Day 4: Deputies, FBI special agent McDermott testify

Published 6:23 pm Monday, June 1, 2015

Aaron Parrish took the witness stand to start day four of the trial between four federally indicted deputies and the U.S. government.

Parrish, the man who was allegedly beaten in the face by former Grady County Sheriff’s Office deputy Wiley Griffin, IV at Bikefest 2012, was cross-examined by defense attorney Kermit Dorough. Parrish reiterated he was sobering up after an afternoon of drinking at Bikefest, agreeing he had not ingested anything to effect his ability to be a rational person.

Parrish said he was drinking water from nightfall to midnight, the time of the altercation. Parrish said around that time he saw someone who had his stepfather, Mike Green, on the ground. Dorough asked if he noticed if the man was wearing a vest with “Sheriff” written on it, to which Parrish responded he didn’t see.

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Dorough questioned why Parrish never asked why someone had his stepfather pinned to the ground. Parrish said he could have asked at some point, but he, “wouldn’t have tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Excuse me, sir.’”

Parrish then explained around that time he felt himself being hit in the eye, allegedly by Griffin, IV’s flashlight. He said after the struggle with the officers, he remembered going to the Bikefest command center. He said he vaguely remembered being driven to the emergency room by his wife, Carla Parrish. He then confirmed visiting the eye doctor the following Monday, then proceeding to visit the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office to complain about his treatment.

Dorough asked if he filed a civil lawsuit against the defendants. Parrish said yes.

Dorough asked if Parrish had talked about filing a lawsuit with Chip Nix. Parrish said he didn’t recall.

Defense attorney Charlie Cox continued to cross-examine Parrish. He asked if Parrish spoke to Nix before visiting the DCSO that following Monday, to which Parrish said no.

DCSO deputy Nicholas Godwin took the stand next. Under direct examination by government prosecutor Risa Berkower, Godwin said he did not work Bikefest 2012, but spoke to defendant Christopher Kines the following week in the DCSO patrol room about the incident.

“Kines said, ‘Hey, man, did you hear about Bikefest? We got some mess out there,’” Godwin said.

Godwin continued to recount how Kines said a drunk man struck defendant Liz Croley and tried to grab for defendant Robert Wade Umbach’s gun.

“We had to beat his a– to restrain him,” Godwin recalled Kines stating. He also said Kines listed those present at the scene: Umbach, Griffin, IV, Croley, himself and, at the end of the altercation, Nix.

Kines did not state how Griffin, IV, was involved, Godwin said.

After indictments for the four individuals were released in July 2014, Godwin said Kines mentioned the incident again in the patrol room, stating Griffin, IV, was not involved in any way.

“That caught my attention,” Godwin said. “The first time he was there, the second time he wasn’t. I had a ‘what’s going on here’ moment.”

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Charlie Cox, Godwin reiterated how Kines claimed the indictments were a fabrication by the FBI at the time of their release.

Former DCSO deputy Charlie Emanuel, Jr. was next on the stand. Under direct examination by Berkower, Emanuel said officers were trained on use of force annually.

“What are the consequences of unreasonable force,” Berkower asked.

“You could be incarcerated yourself,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel said on the night of Sept. 15, 2012, he was working Bikefest and wearing brown cargo pants, a black shirt and a bullet-proof vest with “Sheriff” written on it in yellow.

Berkower asked if he had the power to arrest, to which Emanuel said yes.

Emanuel explained how he and Umbach were riding through the Bikefest grounds when he saw an alteration between Mark West and his wife. After tying to break up the fight, West shoved Emanuel. Emanuel promptly slung him to the ground and proceeded to handcuff him. After walking West to a nearby golf cart, he said he saw Parrish being walked up by deputies, face covered in blood. Emanuel said Parrish was visibly upset and cursing.

Later, Emanuel said he saw Parrish being released to his family. The following week, he wrote an incident report at the request of Croley.

