Originally created 07/20/02

Chief says mayor told him to lie about tape



KINGSLAND, Ga. - Five years ago, Police Chief Wesley Liles denied the existence of a videotape allegedly showing improper sexual contact between a female prisoner and a city councilman.

Now the former chief tells a different story.

He says that in 1997, Mayor Keith Dixon had ordered him to lie about the videotape's existence or be fired after the Florida Times-Union submitted a written open-records request to view the tape for a possible story.

The tape, which Mr. Liles had at his home, is now in the hands of the local prosecutor. Mr. Liles, through his attorney, turned it over this month after an anonymous political flier was circulated, accusing Mr. Dixon, now a candidate for the General Assembly, of conspiring to hide the tape.

Mr. Liles said the tape, recorded in 1992, shows former City Councilman Lemon Dawson groping and kissing a 27-year-old female prisoner at the Kingsland Police Department.

The woman, who was arrested for driving with a suspended license and no car insurance, didn't have bail money, Mr. Liles said. Mr. Dawson was a bail bondsman at the time, according to records obtained from Kingsland. City records, however, show Mr. Dawson bonded the woman from jail.

Officers who witnessed the incident on a closed-circuit monitor in the police department went back to the holding cell and ordered Mr. Dawson to leave, Mr. Liles said.

After the incident, Mr. Liles said officers who witnessed the incident called him.

"I didn't know what to do, so I called my boss man (Mr. Dixon)," Mr. Liles said. "I wanted to turn it over to the GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation), but he told me I better not release the tape, or I would never work nowhere."

Mr. Dixon, who resigned as mayor last month to run for a state House seat, denies he tried to hide the tape's existence and said he "would categorically deny being involved in any cover-up."

"Never once did I order Mr. Liles to do this," Mr. Dixon said. "I immediately said this should be turned over to the city attorney."

Jim Stein, a St. Marys attorney who helped Mr. Liles turn over the tape to the district attorney's office, said Mr. Dixon used the tape to manipulate how Mr. Dawson voted as a city councilman and later as a county commissioner.

"The tape was not destroyed because without the tape, where's the bat you are going to hit someone with?" Mr. Stein said.

Mr. Liles, who had taken the tape home before he left office in October 2000, described Mr. Dixon's management style at the time as "very controlling." "It wouldn't benefit me to hold the tape," Mr. Liles said. "I would just as soon turn the tape over."

Mr. Stein said he assisted Mr. Liles after a political flier accused Mr. Dixon of ordering Mr. Liles not to turn over the tape to other authorities or the Times-Union. The flier questioned whether Mr. Dixon was fit to hold an elected position in state government.