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Daily Arkansas news, politics and entertainment. Featuring the state's most trusted blog, dining guides and dining reviews, movie times and more.

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  • 01/20/18--06:15: Paywall progress
  • I've been in contact with a few dozen subscribers who've been having trouble with their new paywall accounts (mainly due to a slow email server not getting password reset messages out fast enough), but overall it seems adoption of the new system is going smoothly.

    Max has been the most difficult support ticket thus far so I'll take that as a win.

    If you notice any funkiness or can't sign in, don't hesitate to email me at jordan@arktimes.com.

    In other paywall news, you'll now see a banner in the header of the website which ominously displays a countdown of remaining reads. Non-subscribers will have ten free articles per month. One thing I think folks will like better about this new system: the meter only gets dinged on fresh articles. Say you're looking for a specific post which you find and read. Coming back to it later won't count against the meter.

    For those of you yet to subscribe, you can make one-time donations (non-deductible) to paypal@arktimes.com or head to my.arktimes.com to sign up for a monthly or yearly account. Email me an original poem featuring Tom Cotton and I'll hook you up with a discount code for a new subscription.


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  • 01/20/18--13:44: The Women's March open line

  • Here's an open line for you and some early shots from Women's March events around the country.

    Big crowds reported in both Little Rock and Fayetteville, in addition to the crowd on the National Mall in Washington.

    From Little Rock, video from our Facebook page and after that a shot from Twitter in behalf of Moms Demand Action (on sensible gun safety legislation)

    Hey, hey, ho, ho, the crowd chants, Donald Trump has got to go.


    And, below, photos from my friend Beth Coger marching in Fayetteville.



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    The State Police reports the shooting of a man in a Gravette pointing  a gun at Benton County officers.

    The release:

    A Benton County man was wounded this afternoon (Saturday, January 20, 2018) after he reportedly pointed a gun at local law enforcement officers who had responded to a disturbance call in Gravette at 407 2nd Avenue, Southeast.

    Benton County Sheriff’s Deputies, Gravette Police Officers, and Sulphur Springs Police Officers responded to the disturbance call. The initial call to Benton County authorities was received at 3:41 PM.

    As officers arrived, they encountered Eulas Linwood Hughes, III, age 40, outside the residence. Officers and deputies reported that Hughes was armed with a handgun and long-gun. As negotiations between law enforcement personnel and Hughes occurred in an attempt to have him drop the guns, Hughes began to attempt entry into the home. At that time he is said to have pointed one of the guns at officers who then fired wounding Hughes.

    Hughes was transported to an area hospital where he is reported to be in stable condition.

    The Benton County Sheriff’s Department and local authorities requested the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division to conduct an investigation into the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer.



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    In case you missed it, here's a recent Washington Post story about how Russian bigshots flocked to Washington for Donald Trump's inauguration a year in expectation of good things to flow from the man they'd worked  to elect.

    It's interesting in its own right. But it also notes the Russian players on hand included at least one with an Arkansas connection.

    The Washington Post identified at least half a dozen politically connected Russians who were in Washington on Inauguration Day — including some whose presence has not been previously reported. Among them was Viktor Vekselberg, a tycoon who is closely aligned with Putin’s government.

    Another was Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer whose June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. has become a focus of the Russia investigation. She attended a black-tie inaugural party hosted by the campaign committee of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), according to an associate who accompanied her.

    The bold-faced name is that of a woman who passed a document (supposed dirt on HIllary Clinton) toRepublican Rep. French Hill of Little Rock when he was on a 2016 trip to Russia with Rohrabacher, one Russia's best friends in Congress. Nothing to see here, Hill has indicated, though Robert Mueller is taking a look all the same.

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    Sen. Tom Cotton appeared on Meet the Press today and offered at least his third version of Donald Trump's profane talk about immigrants, this time confirming that he'd used foul language, just not "repeatedly."

    You may recalll that Cotton initially couldn't recall what was said in the meeting where Sen. Dick Durbin said, and others have confirmed, that Trump ranted about immigrants from "shithole" countries in Africa, Central America and Haiti. Later, Cotton said Durbin was lying. Now, he says, Trump indeed used profane words. But Cotton lied again, by insisting he had never said otherwise.

    Here's just one account to the contrary:

    Addressing the controversy Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Cotton said that his prior remarks ― when he said in a Sunday interview that he “did not hear derogatory comments about individuals or persons” from the president and that the president was mischaracterized ― were accurate.

