WINDER, Ga. - Winder City Councilman Charles Haymon had no criminal intent when he took two packs of "bait" money from the vault of a vacant bank building, according to his attorney.
"He at no time had any criminal intent," Jefferson attorney Kevin R. Christopher said before Tuesday's council meeting. "It's extremely unfortunate that an 81-year-old man had to be arrested for the first time in his life."
Mr. Christopher said Mr. Haymon took the money "just to make sure it didn't fall into the wrong hands."
Mr. Haymon, 81, was arrested Aug. 31 by agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on a charge of misdemeanor theft by taking. Mr. Haymon, who turned himself in, was released 45 minutes after his arrest, after posting $1,000 bond at the Barrow County Detention Center.
A week earlier, a Winder police officer, responding to an alarm call at the former Main Street Bank building on East Athens Street, saw Mr. Haymon approaching the door. As he left the building - which the city recently purchased and plans to renovate for use as a new City Hall - a dye pack in one of the two bundles of "bait" money exploded in his pants pocket.
Mr. Haymon, who routinely offers the invocation at council meetings, did so Tuesday, addressing his recent arrest by saying, "We pray that this situation will be over in a short time."
Also at Tuesday's council meeting, a group of about 50 people - headed by representatives from Mr. Haymon's church, Whistleville Christian - held up homemade signs declaring their support for the longtime councilman.
"We believe these charges to be baseless," the Rev. Linwood Smith, Whistleville's senior evangelist, told the council as the meeting got under way.
He said Mr. Haymon was trying to take the money to City Hall.