Alzheimer's patient held on '98 warrant freed

Special
Gary Allen Sr. came close to spending Christmas behind bars.

An elderly man suffering from Alzheimer's disease symptoms was jailed without bond this week on a probation revocation warrant that was issued more than 11 years ago.

Gary Allen Sr., 82, was picked up by a sheriff's deputy who found him near the busy roadway of 15th Street at the Calhoun Expressway exit just after 7 p.m. Monday. A computer check revealed an outstanding warrant for Mr. Allen's arrest.

According to court documents, a nonbondable arrest warrant was obtained by the private probation company Sentinel Offender Services on April 15, 1998, based on allegations that Mr. Allen failed to pay fines and fees totaling $1,400. It also accused Mr. Allen of failing to report to his probation officer during the prior eight months.

Mr. Allen, who was two days shy of his 70th birthday at the time, pleaded guilty in July 1997, in Richmond County State Court to criminal trespass, a misdemeanor charge.

He was placed on probation for 12 months, fined $1,200 and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.

On Wednesday, The Augusta Chronicle discovered that the original court documents pertaining to Mr. Allen's case had been purged because of the age of the records.

Although Richmond County State Court conducts court hearings every business day to hear cases for anyone in jail on misdemeanor and traffic charges and Sentinel probation cases, Mr. Allen's case was not on the court's calender Tuesday or Wednesday.

Because the county offices are closed through Christmas, Mr. Allen would have spent the holiday behind bars if the jail staff hadn't intervened.

Mr. Allen was incoherent when he was brought in, said Maj. Gene Johnson, who is in charge of the county's jails.

The officers could not communicate with him and had to put Mr. Allen in a holding cell where he sat yelling, Maj. Johnson said.

When he saw Mr. Allen's age and the age of the probation violation warrant, Maj. Johnson called Judge Richard Slaby, who had signed the warrant more than 11 years ago.

The judge agreed Tuesday to allow the jail to release Mr. Allen, and officers tracked down an Aiken relative who agreed to pick him up.

"I doubt he would have gotten to court before Christmas," Maj. Johnson said.

Although the maximum probation period for a misdemeanor offense is 12 months, the Richmond County State Court judges allow the probation company to stop the clock at the point a probationer has allegedly absconded -- failed to report to his probation officer.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com