    "I stand by every word I said,” Cotton said, echoing Durbin. “The difference is, I’m right.” Cotton declined, however, to elaborate on what language Trump specifically used in the meeting. The Arkansas Republican disputed the notion that the president said anything “vile” or “racist.” Cotton dodged questions about whether the president expressed a preference for immigrants of some nations over others. 

    Cotton sang a different tune today on national TV, as the NBC recording shows. I suspect he's divined that this is another Trump controversy that has all but blown over, plus he holds a derogatory view of immigrants, as the president does, and is happy to find himself guiding Trump on policy.

    Chuck Todd said Cotton had implied Durbin and Sen. Lindsey Graham were liars. Cotton responded thatTrump had not said bad words repeatedly and he tried to change the subject to differences on immigration policy. B

    But said Cotton. "I never denied there wasn't strong language in the room used by lots of people."

    This is one cold, slippery fish. He said, too, he'd vote in the interest of Arkansans. That's not true either. A majority here don't want to punish the Dreamers, polls show. Cotton \ pairs any consideration for them with a punitive approach to immigration generally, particularly one that encourages broken families.

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    Chintan Desai, the Helena school teacher mounting a challenge as a Democrat to Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, distributed a punchy news release yesterday on the government shutdown.

    It's slow this morning, so I thought I'd share his fiery release.

    Democrats refused to provide the votes needed to reopen the government until they strike a deal with President Trump protecting young immigrants from deportation, providing disaster relief and other domestic programs.

    Now Republicans are playing the blame game. Congressman Rick Crawford has dodged question after question with no real answers. Moreover, Republicans claim the Democrats care more about illegal immigrants than sick, American children. If Rick Crawford truly cared about sick, American children, he would not have allowed CHIP to expire four months ago.

    This government shutdown is another ploy in Trump’s delusion to show that he is unmoved by facts or reason. Republicans in the House and the Senate are playing into his hand and allowing immature power plays to dictate how they run our government to the point that it is no longer functioning.

    Chintan Desai, Democratic candidate for Arkansas’s First Congressional District, demands our representative, especially Congressman Crawford, reevaluate their priorities and put a stop to the nonsense that is keeping our government from serving its people.

    Paul Spencer, a 2nd District Democratic candidate, has also chimed in:

    “Governance isn’t gamesmanship. Our representatives have yet again failed the millions of children who receive healthcare through the Children's Health Insurance program, the nearly 800,000 young people enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the millions in need of disaster relief in Puerto Rico and the southeast, the 27 million Americans who receive their healthcare through community health clinics, the thousands of federal agency employees that are now furloughed, and the broader American public that they vowed to serve.

    When our government and representatives like Mr. French Hill willfully refuse to fund these vital programs and services, but have no issue passing massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, they make it clear where their priorities lie: with their donors, not with the people.

    Republicans and, unfortunately, Democrats alike allowed special interests to corrupt and distort our democracy, and now, we are all paying the price.”


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    Here's the latest from the Washington Post on the continuation of the government shutdown, which has a bipartisan group of senators attempting to work out a path to at least a temporary budget.

    Does anybody else see something slightly contradictory in the actions of Republicans, who've spent the last half a century talking about the evils of government and now crying crocodile tears because it's been shut down?

    It seems clearer than ever that GOP resistance (particularly by Donald Trump) to rational and humane treatment of immigrants is the core of the stalemate. Democrats are reluctant to accept Republicans' promise that they'll get around to the dreamers someday. Think Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football.

    How empty is what the GOP-run House has offered on immigration? Check out a conservative analysis.



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    The federal government was shut down and the flu bug was hitting hard all over the nation, but a little after 10 on Saturday night, it was “five o’clock somewhere” and all was right at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock thanks to a country music legend and a song that’s come to represent taking a little time to grab a drink and relieve some stress.

     

    Hey, maybe that’s what America needs right now.

     

    It certainly worked for the 10,849 fans who sang along to the rowdy leaving-work anthem “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” as scenes from the video featuring a tiki bar played on a big screen. Hall of Famer Alan Jackson, saving one of his best for late in the evening, can still thrill a crowd, and he seemed to enjoy doing so with that No. 1 smash hit from the summer of 2003.

     

    It was immediately preceded by two more crowd favorites, “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” and “Remember When,” on Jackson’s Arkansas stop on his aptly named "Honky Tonk Highway Tour." In fact, it was an outright honky-tonk Saturday night as he delivered plenty of traditional country music while also sharing memories and anecdotes from a career that since his signing with Arista in 1989 has produced 35 No. 1 hits. “It’s been a crazy bunch of years,” he said of his almost 30-year career.

