Two of the men granted new trials this fall, seven years after their unfair convictions in the city's largest racketeering case, pleaded guilty Friday to racketeering charges.
The plea negotiation freed Jarman L. Harold and Charles D. Winter Jr. from custody.
In exchange for pleading guilty and agreeing to testify against their former co-defendants if it ever becomes necessary, the prosecutor recommended a sentence of seven years incarceration followed by 10 years probation. Because they get credit for time served, they were released Friday.
Judge Michael N. Annis, who inherited the case from a former judge, said he would accept the plea negotiation because neither Mr. Harold nor Mr. Winter were involved in the slayings associated with the racketeering case.
Mr. Harold and Mr. Winter were accused of taking part in a series of crimes that led to the murder of two men in July 1997. The remains of Ryan J. Singh and Manuel B. Arroyo were found in the trunk of a burning car in Warren County.
There is no evidence that either Mr. Harold or Mr. Winter took part in the killings, District Attorney Danny Craig said.
Neither of the two were involved in another part of the massive racketeering case -- the robbery and abduction of Sam's Club Manager David Holt in June 1998. Mr. Holt's remains were found in the trunk of his burning car just across the Savannah River in Aiken County.
No one has ever been prosecuted for the homicides. The crimes that led to the slayings -- the assaults and abductions -- took place in Augusta. The racketeering case was tried in Richmond County Superior Court in the fall of 2001.
In October, former Judge Neal W. Dickert granted new trials for Mr. Harold and Mr. Winter.
Defense attorneys William Sussman and Jeanie Hyatt represented the men on appeal. The defendants were without legal representation for several years until case assignment was instituted in Richmond County Superior Court. Judge Dickert, who inherited the case from a retired judge, immediately drafted attorneys to represent indigent defendants entitled to appeals.
Although the judge granted the motions for new trials for Mr. Winters and Mr. Harold, he denied the motions filed by co-defendants -- Carlton W. Coleman Jr., Ronald Coleman Jr., Kendric Dudley and Ronnie B. Overton Jr. They are appealing to the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or email@example.com.