Originally created 10/10/96

Smart takes the stand



Otis Smart's wife and children were out of town Aug. 5, 1995, and although he said he spent the night alone, he could not prove that when testifying Wednesday.

Mr. Smart also telephoned witnesses in his sexual battery trial on Sept. 23, asking them not to testify and school police once asked a former student if her baby resembled Mr. Smart, witnesses said.

The Lucy C. Laney High School coach spent nearly four hours on the witness stand Wednesday, telling jurors he visited his cousin, John Sanders, in North Augusta on Aug. 5 after seeing his family off on an overnight trip to South Carolina.

But Mr. Sanders - who Mr. Smart offered as proof he was not with LaShandra Scurry on Aug. 5 - was not asked about Mr. Smart's alleged visit when called by the defense as a character witness Wednesday morning.

Mr. Smart has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of sexual battery, simple battery and furnishing alcohol to a minor. His trial resumes at 9 a.m. today and should conclude today. He is accused of trying to perform oral sex on Ms. Scurry, 19, at his former home on Oslo Road on Aug. 5, 1995.

After he left North Augusta on Aug. 5, Mr. Smart said he then went to Augusta Mall and returned home - alone - shortly after 9 p.m. He did not buy anything at the mall and cannot prove he was there, he testified.

"I was trying to find myself a suit - I remember that because it's hard for me to find a suit," said Mr. Smart, who weighs 340 pounds. "I didn't have any money, I was browsing."

Ms. Scurry says she and Mr. Smart met at the Revco at 15th Street and Walton Way, drove around Augusta for hours and wound up at his home. He called Benedict College coach Margaret Jones and had Ms. Scurry speak to her about a basketball scholarship, hung up and then tried to undress Ms. Scurry and perform oral sex, Ms. Scurry testified Tuesday.

Ms. Jones testified Monday and Wednesday she doesn't remember speaking with Ms. Scurry, and Mr. Smart said the seven- and three-minute phone calls to Ms. Jones' Columbia home were messages on her answering machine. Phone records show the calls happened at the time Ms. Scurry says they were made.

Ms. Jones called Mr. Smart at 10:52 p.m. Aug. 5, so how was it she was not home when he called back at 11:14 p.m., Chief Assistant Solicitor Sheryl Jolly asked Mr. Smart.

"I can't explain why she didn't answer," he said. He also couldn't explain why she didn't answer a three-minute call made at 11:21 p.m.

Ms. Jolly then had Mr. Smart recreate the seven-minute message he left for Ms. Jones, telling him to take his time. He spoke slowly and clearly, describing three basketball players Ms. Jones was recruiting and told the court he probably read some of their statistics during the message.

It took him three minutes and 49 seconds.

Prosecutors had Mr. Smart draw a diagram of his Oslo Road house and describe the interior, just as defense attorney Jack Long had Ms. Scurry do when she testified Tuesday. Their sketches and descriptions were similar, although some details differ. The Smarts have since moved from Oslo Road.

Ms. Scurry described seeing for the first time an athletics plaque inscribed with her name in Mr. Smart's living room. Mr. Smart testified Wednesday he had such a plaque hanging on the living room wall.

"I had this up on the front side (of the house)," Mr. Smart said. "This is for the team LaShandra was on ... In the living room, as you walk in."

When Ms. Jolly asked how Ms. Scurry could know about the plaque in his house if she'd never been there as he claims, Mr. Smart said, "I don't know how she'd know it."

Ms. Scurry could have been one of the students who once used a bathroom at the home when they stopped there en route to a basketball game in March 1995, Mr. Smart said.

Bridget Williams, a senior basketball player at Laney who Ms. Scurry testified is her best friend and lover, testified Mr. Smart called her mother on Sept. 23 and asked her to keep Bridget from being involved in the trial.

"He left a message on my phone to tell my mother he didn't want me to be involved, to testify," Bridget said. Previously, "He asked me to tell LaShandra could she drop the case."

Bridget says Ms. Scurry came home between 9 and 10 p.m. Aug. 5, although Ms. Scurry says she didn't leave Mr. Smart's home until close to midnight. Time discrepancies are not unusual in these type of cases, school police officer Jackie Turner testified Tuesday, but Mr. Long has made it a central part of his defense.

Mr. Long called 23 character witnesses for Mr. Smart, including school trustee Johnnie Jackson, who said a publicized fight he'd had with Mr. Smart at Laney happened in spring 1996 and that they had made up since.

Actually, the fight happened Nov. 16, 1995.

"Mr. Smart was under the pressure of what he is going through now and I was in error," Mr. Jackson said. He was not asked to explain how Mr. Smart could have been under the pressure of charges filed in May 1996 during a fight in November 1995.

Mr. Smart testified he once took a female student to Atlanta alone and that he was investigated in 1995 for such behavior. Three Laney teachers quit last year after similar investigations. He denied he was given a letter of reprimand for using profanity in front of students, but that letter is a part of his personnel file and is on record.

Mr. Long also called Aishia Gresham, a former student, who testified school police officers came to her house in 1995 to see if her baby resembled Mr. Smart. The child did not, she said.