Thursday, December 07, 2006
Henry County sergeant's trial scheduled for Feb.
The officer's trial will be separate from and earlier than the trials of the other 19 defendants.
A sergeant accused by prosecutors of treating the Henry County Sheriff's Department evidence room "much akin to a Wal-Mart" will go to trial earlier than his co-defendants.
Vice Sgt. Patrick David Martin, who is on administrative leave, was granted permission Wednesday to defend himself separately from the 19 others charged in a corruption case involving the former sheriff and about a dozen deputies.
Attorney Art Strickland wrote in a brief that most of the defendants in the case are charged with crimes so serious that they would "cast a pall of pervasive corruption" against Martin, who only faces three gun charges.
Strickland also told U.S. District Judge James Turk that Martin has a wife and three children and wants to get the trial over with so he can return to work at the sheriff's department.
"He can't consider going back there until these charges are resolved, if they are resolved favorably on his behalf," Strickland said.
Martin and the others were indicted in late October on charges that include racketeering, drug distribution, money laundering and obstruction of justice. Frank Cassell, who stepped down as sheriff shortly after the indictments, is accused of ignoring the activity.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bondurant says the government will show that Martin took everything from guns to a lawn mower from the evidence room-- behavior that was also commonplace for other deputies at the sheriff's office.
"They needed a gun, they took a gun; they needed a lawn mower, they took a lawn mower; they needed $500 to pay a bill, they took it, in one case," Bondurant told Turk on Wednesday.
Martin should be tried with the other defendants because they were all part of a common scheme, Bondurant argued.
Once, while Martin was executing a search warrant with federal agents, the agents found a semiautomatic rifle that still bore a Henry County evidence sticker with Martin's name, the prosecutor said.
Although Martin is not criminally charged with taking anything besides firearms, Bondurant also claimed a burglary victim once came looking for his stolen lawn mower and found Martin using it to mow his grass.
But Strickland told the judge that Martin never took any guns needed for evidence in pending cases. Instead, he had some abandoned guns in a cabinet at work and when he was told to get rid of them, he took them home.
The lawn mower had been sitting in a lot outside for some time and no longer worked, so Martin took it home to get it running again and then returned it to be auctioned off, Strickland said.
Martin's case is now scheduled for trial in late February. The remaining defendants may not go to trial until next summer or later, officials said.
At least four other defendants have filed motions to separate their case, as well. Those arguments are not scheduled to be heard until late January or early February.