Federal Jury hears testimony in case against Decatur deputies

Federal Jury hears testimony in case against Decatur deputies
Albany Federal Courthouse (Source: WALB)
Decatur Co. Sheriff Wiley Griffin
Decatur Co. Sheriff Wiley Griffin

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A jury was seated Tuesday, and today they heard opening statements, and the first witness was the wife of the man who is suing Decatur County, for what he says was excessive force in his 2012 arrest at the Bainbridge BikeFest.

Ronnie Aaron Parrish brought suit against former Grady County Deputy Wiley Griffin IV, the son of the Decatur County Sheriff, and former Decatur Co. Deputy Robert Umbach and deputies Elizabeth Croley and Christopher Kines are charged with obstructive behavior, accused of writing false reports or making misleading statements to cover up the case.

He also named Decatur County, and Sheriff Wiley Griffin in his case.

Parrish's wife, Carla, testified Wednesday morning, showing photographs of her husband, and describing his injuries.

In a 2014 interview with WALB, then Decatur County Attorney Brown Moseley, said the deputies did nothing wrong. "They were in uniform acting, they were on duty, and they had arrest powers," said Moseley.

County commissioners decided that the money to pay the deputies' legal fees would come out of the sheriff's office budget.

Also last year, Sheriff Wiley Griffin told WALB that he believes justice will prevail. "The federal indictment only hears one side of the story, and in court we get to tell our side of the story," he said. "Those officers will be exonerated and they will get back to doing what they do best, and that's protecting the citizens of Decatur County."

The Department of Justice put out this release in 2014-

The Department of Justice announced today that a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia returned indictments charging four law enforcement officers with civil rights violations and obstruction of justice in connection with an incident that occurred at Bainbridge BikeFest in 2012. A seven count indictment was returned charging former Grady County Sheriff's Deputy Wiley Griffin IV and Decatur County Sheriff's Office Captain Elizabeth Croley with violating an individual's civil rights. Additionally, Croley, Decatur County Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Kines and former Decatur County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Wade Umbach were charged with obstructive conduct relating to the investigation into the civil rights violation.

The indictment charges that Griffin used excessive force during the arrest of a civilian, A.P., at the Bainbridge BikeFest motorcycle event in Bainbridge, Georgia, on Sept. 15 to 16, 2012, thereby violating A.P.'s civil rights. As a result of the assault, A.P. sustained injuries to his face, including cuts, bleeding, swelling and bruising.

The indictment also charges Croley, Kines and Umbach with writing false reports to cover up the assault. In addition, Kines and Umbach were charged with making misleading statements to the FBI to obstruct the agency's investigation into the use of force against A.P.

In addition, the indictment charges Croley with violating A.P.'s constitutional right to a fair trial by intentionally withholding material exculpatory evidence from the District Attorney's office, and, in turn, from A.P.'s criminal defense attorney, during prosecution of A.P. arising from the arrest at BikeFest.

The civil rights charge against Griffin carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The civil rights charge against Croley carries a statutory maximum sentence of one year in prison. Additionally, Croley, Kines and Umbach face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for their falsification of reports, and Umbach and Kines face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for making misleading statements to obstruct justice.

This case is being investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Christine M. Siscaretti and Risa Berkower of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, with support from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Georgia.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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