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Lee County residents voiced their displeasure with a potential property tax hike Thursday evening.More >>
Lee County residents voiced their displeasure with a potential property tax hike Thursday evening. More >>
May 4, 2006
Americus -- Sumter County Superior Court Judge Rucker Smith said all along he's not guilty of domestic violence charges brought against him by his ex-girlfriend.
Thursday, a jury agreed with him.
The not guilty verdict came in day four of the trial.Just before court began its session at 9:45 this morning, Judge Rucker Smith greeted his supporters.
After the verdict, he did the same thing."I've learned many valuable lessons about relationships and I've grown through all this. I very much love my community and I apologize for any embarrassment I may have brought," Judge Smith says.
Tried in his own courtroom, Judge Smith found himself the target of a relationship that had soured. His attorneys opened closing summaries this morning trying to prove Smith's ex, Rachel Oliver, made up the story that he pushed, bruised, and choked her. They say it was a plot from the beginning.
Defense Attorneys presented an email as evidence - sent June 1st, 2005, a little over a month before she claimed Judge Smith abused her.
In it, she says:"You wasted a year of my life and caused me pain and torment. It's your turn. We're working hard to fail you. Remember, I'm watching and waiting for my opportunity."
"Her response was during the course of their relationship that he would not allow her to vent her frustrations in person so she vent her frustrations in email," says Prosecutor Solicitor General Barry Morgan.
Prosecutors tried to lure the jury to physical evidence. They say the bruises and red scars on her body are proof she was injured and unable to help herself.
It didn't work. After hours of deliberations, the six-person state court jury had made its decision. Rachel's father was outraged, and told us what he will tell his daughter, who wasn't in the courtroom for the verdict.
"I'm just going to say they turned him loose. That's exactly what I'm going to say," says Donald Oliver.
Judge Smith holds on to his innocence.
"I think its important we realize how important domestic violence is and for someone to falsely accuse someone out of anger or vengeance silence the many true victims," Smith says.
Defense Attorneys also told the jury, Oliver's call to 911 seemed made up. They say Oliver sounded frantic when she called emergency operators, but when she was put on hold, they say Oliver stopped her heavy breathing until the operators returned.