Former parole officers decide against jury trial

Two former parole officers accused of abusing people and lying to investigators have decided to forgo a jury and let a judge determine their fate.

Joshua Stephens, 30, and Terrell Yelverton, 38, announced Friday they want a bench trial, a move not opposed by Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Schwartz, who is prosecuting.

Mr. Stephens and Mr. Yelverton have pleaded not guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to two counts of false imprisonment and two counts of making false statements.

In a motion argued Friday, Mr. Stephens' attorney contended that because Mr. Stephens is a part-time deputy sheriff in Emanuel County, his actionswere justified.

In the first case, Timothy Grant was allegedly pulled off a bicycle and threatened with a Taser after he made an obscene gesture at the parole officers Dec. 2, 2005.

The prosecution contends that as parole officers, Mr. Stephens and Mr. Yelverton had no right to detain any person unless he is on parole. Mr. Grant was not.

Defense attorney Richard Allen countered that as a deputy sheriff, Mr. Stephens was within his rights to detain Mr. Grant for disorderly conduct.

In the second incident, the officers mistakenly chased down Troy Curry the night of Nov. 9, 2004.

Mr. Allen contended that because the officers were looking for a man who looked like Mr. Curry, the detention was justified and Mr. Curry was released when properly identified.

Ms. Schwartz said the facts are in dispute.

In the state's version, she said, Mr. Yelverton pulled a gun on Mr. Curry and Mr. Stephens kicked him in the head.

Ms. Schwartz said a deputy sheriff does not have arrest rights outside his home county.

Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. took the motion under advisement.

Mr. Stephens was hired as a parole officer in August 2001 and was fired in March 2006.

Mr. Yelverton, hired in October 1993, resigned in lieu of firing in March 2006, The Augusta Chronicle previously reported.

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

What's next?

A two- to three-day bench trial is expected in July.