Trial begins with DCSO deputies, witnesses testify
Published 8:27 pm Friday, May 29, 2015
The trial involving the four indicted individuals involved in an alleged beating and subsequent cover up at BikeFest 2012 is well underway after three days of government witness testimony.
Decatur County Sheriff’s Office deputy Christopher Kines, captain Liz Croley, former deputy Robert Wade Umbach and former Grady County Sheriff’s Office deputy Wiley Griffin, IV, were present with their attorneys.
Opening statements were heard Wednesday morning in Albany, followed by testimonies from several government witnesses the rest of the week.
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Among those testifying were Aaron Parrish, the man allegedly beaten with a flashlight by Wiley, IV, at BikeFest 2012; his wife Carla Parrish and mother Jeanna West; and former Decatur County Sheriff’s Office chief investigator and current Bainbridge Public Safety investigator Chip Nix.
The witnesses began painting the prosecution’s picture of what happened before, during and after the night of Sept. 15 at BikeFest 2012.
Parrish and his mother testified West’s husband Mark was being taken into custody when Parrish tried to help him.
According to West and Parrish, deputies wrestled Parrish to the ground and hit him. Nix testified he responded to the altercation and arrived to see Umbach and Kines holding Parrish down when Griffin, IV, came up and grabbed Parrish by the forehead or hair and struck Parrish “at least five times” in the forehead and eye area. Parrish was handcuffed, taken to the DCSO’s tent and released to his mother and wife. At that time, Parrish said, he was not told that he was under arrest or investigation.
During Nix’s testimony, he said that a few days after the incident a meeting occurred between Croley and DCSO Chief Deputy Wendell Cofer about whether or not to include Griffin, IV, in the report.
Nix stated Griffin, IV’s father, current Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin, III, then walked into the office and said, “I would prefer him to be out.”
The Monday following the incident, Parrish said he went to DCSO to speak with Sheriff Griffin to determine why he had been beaten that Saturday night at BikeFest. Parrish was told the sheriff was not in and to come back later.
Parrish said he went back to the office on Tuesday or Wednesday of that week and spoke to Sheriff Griffin and to Chief Deputy Cofer. Later the same evening of the visit, a sheriff’s deputy called Parrish informing him that two felony warrants, Obstruction of Officer and Attempt to Remove Firearm from Law Enforcement, had been issued for his arrest.
The warrants were stamped as received by DCSO on Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 4:34 pm.
At the ensuing criminal trial in Decatur County Superior Court in February 2013, Parrish was found guilty of Obstruction of an Officer and not guilty of Removal of Weapon from Public Official. He was sentenced to three years probation and a $1,000 fine.
Parrish said that he filed a civil lawsuit concerning the matter and contacted FBI Agent Steve McDermott.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Kermit Dorough, Nix admitted he didn’t see and wasn’t aware of what events led to the altercation with Parrish and arrived on the scene after Parrish was already on the ground.
Another defense attorney, Tina Hunt, asked Nix why he didn’t report the incident if he felt that Parrish’s civil rights had been violated, and Nix said he was fearful of losing his job at the sheriff’s office if he spoke out.
In February 2012, Nix resigned from his position from DCSO, citing Cofer’s promotion to be the main reason.
According to Nix’s testimony, Sheriff Wiley Griffin decided to promote someone to run the daily operation of the sheriff’s office because Griffin desired to “sit back and reap the rewards of being sheriff.” The decision on who would take that position came down to Cofer or Nix.
“I told the sheriff (Wiley Griffin) that if he ever wanted me to leave the sheriff’s office, just put me back working under Wendell Cofer again because it’s just too hostile,” Nix said.
Later that year, Nix was contacted by Agent McDermott and the two met multiple times between August 2013 and January 2014 to discuss Nix’s role as a witness with government prosecutors. Nix testified before a Federal Grand Jury hearing the case Jan. 15, 2014.
Nix was also questioned about a May 5, 2015 phone call he recorded between himself and current District Attorney Joe Mulholland of the South Georgia Judicial District.
Nix said he received a text message from Mulholland saying the two needed to talk and, after calling Mulholland, Nix began recording soon after the conversation began.
“I started recording because I thought he was involved in the conspiracy and the cover-up and I don’t trust him,” Nix said while on the witness stand.
Nix indicated that the conversation soon turned into an argument and the call lasted roughly two hours.
One of the defense attorneys also referred to testimony Nix made the day prior describing a conversation with defendant Wiley Griffin IV on the night of the incident.
Nix previously said that Griffin, IV, told Nix the night of the incident on the BikeFest grounds, “Chip Nix ain’t s—, the Grady County SO is the A team and we’re going to f— somebody up tonight.” Cox pointed out that, according to the Grand Jury testimony transcripts, Nix didn’t include the portion of Griffin IV allegedly saying “we’re going to f— somebody up tonight” although the remaining gist of the statement was accurate.
The trial will resume at 8 a.m. Monday morning with Parrish returning to the stand under cross-examination by the defense attorney.