wrote in an e-mail interview. “We felt this was all a set-up caused by students.”
“They had no evidence when they started, and they had none when he was No-Billed,” he added.
Both Underhill and his grandfather said they would like to see the students who filed statements prosecuted.
Schmidt, however, said that was unlikely. He said that sort of prosecution was rare, and said that the grand jury ruling “doesn’t expose (those students) to any more liability.”
Schmidt did praise the District Attorney’s office for not getting caught up in the emotion and instead taking its time with the case.
“They didn’t get caught up in the hysteria and just try and indict (quickly),” he said. “They took their time.”
Calls to the District Attorney’s office were not returned as of presstime Wednesday.
With what could be considered the worst graduation of the year behind him, Underhill is moving on. He is a member of the Texas Army National Guard and is waiting for his chance to serve in Iraq.
He is also planning his education at the Art Institute of Dallas and the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Las Vegas.

Malakoff mayor calls it quits
By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff

MALAKOFF–In a surprise move, Pat Isaacson has decided to step down as mayor of Malakoff.
Isaacson handed in her resignation letter the week before Thanksgiving, following a special called meeting of the city council.
That meeting addressed the city’s ability to issue temporary alcohol sales permits, and discussed the possibility of joining forces with Don McNamara’s Long Cove development for water and sewer service.
Neither issue was related to the resignation, Isaacson said.
“I have been the mayor of Malakoff since 1997, and it is time for some new blood in that position,” she said in a written statement to The Malakoff News. “I am hoping that a good citizen will take my place and work hand in hand with the City Council and the city administrator.”
Isaacson pointed to the city’s improved infrastructure – and particularly the new water plant – as the high points of her time in office.
“During my administration, all water and sewer lines have been replaced, and up until the last few years, the streets were in fantastic shape,” she said.
“I have learned a lot as the mayor of Malakoff, some good, some bad,” she added. “I now know more about sewer and water than I ever wanted to know, but all of it has been an excellent learning tool.”
Although she is leaving city hall, Isaacson said she would remain active in the city.
“I will continue to support Malakoff as the secretary-treasurer of the Malakoff Chamber of Commerce and as an active member of the Malakoff Historical Society,” she said. “Thank you to each and every citizen for allowing me to serve the City of Malakoff for all these years.”
City Administrator Ann Barker said Isaacson’s resignation will be on the agenda for next week’s regular meeting of the City Council. That is scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m., although Barker said if the council cannot form a quorum, the meeting could be held Tuesday.
Barker said the council has two options for dealing with the vacant mayor’s seat:
• leave the seat vacant until the May election, with Mayor Pro-tem Tim Trimble taking over the mayoral duties; or,
• appoint someone to fill the mayor’s seat between now and the election.

Remember Pearl Harbor
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

CEDAR CREEK LAKE– At noon Sunday (today), a solemn ceremony will begin with a moment of silence for the 67th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, at the Arizona Memorial in Hawaii (7:55 a.m. Hawaii time).
The Japanese attack resulted in the United States entering World War II the following day, with FDR’s historic declaration of war that included those familiar words: “a day that will live in infamy.”
The attack occurred at 7:55 a.m. that Sunday morning. After two bombing runs set an hour apart, 10 ships in the United States Pacific Fleet were sent to the bottom, and 11 more were heavily damaged. Half the fleet, 185 vessels, were based at Pearl Harbor when the attack occurred.
Some 2,395 Americans lost their lives that morning. (The Japanese lost 64.)
For the survivors, it was a moment that haunted them for the rest of their lives.
The only other attack so memorialized was the attack on the Alamo. And not until the attack on the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York Sept. 11, 2001, had there ever been such a horrendous attack on Americans by a foreign power.
A visit to the USS Arizona Memorial is a solemn and sobering experience, even for those who were not alive when the attack occurred.
About 1.5 million visitors arrive at the memorial annually to literally stand over a gravesite where 1,177 men lost their lives.
Salvage operations removed some 280 bodies in the days following the attack, leaving 900 bodies entombed in its watery depths.
The alabaster memorial straddles the once-proud USS Arizona midship and contains the names of all those who lost their lives aboard ship that day, including 69 from the state of Texas, some of them brothers.
In fact, there were 37 sets of brothers assigned to the ship on Dec. 7.
A special guest at this year’s memorial service includes members of Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s family.
Doolittle led a flight of bombers off the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in a sneak attack against mainland Japan. It was America’s first strike against Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Doolittle’s Raid is credited with changing the course of World War II, and served as a huge moral boost for the nation.
Songwriters of the day also added their voice to martial Americans to war, including the song “Remember Pearl Harbor” by Don Reid and Sammy Kaye.
Its words are good to recall on this day of remembrance.
“History – in every century,
records an act that lives forevermore.
“We’ll recall – as in to line we fall, the thing that happened on Hawaii’s shore.
“Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor – As we go to meet the foe – Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor – As we did the Alamo.
“We will always remember – How they died for liberty,
Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor and go on to victory.”


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