Originally created 02/04/03

Cheeks intervenes for convict



Two weeks after Gov. Sonny Perdue unveiled ethics legislation that would prohibit lawmakers from lobbying on behalf of convicts, Sen. Don Cheeks intervened with local prosecutors on behalf of an Evans man who pleaded guilty to sexual battery of a child.

Mr. Cheeks, R-Augusta, called a probation officer to ask why Bobby Clark Brassell Jr. had to register as a sex offender. Two days later, District Attorney Danny Craig agreed that Mr. Brassell didn't have to register.

"What the heck is wrong with these people? I thought they were working for us," said the mother of a boy who was 3 years old when he told her that Mr. Brassell had fondled him and engaged in oral sex.

Although Mr. Brassell, 42, was arrested on felony child molestation charges in September 1999, he was allowed to plead guilty to a single count of misdemeanor sexual battery on Jan. 10 of this year. He also pleaded guilty that day to possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.

Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. sentenced Mr. Brassell to 11 years' probation on both charges, and, according to court documents, specifically ordered Mr. Brassell to register as a sex offender.

Seven days later, Assistant District Attorney Bobby Christine took Judge Brown a new sentencing form that did not require Mr. Brassell to register as a sex offender or prohibit his contact with children, the judge said.

"The state indicated to me it (the sex offender registry) was not requested, as I recall," the judge said Monday.

Mr. Christine said the change was made after his office reviewed the file.

"I did speak with Mr. Cheeks. He was of the opinion that (sex offender registry) was not warranted. He didn't think that was justified," Mr. Christine said.

Mr. Cheeks, whose party switch helped Republicans gain control of the state Senate, did not return a telephone message seeking comment about Mr. Brassell's case.

The senator called Mr. Craig before Mr. Brassell's sentencing and afterward, Mr. Craig said Monday. He agreed to review the file on the child molestation case, and "it didn't appear at all that it was a case that needed to be on the sex offender registry," Mr. Craig said.

His assistant agreed to a plea bargain for Mr. Brassell because of weaknesses in the case and to protect the child. The boy's mother said the family agreed with that decision and was thankful that at least Mr. Brassell would have to register as a sex offender.

"This is totally messed up," the mother said Monday on learning from The Augusta Chronicle that prosecutors changed Mr. Brassell's sentencing form without her knowledge.

She said she thought it was important that people know Mr. Brassell was convicted of sexual battery, especially because her brother came forward after Mr. Brassell's arrest to say Mr. Brassell had molested him 10 years earlier.

The boy's uncle never told anyone until he learned of Mr. Brassell's arrest in 1999, and he blamed himself for what happened to the boy, the mother said. Although no charges could be brought in the uncle's case because of the time that had elapsed, a judge had agreed that the uncle could testify had Mr. Brassell stood trial.

Mr. Craig said he knew of the uncle's statements when he decided that Mr. Brassell didn't have to register as a sex offender. Mr. Craig said he saw no benefit to adding Mr. Brassell's name to the registry.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation maintains the registry, which the public can view on the GBI Web site. The Columbia County Sheriff's Office also maintains a Web site listing all sex offenders living in that county.

On the Net:Columbia County Sex Offender Registry: http://www.columbiacountyso.org/offenders.html

Richmond County Sex Offender Registry: http://www.co.richmond.ga.us/rcsd/CID/offenders/index.htm

GBI Sex Offender Registry: http://www.state.ga.us/gbi/sorsch.cgi

South Carolina County Sex Offender Registry: http://www.sled.state.sc.us/SLED/default.asp?Category=SCSO&Service=SCSO_01

Other States: http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/cac/states.htm

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