An Augusta teen accused of firing five gunshots at a Richmond County sheriff’s officer last December will stand trial as an adult, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Garrett D. Howard III, 16, has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission a crime. He is scheduled to stand trial in Richmond County Superior Court during the two-week trial session that begins Jan. 14.
Richmond County sheriff’s Cpl. Chad Cheek was responding to a call about a suspicious person with a gun the afternoon of Dec. 3, 2011, near the Cherry Tree Crossing housing complex off 15th Street. Cheek reported seeing a man with a handgun and when he turned on his patrol car’s siren, the person fired two shots at the officer, hitting the vehicle. Cheek pursued the gunman, who fired three more shots at the officer, according to the incident report.
Assistant Public Defender Alexia Davis asked Judge Michael Annis to transfer Howard’s case back to juvenile court. Although Howard does have a record of delinquency, Davis argued there were options available in the juvenile justice system that hadn’t been tried with Howard, including commitment to a juvenile facility until he turns 21, effectively a five-year term.
But Assistant District Attorney Sam Nicholson argued Howard had repeated opportunities in juvenile court. Howard’s delinquency hearings were based on findings he committed burglary in 2009; burglary, obstruction of an officer and possession of a weapon at school in 2010; and two counts of theft and possession of illegal drugs in 2011, Nicholson said.
Annis said during Tuesday’s hearing that then-Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders was an experienced judge who gave full consideration to the options available in the juvenile justice system, evaluations of Howard’s mental and intellectual maturity, and his history before ruling in January that Howard’s case should be transferred to adult court.
Nicholson quoted part of Saunders’ order that stated the rights of community required this case to be aired in a public court of record.
Howard has been held in juvenile detention since his arrest last year.