     

    With a white cowboy hat and that big smile, Jackson had strolled onto the stage and launched into “Gone Country” over an hour earlier, the first of hit after country hit. Along the way, he did exactly as he’d promised the crowd early on when he said, “I’m just gonna play y’all some real country music.”

     

    Other highlights included his cover of Charly McClain’s hit “Who’s Cheatin’ Who” that he sent up the charts as well, the tribute to his father “Drive (For Daddy Gene),” the always respected salute to 9/11 “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” and the just-plain-fun "Chattahoochee."

     

    Lauren Alaina opened the show with “Georgia Peaches” and proceeded, as her Daddy tells her in “Three,” to “sing her heart out.” At the end of her seven-song set, she seemed to relish performing “What Ifs,” her duet with Kane Brown that hit No. 1, as well as “Road Less Traveled,” which also was a chart-topper for the former American Idol runner-up.  




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    Jan Morgan
    , the Republican challenger to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, dropped a surprising comment the other day during an appearance in Fouke, as reported by the Texarkana Gazette:

    Following her presentation, Morgan took questions from the audience, at which time Fouke resident Frank McFerrin asked her about a fight to remove Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's birthday from being a state-recognized holiday.

    "This is insanity, to try to do away with a state's heritage," McFerrin said.

    Morgan agreed and said she's been informed by the FBI that she is on ISIS' hit list.

    "The snowflakes in our society need to know that if they have a problem with heritage, it should not be a problem for them at all, " Morgan said. "When the people of the state have boots on the ground, it doesn't matter who has the money. Back in 2016, 72 percent of this state voted for Donald Trump, and that means we can take our state back again and give it to the people."

    ISIS apparently missed the Fouke event, where Morgan got a hug from a man dressed as the Boggy Creek monster.

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    Robb Ryerse, the Republican primary challenge to incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Womack, sends his thoughts on the shtudown, which Womack has blamed  on Democrats'  desire to help criminal aliens instead of American military, or words to that effect.


    Today, the shutdown of the federal government drags into a new workweek. This shutdown is a manufactured and unnecessary crisis. The United States Congress, under leadership from both parties, has not done their job and passed a budget in years, relying on omnibus spending bills and continuing resolutions to fund the government.

    The result of this Congressional inaction is that whenever it is time to vote on a continuing resolution, the whole country gets caught in a game of political chicken. This time, our elected officials are gambling with the futures of Dreamers and the healthcare of children. Regular people get hurt when our leaders don’t do their jobs.

    Furthermore, while some 800,000 government employees, including the brave men and women of the United States military, go without needed paychecks, our Congresspeople continue to get paid, despite the fact that they have not completed the most basic function of their job - to pass a budget.

    I call on Republican and Democratic leaders in Washington to pass a continuing resolution that includes funding of the CHIP program and restores and extends DACA. In addition, I call on our leaders to finally do their job and pass a budget so that the American people are not subjected once again to an unnecessary government shutdown.


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    Stu last night and others note that the new USS Little Rock has been delayed after its Buffalo, N.Y., launch on a maiden voyage to a home port in Florida.

    The problem: Ice. It built up faster than expected, blocking the St. Lawrence Seaway. The Little Rock is icebound in the Montreal harbor and may not move until spring, the Weather Channel reports.

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    Gregg Smith, 28, an inmate at the Varner Unit in Grady, died last night of apparent suicide, the Arkansas Department of Correction announced this morning.

    Smith was found "hanging from a homemade noose in the single-man cell he was assigned to," a release said. The State Police will investigate.

    Smith began serving a 32-year sentence from Randolph County for first-degree murder in January 2010.  He was convicted of killing his girlfriend's father.


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    Reporting —here from Politico— indicates a possible end to shutdown with reluctant Democrats coming around to a promise from Republican leader Mitch McConnell for a fair debate and vote on immigration issues.

    The deal puts a temporary spending plan in place through Feb. 8.

    The agreement will keep the federal government open until February 8, Schumer said, during which time the two parties will keep negotiating on a more permanent arrangement. If a deal is not struck by the February 8 deadline, Schumer said the Senate will immediately move on to consideration of legislation to protect Dreamers impacted by President Trump’s decision to end the DACA exec order.

    As part of the deal for a temporary fix, the Children’s Health Insurance Program is guaranteed funding for six years.

    The Senate voted 81-18 to end the filibuster. On to negotiations, which seem futile given stance of U.S. House and Donald Trump. But Democrats will have some high ground to fight from.




