What could happen with appeal?
Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 14, 2009
FROM STAFF REPORTS
Brundidge City Councilman Arthur Lee Griffin was found guilty of assault third degree by a Coffee County District Court judge Thursday. But, Griffin’s attorney Joe Lampley made it clear they would appeal the verdict.
Griffin was charged after Ozark resident Alfred Schultz signed a warrant for his arrest, claiming the councilman followed him in his vehicle with a shotgun and assaulted him during a traffic stop.
Griffin was sentenced by Elba Judge Paul Sherling to a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail, but the jail time was suspended pending he pay his fines.
An appeal, though it hasn’t been filed yet, would go to the Coffee County Circuit Court.
Coffee County Assistant District Attorney Griffin Shirley, who prosecuted Griffin’s case, said an appeal would mean the trial would be completely redone.
“At the circuit court, he could actually ask for a jury and have a jury trial,” Shirley said. “District court does not have a jury trial.”
All that would remain from the trial Thursday would be the testimonies filed under oath, so if a witness changed his or her story in a new trial, transcripts could be used to show discrepancies.
What could also change in an appeal is the sentencing.
Griffin was convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, the highest misdemeanor offense in the state. According to the Alabama Criminal Code of law, it is punishable for a maximum of a year in county jail and a $6,000 fine.
If found guilty again, a judge could impose a harsher sentence.
“That circuit judge has authority to punish up to one year in jail and a $6,000 fine if he wants,” Shirley said. “If he appeals, it’s a new trial.”
While, Griffin could face stronger punishment if convicted in circuit court, he doesn’t risk losing his seat as a Brundidge City Councilman.
According to Tracy Roberts, assistant general counsel for the Alabama League of Municipalities, assault third degree is not one of the reasons for removal.
“Conviction in district court is not terms for removal,” Roberts said. “Assault does not fall under the reasons. He would have to be impeached, and it would have to fall under one of the reasons and it doesn’t.”
Brundidge Mayor Jimmy Ramage was not available for comment on the situation.
The traffic stop in which the incident occurred took place outside of the Brundidge Police Department’s jurisdiction.
Brundidge Police Chief Moses Davenport said the department did not let the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department know they were crossing into their jurisdiction.
“Had it been a long, drawn out thing, we would have,” Davenport said. “Since it was a short-lived thing, we did not.”
The incident came after Griffin assisted Brundidge Police Officer Ronald Yohn at a traffic stop, but Davenport said the department didn’t ask for Griffin’s help.
“We didn’t invite that assistance,” Davenport said.
Davenport said help from citizens during a traffic stop is not something the department encourages.
Still, he said Yohn is not facing any kind of administrative action from the incident because “he did not ask for the assistance.”