Blakely-- A City Councilmen is on trial this week for theft. Al Hutchins, Jr. is charged with of stealing $11,000 worth insurance money from the city. But his attorney says the charges are bogus and stem from an earlier controversy in the small town.
Attorney's spent the morning selecting a jury that will decide if Blakely Councilman Al Hutchins is guilty of theft by deception. The state will present evidence that Al Hutchins falsified documents, stealing more than $11,000 dollars in insurance coverage. His attorney says the charges are simply trumped up.
Leisa Terry says, "I think what we might find out at the end of this is that he is being made an example of that if you stand up and challenge this government you are going to pay for it." Paying for this-- in July, protesters marched through Blakely, upset that Early County Sheriff Jimmie Murkerson was not indicted by a grand jury in June on charges he wrongly used inmate labor for personal use.
Supporters of Hutchins claim his outspoken opposition to the Sheriff is the reason behind these charges. Activist Cynthia Edwards says, "Because the Sheriff Murkerson issue meant that the black community started challenging the political structure here and what they are doing now is saying you all don't challenge me and they picked someone who they thought would be weak to set an example."
But, the state has documentary evidence that Hutchins signed, accepting health benefits the state says he was not entitled too. His attorney says that is bogus, "This was authorized, it's not as if he went out and got the paperwork on his own, it was authorized by the officials within the city government." Those same officials will be on the stand, testifying in this high profile case. The state is expected to call witnesses Wednesday.
Several high profile people are on the witness list, including Blakely Mayor A. J. Gentry. Gentry was under investigation by a grand jury earlier this year along with the Early County Sheriff. Neither was indicted.