Under cross-examination by Josh Bell, Emanuel said after he brought West to the golf cart, he looked back to see another altercation between Mark Green and Kines. Other deputies were around him, he said. Cuffs were placed on Green, and he and Kines brought him to the golf cart, Emanuel said.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Tina Hunt, Emanuel was asked to confirm if Parrish looked intoxicated.

“I couldn’t fairly say that,” Emanuel said. “What I saw 100 percent was just anger.”

Under cross-examination by Dorough, Emanuel reconfirmed the timeline of events from stepping up to West, to seeing an injured Parrish being escorted to the golf cart.

Berkower reexamined Emanuel, asking him if after the altercations any of the deputies appeared injured. Emanuel said no.

Griffin, IV’s ex-girlfriend Brooke Brown took the stand next. Brown stated to government prosecutor Christine Siscaretti that she and Griffin, IV began dating in August or September 2012 and broke up sometime in 2013. She said the last time she spoke to him was Christmas 2013.

Brown said she was at Bikefest 2012 during the night in question. She said she arrived at the grounds between 10 and 10:30 p.m. and went to the stage where music was being played. There she saw Griffin, IV wearing his uniform, including a belt with a gun and a flashlight, she said.

Later that evening, Brown said she was with friends when she heard a commotion coming from a few campers down. Not long after, Griffin, IV approached her, “excited and hyped up,” she said.

“He said he got into a fight and had to beat the s— out of somebody with a flashlight,” Brown testified. “He said not to say anything,”

“Why?” Siscaretti asked.

“Because he didn’t want to get in trouble,” Brown replied.

Brown had had a few drinks when she spoke to Griffin, IV after the incident, but was no “belligerent,” she said.

Some time after Bikefest, a friend called Brown and asked if Griffin, IV had beaten Parrish.

“I looked at Wiley, muted the phone, and asked what to say,” Brown said. “He said to say no.”

Brown proceeded to tell her friend Griffin, IV was not involved in the event.

During cross-examination, Cox brought up Brown’s history with drug abuse and asked if she was using oxycodone or soma that night, to which she stated that was incorrect.

“On the night in question, alcohol only,” Brown said.

Cox then asked Brown to confirm she was taken to the hospital because of an accidental overdose around the time of March 16-17, which led to Griffin, IV and her breaking up. Brown stated that was correct.

Grady County Sheriff’s Office investigator Steve Clark was brought to the stand next. Under examination by Berkower, Clark explained the GCSO uses state guidelines for use of force. In addition to incident reports, there is a separate report form for use of force, he said.

“Are officers always required to use this?” Berkower asked.

“Yes,” Clark replied.

“If an officer inures someone during an arrest, what is the policy?” Berkower asked.

“A use of force report, to avoid civil litigations later and allow follow-up investigations,” Clark said.

Berkower asked if Clark saw any incident reports from Griffin, IV following the events of Bikfest 2012. Clark said no. Berkower asked if he saw any use of force reports from Griffin, IV. Clark again said no.

Under cross-examination by Dorough, Clark confirmed Bikefest was outside of the normal bounds of the GCSO.

The last witness to testify was FBI agent Steve McDermott.

Under direct examination by Berkower, McDermott said the FBI normally deals with criminal cases, but also handles civil rights cases involving false reports and excessive force, both of which are charges in the original indictments to the four defendants.

McDermott said in August 2013, he was in the U.S. Attorney’s office when he crossed paths with Bainbridge Public Safety deputy director Frank Green. Green mentioned an individual (Parrish) wanted to speak with the FBI, McDermott said. After speaking with Parrish and opening a federal investigation, McDermott said he contacted Wendell Cofer, current deputy sheriff at the DCSO, and asked him to forward all incident reports pertaining to the case.

Berkower presented McDermott with an exhibit of four CDs that contained recordings of the interviews McDermott held with Croley, Kines and Umbach during investigations.

McDermott will continue his testimony at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning at the U.S. District Court in Albany.