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    "Blaze," the new bio-pic-ish feature film about cult singer/songwriter and Arkansas native Blaze Foley, and its star, Little Rock native Ben Dickey, are earning critical praise after the new film debuted Sunday at Sundance. Dickey is a musician, well known by folks who were paying attention to the local scene during the late-Towncraft era, when he played in Shake Ray Turbine. Later, in Philadelphia, he formed a vintage-y rock band called Blood Feathers. More recently, he's been working solo to great effect. The movie, directed by Ethan Hawke, is his first acting work. But it sounds like he nailed it:

    From the Hollywood Reporter (which also has a video interview with Dickey, Hawke and the rest of the cast):

    A belated but heartfelt eulogy for a songwriter who didn't live long enough to drink himself to death like his most famous friend, Ethan Hawke's Blaze will be the first introduction most viewers have to Blaze Foley. A contemporary of Willie Nelson and the other "Outlaw" country artists, Foley was troublesome even by their standard — belligerent and (at least according to the film) frequently kicked out of clubs for performing drunk. Hawke goes in search of his tender side and finds it in a big way, thanks in large part to a charismatic lead performance by musician Ben Dickey, a first-timer who doesn't look it.

    From Variety:

    Benjamin Dickey’s performance is gnarly and true: His Blaze can be a charmer (especially when he’s beguiling truck drivers with his long joke about a coffee enema), but he can also be a sullen lout, and when we meet his father (Kris Kristofferson), who can’t do much but grin and ask for a cigarette from his institutional bed, we see why Blaze, in his way, is so broken. His dad was a drunk who hit him and threw away the family’s food money on bottles of Thunderbird. Maybe that’s why Blaze is so…unconnective. He’s damaged goods, though that links him up to any number of the haunted country and blues singers of the past. His songs ring out because he knows that pain.
    The vagaries of film distribution make it hard to predict the future of indie films with buzz, but you'd think that this would likely make its way to the Arkansas Cinema Society one of these days. Dickey is longtime pals with ACS executive director Kathryn Tucker.

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  • 01/22/18--12:21: Monday's open line

  • Here's the open line. Also today's news and comment.

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    The Little Rock police today said a misdemeanor third-degree battery warrant had been issued for the arrest of retired Officer Ralph Breshears, 55, for negligence in firing at a carjacker trying to flee after a reported shoplifting at Home Depot.

    KARK's Mitch McCoy reports that an affidavit for Breshears' arrest said Breshears was in no danger of being struck and the shooting put the carjacking victim in harm's way. At the time of the incident, police quoted Breashears as saying he feared for his life.

    Events began about 1:15 p.m. July 19 at Home Depot at 12610 Chenal Parkway. Officers were called to a reported shoplifting. Officers took the suspect, Rudy Avila, now 23, into custody and handcuffed him. He got free from officers and ran through the parking lot. In the process he freed one hand from the cuffs.

    Officers chased him to a nearby Chick-fil-A at 12500 W. Markham. Avila forced a restaurant customer out of her car and tried to drive away. Breshears fired at the car, wounding Avila. Another driver used his vehicle to block Avila's escape. Avila wasn't seriously wounded.

    An internal police investigation followed. The news release said the results were sent to the prosecuting attorney Oct. 20.  That office concluded Breshears, who retired in December after 26 years on the force, was negligent. Officers are attempting to locate him to serve the warrant. Correction: I wrote 16 years originally

    The affidavit recounts events and includes a description based on a business surveillance camera. It said that after Avila forced a woman driver out of the car in a drive-through lane that Breshears approached from the south "with a single arm outstretched holding what appears to be his service weapon. At this point, the female victim is out of the vehicle and Breshears can be seen on video standing out of the path of the vehicle. As the vehicle begins to move exiting the drive-through Breshears fired his service weapon striking Mr. Avila and placing the female victim in harm's way. At no point was Breshears in any danger of being run over by the vehicle."

    The affidavit also said Breshears had given a statement "inconsistent" with the surveillance video.


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    The public should get its first view of what the expanded Arkansas Arts Center will look like by the end of February, Director Todd Herman told the Arts Center's board of trustees today.

    The Arts Center was to have revealed conceptual drawings by Chicago architectural firm Studio Gang Oct. 16. It announced the reveal on slick oversized postcards of an image of Herman surrounded by children on the lobby steps mailed to members. But the Friday before the Monday event, Herman sent an email to members saying the event had been canceled and would be rescheduled.

    Today, Herman told the board that the construction budget will be increased — he declined to say how much — to build the sort of Arts Center the public wants and expects.

    Apparently, Studio Gang, working within the $46 million original budget, could make the major fixes the Arts Center needs, but the improvements would have been invisible — necessities like new HVAC, lighting, etc. — and the look of the Arts Center would have disappointed. So Herman and Arts Center Foundation members — the foundation is raising the private dollars — decided to work with Studio Main to see what more money could buy.

