Merry, Fennoy released from jail

Community activist Woody Merry and Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority member William Fennoy were released from jail Friday afternoon on $5,000 bonds after being taken into custody on simple battery warrants earlier in the day.

Richmond County Civil and Magistrate Court Judge Scott Allen found probable cause to issue warrants for both after hearing evidence from six witnesses about a public fight that occurred before a coliseum authority meeting last month.

Mr. Merry and Mr. Fennoy sought warrants against each other after the scuffle, which ended with Mr. Merry on the floor and Mr. Fennoy being restrained.

Before ruling, Judge Allen said he had hoped the two would see how silly grown men looked getting into a fight.

"But I suppose I was too optimistic in wishing the parties would see how foolish this appeared, and they would shake hands and go home," he said.

He told them he hoped that before a trial occurs in Richmond County State Court, Mr. Merry and Mr. Fennoy will stop and think whether they really want to take the matter further.

"And I hope the answer to both parties is, 'No, we do not. We have embarrassed ourselves. We have embarrassed this community long enough,' " the judge said.

Mr. Merry's attorney, Chris Hudson, said before Friday's hearing that his client was willing to settle, but Mr. Fennoy's attorney, Evita Pascall, said her client wished to proceed.

Mr. Merry's former attorney, Robert Mullins, testified and said he saw Mr. Fennoy make contact first by bumping Mr. Merry's chest. He said he did not see Mr. Merry hit Mr. Fennoy.

"I didn't see the punch, but I did see Mr. Merry on the floor," he said. "Then Mr. (Harry) Moore intervened."

The authority's interim general manager, Linda Roberts, said she was standing 10 feet away and saw the whole thing, and she disputed Mr. Mullins' statement that Mr. Fennoy made contact first.

"He pushed Mr. Fennoy with both hands," she said of Mr. Merry. "Their chests never bumped."

Ben Hasan, the host of Comcast TV's Community Concerns , also said Mr. Merry pushed Mr. Fennoy in the chest, causing him to stumble backward, then Mr. Fennoy pushed Mr. Merry.

Mrs. Roberts said that as she entered the meeting room, she heard Mr. Merry ask Mr. Fennoy why he didn't attend a previous meeting, and Mr. Fennoy repeatedly ask Mr. Merry to "get out of his face."

"They were face to face, standing directly in front of each other," she said. "Mr. Merry said, 'I feel threatened,' and Mr. Merry pushed Mr. Fennoy into the food table. Mr. Fennoy pushed Mr. Merry, and he fell on the floor."

Mrs. Roberts said that when Mr. Merry got up, Mr. Fennoy kicked toward him, but she didn't see the kick land. She said she witnessed Mr. Fennoy trying to avoid confrontation twice.

Ms. Paschall said Mr. Mullins left out some important facts in his testimony, including that Mr. Fennoy had walked away from Mr. Merry more than once and that Mr. Merry had called Mr. Fennoy "boy."

She asked, "Do you recall when Mr. Merry got up off the floor, he said, 'Come on, boy, and get the rest of your whipping.'?"

Mr. Mullins said he did not, but Mrs. Roberts and authority employee Nikisha McCoy both testified that they did hear it.

Mr. Moore, who broke up the scuffle by restraining Mr. Fennoy, testified that when he entered the room after hearing loud voices, he saw Mr. Merry on the floor and Mr. Fennoy kicking him in the face.

"I just saw him on the floor being kicked," he said.

Authority Attorney Ed Enoch also testified on Mr. Fennoy's behalf.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.