Two former parole officers accused of abusing people and lying to investigators have decided to forego a jury and let a judge determine their fate.
Joshua Stephens, 30, and Terrell Yelverton, 38, announced today they want a bench trial, a move not opposed by Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Schwartz, who is prosecuting the case.
Mr. Stephens and Mr. Yelverton have pleaded not guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to two counts of false imprisonment and two counts of making false statements.
In a motion argued today, Mr. Stephens attorney contended that because Mr. Stephens is a part-time deputy sheriff in Emmanuel County, his actions in two incidents were justified.
In the first case, Timothy Grant was allegedly jerked off a bicycle and threatened with a Taser after he make an obscene gesture at the parole officers on Dec. 2, 2005.
The prosecution contends that as parole officers, Mr. Stephens and Mr. Yelverton had no right to detain any person unless he is on parole. Mr. Grant was not.
Defense attorney Richard Allen countered that as a deputy sheriff, Mr. Stephens was within his rights to detain Mr. Grant for disorderly conduct.
In the second incident, the officers mistakenly chased down Troy Curry the night of Nov. 9, 2004. Mr. Allen contended that since the officers were looking for another man who looked like Mr. Curry, the detention was justified and Mr. Curry was released when properly identified.
Ms. Schwartz said that the facts are in great dispute. In the states version of the facts, the officers not only chased down Mr. Curry but Mr. Yelverton pulled a gun on him and Mr. Stephens kicked him in the head.
In addition, Ms. Schwartz argued that a deputy sheriff does not have arrest rights outside his home county.
Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. took the motion under advisement. The judge said he will try to find time for a bench trial in July. The attorneys anticipated a two- to three-day trial.
Mr. Stephens was hired as a parole officer in August 2001. He was fired in March 2006.
Mr. Yelverton, hired in October 1993, resigned in lieu of firing in March 2006, The Augusta Chronicle previously reported.