Pubdate: Wed, 04 Jun 2003
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2003 The Decatur Daily
Author:  Clyde L. Stancil


MOULTON - A copy of the June 12 issue of nationally circulated Rolling 
Stone magazine features a former Moulton High School student who faces 26 
years in prison for selling three ounces of marijuana.

But the magazine may be hard to find locally.

CVS Pharmacy in Moulton has received a lot of requests for the magazine, 
but a clerk there said the store has not received the June 12 issue, and 
when it does, there will be only two or three copies.

Wal-Mart in Moulton doesn't carry Rolling Stone, a magazine that publishes 
1.35 million copies twice a month. Books-A-Million in Decatur has sold the 
four or five copies it usually carries.

"I wondered what was in it," Books-A-Million manager Brenda Bevington said 
Tuesday. "We've been getting four or five requests a day for it since last 

Moulton residents who do find the magazine may not like the description of 
their town. The article writer, Peter Wilkinson, describes Moulton as a 
"bump-in-the-road village." Rural North Alabama doesn't fare much better. 
It is described as a place of poverty and cotton fields and as a home to 
bootleggers. It's this combination, and the deep Bible Belt location, that 
can get you over a quarter of a century in prison for selling to an 
undercover narcotics officer, the article states.

The article features the saga of Webster Alexander, a former Lawrence 
County High School student who received a 26-year prison sentence for 
multiple counts of selling marijuana to a drug agent posing as a student, 
and points out that none of the transactions took place at school.

Marijuana, according to the article, is one of the state's largest cash 
crops, right up there with cotton, peanuts and hay.

"Weed comes cheap in Alabama: about $80 for an ounce of acceptable, but not 
remarkable, homegrown," the article says.

But the focus of the story is on Alabama's tough sentencing laws for 
marijuana trafficking, particularly sales within a school zone or housing 
project. According to the article, many states have such laws but most stop 
the zone at 1,000 feet. Alabama's zone extends three miles. Alexander lived 
within the three-mile zone and that got him most of his time.

In spite of his plight, Alexander is lucky because he was looking at a 
90-year sentence before he worked a deal with the prosecutor, the magazine 

The article doesn't mention it, but any one selling within the Lawrence 
County towns of Courtland, North Courtland and Town Creek could easily fall 
within the three-mile limit.

Included in the two-page article are photographs of Lawrence County Circuit 
Judge Philip Reich, Lawrence County District Attorney Jim Osborn and 
Lawrence County High School Principal Ricky Nichols, whom the article 
describes as a "hard-charger" who relished settling discipline problems 
"with righteous zeal."

Nichols is on military leave serving in the Persian Gulf. A caption under 
his photograph says he called in the narcs despite a lack of proof that 
there was widespread drug use or dealing at the school. Osborn declined to 
comment on the article and Reich could not be reached for comment.

Alexander has a June 11 probation hearing with Reich.

The Rolling Stone article upset Moulton Mayor Barbara Coffey and City Clerk 
Shirley Gilley.

"I just think it's sad that this has happened here, but I think its even 
sadder that people would make those slurring remarks toward our community," 
Coffey said.

Gilley said drug-dealing incidents are usually isolated events in Lawrence 
County schools. The judicial system's reaction is proof that they are 
committed to stopping them before they get out of hand, as they often do in 
larger areas.

"We feel safer that they take care of our incidents," she said. "He 
(Alexander) can thank his own self. Nobody else caused him to do what he 
did. Until the community sticks together, that's the only thing that is 
going to possibly help."

Gilley said the description of Moulton and rural North Alabama was "tacky."

"Just because we're from a small town it doesn't mean we're backwards," she 
said. "We have a lot of intelligent people who live and work here. They've 
chosen to do that because of the community itself."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens