Closing arguments made, verdict on deputies in hands of jury

Published 8:40 pm Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Both of the government prosecutors and four defense attorneys stood in front of the jury Monday and Tuesday to give their closing arguments in the trial involving three Decatur County Sheriff’s Office deputies and a former Grady County Sheriff’s Office deputy.

“I just beat the s— out of somebody with a flashlight, don’t tell anybody,” government prosecutor Christine Siscaretti opened with Monday, quoting government witness and defendant Wiley Griffin, IV’s, ex-girlfriend Brooke Brown.

Brown testified former GCSO deputy Griffin, IV, said those words to her after an altercation with Aaron Parish at Bikefest 2012. A subsequent cover-up of the events and lying to the FBI are also part of the allegations the government has brought down on the four indicted individuals.

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“Now is the time to hold each defendant accountable for the choices they have made,” Siscaretti said.

Siscaretti continued to argue the evidence proved Griffin, IV, was under the color of law and Parrish clearly suffered injuries the night of Sept. 15-16, 2012, at Bikefest. Even the long, narrow shape of Parrish’s injury and bruises, she said, is proof he was beaten with a flashlight.

Siscaretti also argued defendant and DCSO captain Liz Croley’s actions fed into Parrish’s demise during his criminal trial when she intentionally left out a crucial witness statement from Bikefest 2012 security worker Norma McIntyre. The statement reads that someone other than Parrish committed the crime he was ultimately convicted of: punching Croley.

“It was no mistake those statements didn’t make it into the file,” Siscaretti said. “Even the District Attorney (Joe Mulholland) had to admit Croley never mentioned the statement.”

Siscaretti argued deputy Christopher Kines and former deputy Robert Wade Umbach made false statements to FBI special agent Steve McDermott during interviews about the night in question. Clips of recordings were played of Kines and Umbach claiming they would have seen Griffin, IV, hit Parrish, but did not.

Siscaretti ultimately asked the jury to make their decision based on the evidence, law and common sense.

“The defendants are guilty as charged,” she said.

Griffin, IV’s, attorney, Charlie Cox, stepped in front of the jury next to argue his client’s innocence.

Cox asked how long an officer has to wait to make a move when someone yells, “Don’t go for my gun.”

Griffin, IV, needed to act immediately, Cox said, and he was within the rights of a law enforcement officer to subdue Parrish however he could to protect himself and those around him.

“As a juror, you can’t make decisions based on assumptions,” Cox said. “You can’t fill in the gaps when the government has failed to prove its case.”
Cox questioned why former DCSO investigator and current Bainbridge Public Safety investigator Chip Nix’s testimony differed from the Grand Jury and this trial, claiming he “flat made it up.”

“When a fact depends on the credibility of Chip Nix, you cannot rely on it,” Cox said. “Nix stood there, watched someone use unreasonable force and did nothing. It seems unbelievable. It is unbelievable. He didn’t report this to anybody who had the authority to do something about it.”

Cox also warned the jury of considering the testimony of Brown, who admitted to drug abuse during the time of Bikefest 2012, but testified she was only under the influence of alcohol on the night in question.

“You hear the words of an angry ex-girlfriend who was on drugs at the time,” Cox said.

Cox finished by saying the only proper verdict for Griffin, IV, was not simply “innocent,” but “not guilty.”

Tuesday morning, defense attorney Josh Bell gave closing arguments for his client, Croley.

Bell argued the witness statement of McIntyre is wrong, proving why her sentence stating another man hit Croley differs from Croley’s own incident report on the altercation that says Parrish hit her.

“Norma McIntyre’s statement would have been accessible to Joe Mulholland if he had actually read the case file before trial,” Bell said.

Bell admitted that Croley may not have performed her job as well as she should have when handling McIntyre’s witness statement, but her actions are not a federal crime.

“This was not Liz Croley’s finest hour as an investigator, but this is something to be answered in a performance review, not in a federal courthouse,” Bell said. “No one told Liz Croley that Wiley Griffin, IV, was present. Would her narrative be different today? Yes. Nobody told her, she didn’t see him and they accuse her of a federal crime by leaving his name out.”

Bell closed by claiming the government has not come close to meeting the burden of proof, that is Croley intentionally wrote a false report and deprived Parrish of his rights to a fair criminal trial.

Umbach’s attorney, Tina Hunt, stood in front of the jury next and stated this case was built on the slimy words of Nix.

“He hates (DCSO deputy sheriff) Wendell Cofer because he thought he should get that job,” Hunt said. “He hates Liz Croley because she ended their affair. Chip Nix hates women, he sees them as tools to be used. He has an utter and complete disrespect for women.”

Hunt argued Umbach is more truthful than Nix.

“My client is the complete opposite of Chip Nix,” Hunt said. “Umbach’s reputation for truthfulness is worth more than silver and gold.”

Defense attorney Kermit Dorough, representing Kines, said out of the four witnesses who testified to seeing what happened to Parrish on the night in question, only Nix said Griffin, IV, hit Parrish with a flashlight.

“Chip Nix was embittered by his decision to resign a job that paid twice his current salary,” Dorough said. “He fabricated his account and orchestrated the investigation and the indictment.”

Dorough also claimed the officers used less force than they were authorized to use, and their actions did not fall under “excessive force.”

“Government’s case is a curtain of deceit,” Dorough said. “You (the jurors) should be livid that you didn’t hear from Mike Green or Mark West during this trial.”

Government persecutor Risa Berkower had the final word for the jury, arguing that the defense needs the jurors to disbelieve Nix.

“The defense wants you (the jurors) to believe that all this was a mistake,” Berkower said. “But when all the mistakes line up perfectly, when mistakes line up that way, it becomes a cover-up.”

Berkower said the omission of McIntyre’s statement from the case file destined for the desk of Mulholland is a key element that led to Parrish’s wrongful punishment: a $1,000 fine and three years of probation.

“The District Attorney came in here and acted like it was no big deal that exculpatory evidence was omitted from the state trial,” Berkower said. “Thank God the FBI came in and thank God Chip Nix had the courage to say what he saw.”

The jury deliberated for the remainder of the afternoon. Court will return to session tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.