    So how is the fundraising going? "I'm cautiously optimistic," Herman told the board. "I feel good about it. ... It's a tremendous thing for this community.

    Herman said the Arts Center has also signed a contract with Studio Gang that sets out a timeline for work phases. It's in the concept phase now: Future phases (schematics, design development, documentation and building) add up to about 37 months, so the end product is three years out.

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    The Associated Press reports that Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson will seek another term as associate justice.

    She was defeated two years ago in a race for chief justice by Dan Kemp. The race was race marked by huge sums of dark money spent on both sides, with some particularly vicious advertising hitting Goodson.

    Goodson didn't speak to the AP. The confirmation came from her campaign consultant Keith Emis, a Republican consultant with ties to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

    The filing period for judicial candidates (apart from those submitting petitions) is from Feb. 22-March 1. The election is May 22, with a runoff in November if necessary.

    Goodson has been involved in one fashion or another in a court that has been roiled with controversy due to strange handling of the same-sex marriage case,  extraordinary intervention in death penalty matters and personal factions that have so bitterly set some justices against each other that they stopped having their usual weekly conferences in person, doing them by teleconference instead.

    Goodson is married to John Goodson, a lawyer whose firm has given heavily to Supreme Court candidates. He's made significant sums in class action lawsuits and is a member of the UA Board of Trustees. Expensive gifts she received from him before they were married following divorce of her first husband figured in some of the advertising against her in the Kemp race.

    She has no announced opposition. David Sterling, legal counsel for the Department of Human Services who was defeated in a Republican primary race for attorney general with Leslie Rutledge four years ago, is reportedly interested. That could be interesting in its own right. To give you some idea, Sterling played up his Federalist and Christian Legal Society ties in his race against Rutledge. (UPDATE: He confirmed to the Democrat-Gazette late Monday that he was running.)

    His job is the wrinkle. Consider this policy on state employee participation in the electoral process

    The Office of Personnel Management policy carries a variety of warnings about state employee participation in politics. It's legal, but it must be on personal time, for example. And much of the directive concerns partisan races. Judges run as non-partisan candidates (though it has become practice to send signals about affiliation, as the Emis association does). But the policy also says this:

    In addition to these prohibitions established by Arkansas law and by administrative policy, there are other specific limitations which apply to employees whose salaries are either partially or totally paid from federal funds. These rules are established by the Federal Hatch Act
    Most of the budget of DHS flows from federal Medicaid money.

    Goodson, as yet, has reported no fund-raising for this race.


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    There was once a United States senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton by name, and like Cassius, he had a lean and hungry look about him. But in less time than it takes grass to grow between mowings, the distinguished senator has become merely another henchman to the cabal running the White House.

    Oh, perhaps he thinks he is a “made man” now that he has adopted the playground language of the man he is in thrall to, and said of his colleague Lindsey Graham, that he had sat at the “kiddie table” during his 2016 GOP presidential run.

    A member of his own party. Lot of brain power went into that move.

    One can almost imagine him calling the White House and asking, “Did I do good? Did I do good?”

    Oh yes, it was a good thing. It was a real good thing . . .

    Enough has been written about the “shithole” conversation, but I’d just like to ask this:

    When did an open and frank discussion become an excuse for supposedly grown men to carry on like rabid Facebook posters?

    It’s a far cry from Lyndon Johnson’s, “Come now. let us reason together.”

    Senator Cotton, who was hurling himself in front of every camera he could find in the past week, no doubt fondly imagines he has a bright future in the new GOP.

    But Tom, you don’t really have a political future. Not any more.

    The moment you became an enabler, a henchman, a minion, well, you stopped being your own man. The moment you excused presidential gutter language simply because such gutter language suited your cause, you became just another guy who longs to be close to the Boss of Bosses.

    If I were you, I’d start wearing pin-striped suits, while carrying a violin case.

    Cuz you’re just a minion. And minions, no matter what type of business they are in, are disposable. After a while, Trump may have to be reminded of your name when you walk into a room.

    And what is truly sad is how enthusiastically you have thrown yourself into the role.

    No profile in courage here.

    ******

    Quote of the Day

    “My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilization, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can’t prove it, but you can’t disprove it either.” - Christopher Hitchens

    rsdrake@cox.net

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    KARK reports the fatal wounding of a man near 14th and Pine in North Little Rock about 8 p.m. Monday. He was apparently shot in a struggle over a gun during a robbery attempt.

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