Arthur Griffin guilty of assault

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 13, 2009

Brundidge Councilman Arthur Lee Griffin was found guilty of third degree assault Thursday in Coffee County District Court, but he will not be serving any jail time.

The charges stem from an April 2 incident in which Ozark’s Alfred Schultz alleged Griffin assaulted him by striking him with a shotgun.

According to testimony by Schultz, he left Wal-Mart Distribution Center, where he is employed, at 2:47 p.m. that day and picked up Jonie Terry, who was walking down U.S. Highway 231.

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Schultz testified he didn’t know Terry, but he picked her up since the weather was rainy.

“I asked her if she needed help, and she said she needed to get to Ariton,” Schultz said. “I live in Ozark. It was on the way.”

Schultz then testified that Griffin, whom he didn’t know at the time, pulled up behind him with a shotgun in his blue Dodge truck.

According to Schultz, he headed south on Highway 231.

“I noticed in my rearview mirror that the Dodge pickup was steadily behind me,” Schultz said.

Schultz then testified that he saw blue lights, but couldn’t tell what it was at the time.

“I tried to get over, but the blue Dodge wouldn’t let me,” Schultz said. “I got over in the median.”

Coffee County Assistant District Attorney Griffin Shirley asked Schultz what happened once he was pulled over.

“I tried to tell the police that Griffin had a gun,” Schultz said.

Schultz testified that Brundidge Police Officer Ronald Yohn then pulled out his gun, handcuffed him and made him get on the ground.

According to Schultz’s testimony, Griffin told Yohn he had Schultz and told him to get Terry.

Schultz testified that while Yohn went around the vehicle to get Terry, Griffin struck him.

“That’s when I was struck,” Schultz said.

Shirley asked Schultz if he saw Griffin with a shotgun, and he told the court that he had.

“He pulled it out on me. He had it out on me the whole time,” Schultz said. “He was standing right over me.”

While Schultz said he wasn’t positive what he was hit with, he knew he was hit with “a blunt object that felt like steel.”

Schultz testified that Griffin was angry and screamed that he would have his job and have him arrested.

Schultz said Yohn let him go after he questioned him as to whether or not he knew Terry.

Griffin’s attorney Joe Lampley tried to discredit Schultz’s testimony by bringing into evidence his statement taken by Coffee County Investigator Johnny Knowles.

Lampley asked Schultz if he thought his memory would be more fresh right after the incident than in court months later, and he replied “yes.”

Lampley said that no where in the signed statement did he tell Knowles that Griffin told him to “get the hell out of there.”

“Johnny Knowles’ second hand writing is hearsay,” Shirley said. “To your recollection a lot of things were left out. Did you sign this saying it was accurate or that it was close?”

“Close,” Schultz said. “Terry saw what happened.”

The prosecution called Terry to the stand next.

Terry testified that she was riding as a passenger in Schultz’s vehicle and identified Griffin as the man who pulled out a shotgun.

“I entered the vehicle before the gun was pulled,” Terry said.

Terry then testified that Griffin pulled Schultz out of he vehicle, but officer Yohn was present.

According to Terry’s testimony, she was going to Ozark.

“You intended for Schultz to take you to Ozark,” Lampley said.

“Yes,” Terry said.

Terry testified that she saw Griffin’s Dodge Ram behind him following pretty close, and that Griffin’s son was with him, and she and the son had been fighting.

According to Terry’s testimony, Schultz stopped in the middle of the median, and Griffin was on the right side of Schultz’s vehicle. She said that Griffin got out of his vehicle and pulled Schultz out of his vehicle.

“(Griffin) told (Yohn) to get me out and shackle me down because I would run,” Terry said. “Griffin threw Schultz on the pavement.”

Terry testified that Griffin kicked Schultz in the right side and hit him in the head.

Lampley urged District Judge Paul Sherling to grant a not guilty verdict based on the differences in the testimonies of Schultz and Terry.

“Mr. Schultz said what happened could be verified by Jonie. Testimonies are in contradiction. Neither can be trusted,” Lampley said.

Lampley said there were three main inconsistencies.

First, Schultz said that he was taking Terry to Ariton, while she said she was going to Ozark.

Second, Schultz said Yohn got him out of the car, while Terry said Griffin pulled Schultz out of the car.

Finally, Schultz was not sure if Griffin kicked him, while Terry said he did.

But, Shirley maintained they were consistent.

Sherling did not grant the not guilty verdict and the defense began calling its witnesses.

Yohn was called to the stand.

“Did you know Jonie Terry?” Lampley asked.

“Our chief spoke to her the day before,” Yohn answered.

Yohn testified the Brundidge Police Department had been searching for Terry, and he had been looking for her near Pike County High School.

“I was dispatched to the location by my dispatcher,” Yohn said.

According to Yohn’s testimony, he got behind Schultz’s vehicle and verified the tag.

Yohn testified that he knew Griffin and had spoken to him on occasion, and he was familiar with Griffin’s vehicle.

According to Yohn, he did not pass Griffin’s truck on Highway 231.

“I don’t recall seeing Griffin’s vehicle,” Yohn said.

Yohn said when he identified Schultz’s car he put his lights on, and Schultz stopped in the median and pulled up behind him.

Yohn testified that Schultz got out of his vehicle in “an aggressive manner,” while he was still in his patrol car.

“We are trained that if the subject exits the vehicle, they are not to get back in the vehicle,” Yohn said.

He testified that he was concerned that Terry might have a weapon.

“I unholstered my weapon and ordered (Schultz) to the ground for safety,” Yohn said.

After that is when Yohn testified that Griffin’s blue Dodge pulled up.

“Griffin assisted me,” Yohn said.

Yohn testified that Griffin told him “I got him,” and he proceeded to get Terry out of the car.

Yohn said on the stand that he could observe both Terry and Schultz.

“I tried to keep an eye on all,” Yohn said.

Yohn testified that he did not put handcuffs on Schultz when he was initially on the ground but only after he apprehended Terry.

Yohn testified that his car had a camera aboard, but that he had no training in operating it, and it did not tape.

“The chief and the FBI checked out the tape,” Yohn said.

Yohn testified that Griffin was armed with some type of large gun, and he also said it was out of the ordinary for him to allow someone to help.

“I was glad to see (Griffin,) Yohn said.

“Was it your decision to allow Griffin to assist you?” Shirley said.

Yohn testified that it was his decision.

According to Yohn’s testimony, it was his duty to apprehend Terry for outstanding warrants, but he said it was not a felony warrant.

The defense’s last witness was Knowles.

Lampley asked Knowles about the process of which he receives statements from people.

Knowles testified that he listens and writes a narrative as close to possible of what the person said, and that he lets the person read and sign it, which validates it.

According to Knowles testimony, he saw Schultz’s wounds.

“It looked like the circumference of a 12-gauge shotgun,” Knowles said. “It was similar in nature.”

Knowles testified that he interviewed Yohn and didn’t see any inconsistencies in the stories, but that there was about four hours of missing footage from the tape from Yohn’s camera. Sherling suspended the six month sentence in the Coffee County Jail, but Griffin is responsible for paying $1,000 in fines plus the cost of court. Lampley said they would be filing an appeal in circuit court, which he has 14 days to do. Shirley did not wish to comment on the case.