McDermott continues testimony, eye doctor Aldridge takes stand on day five

Published 7:33 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Testimony in the federal trial of three Decatur County Sheriff’s office deputies and a former Grady County Sheriff’s office deputy accused of use of excessive force and an ensuing cover-up continued on Tuesday. The day’s deliberations were dominated by the investigation and events that occurred after Sept. 15, 2012, incident at BikeFest in Bainbridge.

FBI Special Agent Steve McDermott returned to the stand to resume direct examination by U.S. Attorney Risa Berkower that began on Monday afternoon.

Berkower began by questioning McDermott about the written statements and audio recorded interviews with defendants Liz Croley, Chris Kines and Wade Umbach.

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McDermott was asked about the initial process of gathering information and evidence to open the investigation into the allegations against the defendants.

After calling Decatur County Chief Deputy Wendell Cofer to ask for the case file of the incident, McDermott indicated that Croley emailed to him the incident report and the written statements from Kines and Umbach.

Contained in the report, composed by Croley Tuesday, Sept. 18, was a narrative of the events involving the alleged victim, Aaron Parrish. A copy of the incident report was shown on video screen in the courtroom.

“Deputy Wade Umbach, Bikefest security Macon Moore, and a citizen Norma McIntyre witnessed Ronnie Aaron Parrish strike Captain Croley in the chest. Deputies were attempting to place Ronnie Aaron Parrish under control when Parrish attempted to grab Deputy Umbach’s service weapon,” the report read.

Later, McDermott described a “banker’s box” full of materials pertinent to incident the provided to him by the Decatur County’s Sheriff’s Office in response to a Federal Grand Jury subpoena.

A hand-written witness statement from Norma McIntyre, dated Monday, Sept. 17, and signed by both McIntyre and Croley was among the documents McDermott found in the box.

According to McIntyre’s statement, “Mike Green started to fight and Deputy Kinds (sic) was on one side of him. Liz Croley was in front of Mike Green. Both were trying to restrain Mr. Green. He raised his arm and started to swing on the deputies. He ended up hitting Deputy Croley in the chest. She told him he was going to jail because he had hit her.”

McDermott indicated that McIntyre’s statement was also not in the case file provided to District Attorney Joe Mulholland, whose office prosecuted Parrish in a state criminal trial in February 2013.

Parrish’s attorney in the state trial was Autumn Webster. McDermott also indicated that McIntyre’s witness statement was not in the case file provided to Webster.

Berkower asked McDermott if the fourth defendant, Wiley Griffin, IV, accused of striking Parrish in the face with a flashlight,was included in the initial incident report.

“Defendant Griffin is not mentioned anywhere in the report,” answered McDermott.

Berkower also questioned McDermott about the written statements of and recorded interviews with Kines and Umbach. Excerpts of the recorded interviews were played in courtroom for the jury to hear.

Kines’ written statement did not mention Griffin, IV, and when asked by McDermott during the interview, Kines said that Griffin, IV, was not involved in the incident. On the recording, Kines was asked if Griffin, IV, hit Parrish. He answered, “No.”

Umbach’s written statement indicated that Griffin, IV, was present during the incident but only escorted Parrish, while handcuffed, back to the Sheriff’s Office command center on the BikeFest grounds.

On the recording, Umbach was asked if Griffin, IV, hit Parrish with a flashlight, and Umbach is heard saying, “actually he never laid hands on him until he picked him up. No one struck him with a flashlight.”

On cross-examination by defense attorney Tina Hunt, McDermott said that he conducted roughly 60-70 interviews during the course of the investigation, but the first was with Aaron Parrish in August of 2013.

During that first meeting, documented on an FBI “form 302,” Parrish told McDermott that he learned from Chip Nix, former Decatur County Sheriff’s deputy, that Griffin, IV, had struck him with the flashlight on the night in question.

Pressed by Hunt about Nix’s involvement in the case, McDermott said, “He provided me information about the case, no doubt about that.”

Defense attorney Kermit Dorough continued the cross-examination and pointed out that, according to McDermott’s Grand Jury testimony, that the case was instigated by a chance encounter between Parrish and Nix at a gas station in August 2013.

McDermott was also asked why Nix’s admission that he heard someone at the scene say, “stop trying to get my gun, boy” was not included in the form 302 report.

“Either he (Nix) didn’t tell you that during the interview or he told you and you failed to include it in the report, isn’t that right?” Dorough asked McDermott.

McDermott replied, “I can only say it is not reflected in the report.”

Bainbridge Ophthalmologist Dr. Aric Aldridge also took the stand Tuesday. He testified about seeing Parrish on Monday after the incident and described the jury Parrish’s injuries.

The trial will resume Wednesday more with more cross-examination of McDermott by the defense witnesses.