Day 3: Nix continues testimony, Parrish takes stand

Published 7:32 pm Friday, May 29, 2015

Day three of the federal trial began with former Decatur County Sheriff’s captain Chip Nix returning to the witness stand to resume cross-examination by defense attorney Tina Hunt.

Nix’s testimony began describing the events that led to his resignation from the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office in February 2013 and his subsequent involvement with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Hunt asked Nix about his relationship with Decatur County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy and Undersheriff Wendell Cofer. According to Nix, he and Cofer did not have a good working relationship and Cofer’s promotion to the number two position at the sheriff’s office led to his resignation

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“At some point in your career at the sheriff’s office, you worked under Wendell Cofer, correct?” Hunt asked Nix.

“Yes, I felt I did everything I knew to do to make the relationship work,” Nix replied. He added that the bad relationship with Cofer went “way back.”

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 which that person would be came down to either Cofer or Nix, according to Nix’s testimony.

“I told the sheriff 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.

“You did not get along with Wendell Cofer. In fact, you said that you hated him, is that right, Mr. Nix?” Hunt asked.

“Yes, I have said that, but I don’t hate him anymore,” answered Nix.

Cofer was ultimately promoted and Nix resigned from the sheriff’s office shortly after, on February 25, 2013.

In August 2013, Nix was contacted by FBI Agent Steve McDermott to discuss the case involving the Bikefest incident. According to Hunt, Nix and McDermott spoke again the next month, in September.

In January 2014, Nix met with government prosecutors Risa Berkower and Christine Siscaretti, along with McDermott, to discuss Nix’s role as a witness in the case.

Hunt asked Nix about the government granting him immunity from being indicted himself in this case in exchange for his testimony. Nix agreed that we was told by federal officials that as long as he told the truth, then he would maintain a status of a witness, but denied that the government ever promised immunity in the case.

On January 15, Nix testified before a Federal Grand Jury hearing the case.

Hunt then began a line of questioning concerning an audio-recorded telephone between Nix and current District Attorney Joe Mulholland of the South Georgia Judicial District. This conversation took place on May 5, 2015.

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.

Mulholland asked Nix, according to the transcript read by Hunt, why Nix didn’t provide a statement outlining what he observed on the night of the incident. Nix asked Mulholland, “Do you think I am lying to you?”

Mulholland replied, “Yes, I think you lied to me and I think Chip is always out for Chip. I’m just being honest with you, don’t get mad at me.”

Nix was later asked by defense attorney Charlie Cox why he didn’t provide Mulholland with a statement. Nix replied that he thought Mulholland was just fishing for discovery information for the defense of the four indicted individuals.

Cox 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, as he was sitting in a golf cart 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 alleged victim in this case, Aaron Parrish, was the second witness of the day to take the stand.

Under direct examination by government attorney Christine Siscaretti, Parrish described what happened in September 2012 at Bikefest.

Parrish said he arrived at the Bikefest grounds between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. in the afternoon and parked his truck near a friend’s camper. On the way to the event, he had purchased a 12-pack of beer.

Soon after arriving, he began helping his cousin travel around the grounds on a golf cart to sell raffle tickets for a quilt to be given away to an attendee. While riding around, Parrish said he began drinking the beer.

About the time the sun started going down, Parrish went to the campsite set up by Don Green. According to Parrish, Green told him that he had drank too much and he needed to slow down and eat something. Parrish indicated that the cooler containing the 12-pack of beer was empty.

Parrish said at that time, he began drinking water and ate two plates of chicken and he felt the effects of the alcohol consumption had waned. “I was totally sober, but I was functional,” Parrish said.

Around midnight, Parrish said he heard his mother, Jeanna West, screaming his name, telling him, “They’ve got Mark (West, Parrish’s step-father).”

Parrish said that after he heard his mother scream for him, he saw Mark West on the ground with someone on his back.

“I tried to get there as quick as I could and didn’t know what was going on,” Parrish said.

While making his way through the crowd, Parrish said he felt someone grab his right arm and then both arms. As Parrish tried to pull away, he said he felt someone jump on his back and then someone hit him in the forehead. Parrish said that blow stunned him, and after taking a few more steps, two more individuals came and pulled him down by the collar.

Siscaretti asked Parrish if any of the individuals were saying anything to Parrish.

“No, I didn’t hear anything,” Parrish replied.

While on the ground, Parrish said one of the individuals applied a chokehold and he felt was about to pass out. Then, according to Parrish’s testimony, he felt a stinging feeling in the side of his face.

“The guy let go of the headlock, but I kept getting hit with the flashlight,” Parrish said.

Asked how he knew he was being hit with a flashlight, Parrish said he could hear the rattling of the batteries in the case.

Parrish said his knees were on the ground and his hands were behind his back as he was being hit. After being lifted to his feet, the first people he saw once he opened his eyes were Chip Nix, a Decatur County deputy at the time of the incident, and Wendell Cofer, current Decatur County Chief Deputy and Undersheriff.

“I asked Chip, ‘What did I do?’ and can someone get the dirt out of my eye?” Parrish testified.

According to Parrish, Nix told him that he did not have dirt in his eye, but his face was bloody and cut.

Parrish testified that he didn’t remember much more of what happened until he was just about to the Memorial Hospital emergency room, driven there by his wife, Carla.

In response to Siscaretti’s questions, Parrish said that no law enforcement officers told him he was under arrest or under investigation before leaving for the hospital and that no law enforcement officers accompanied him to the emergency room.

On Monday, Sept. 17, Parrish went to the Decatur County Sheriff’s office to speak with Sheriff Wiley Griffin to determine why he had been beaten the previous Saturday night at Bikefest.

Parrish was informed that Sheriff Griffin was not available and to come back in a few days. According to Parrish’s testimony, he didn’t know at the time who had hit him with the flashlight.

Parrish said he went back to the Sheriff’s office on Tuesday or Wednesday of that week and spoke to Sheriff Griffin and to Chief Deputy Wendell Cofer. Later on 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 the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office 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.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Tina Hunt, Parrish was asked if this was the first time he had attended Bikefest. Parrish said he had been three or four other times.

She confirmed with Parrish that the 12-pack of beer that he brought with him was gone and that Don Green had told him to slow down drinking and eat something.

Hunt asked Parrish if he knew that security was present and that the sheriff’s office provided security. He replied he did know that security was present.

Hunt also pointed out that some deputies wore regular uniforms and some work black shirts and military-type pants. Hunt continued questioning Parrish, confirming with him that if a fight broke out at the event, that those deputies would hold people away while handing the situation.

After Parrish was convicted in Decatur County Superior Court, Hunt asked Parrish who instructed him to contact the FBI about the matter.

“No one suggested I call. I talked with my wife about it and decided to call,” Parrish said.

Hunt then asked Parrish if he had filed a civil lawsuit concerning the matter. Parrish confirmed that a civil suit had been filed, but couldn’t remember, when asked by Hunt, the name of the attorney who filed the suit on his behalf.

Defense attorney Kermit Dorough began questioning Parrish on cross-examination and asked how Parrish got FBI Agent Steve McDermott’s telephone number.

Parrish replied that Frank Green had supplied the telephone number.

“Do you know that Frank Green works with Chip Nix?” Dorough asked Parrish.

Green is currently the Assistant Public Safety Director for the City of Bainbridge and Nix is currently an investigator with Bainbridge Public Safety.

The trial will resume at 8 a.m. Monday morning with Parrish returning to the stand under cross-examination by the defense attorney.

Day 1 opening statements were presented and Day 2 saw former DCSO investigator Chip Nix take the stand.