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Charges against Akins dropped

Judge quashed indictment after ruling violation occurred during grand jury proceedings

Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect the following correction, which appears in Saturday's print edition: Because of a reporter's error, the wrong district attorney's office was listed in a front-page article Friday as the prosecutor in the case against current and former Bulloch County Clerk of Court employees. The Eastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office, based in Savannah, is prosecuting the case because the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit DA's Office recused itself.An indictment against former Bulloch County clerk of courts Sherri Akins was dismissed.

Akins was indicted in July of felony theft by conversion and violation of oath by public officer.

Akins’ attorney, Sims Lanier, confirmed Thursday the indictment had been quashed. According to records from the Bulloch County Clerk of Courts Office, currently under supervision by interim Clerk of Court Charles Sikes, the indictment was dismissed because of a violation of law during grand jury hearings.

Akins, suspended Clerk of Courts Teresa Tucker, and three others — deputy clerk Leatha Deloach and former deputy clerks Marion Puckett Williams and Amanda Kay Smith — were indicted by a Bulloch County grand jury July 8 after a nearly three-year investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

All were charged with  felony theft by conversion and violation of oath by public officer. Williams and Smith also are charged with public records fraud.

According to the motion to quash, filed by Lanier, Tucker and her attorney, Daniel Snipes, were present during grand jury proceedings and Tucker was allowed to address the grand jury under oath during the July 8 proceedings. No one else charged was allowed that privilege, Lanier said.

The motion states that the presence of Tucker and Snipes was “unauthorized and illegal,” citing several other previous court cases as examples. “Since the state instigated such unauthorized appearance, the indictment herein is tainted and should be quashed as it pertains to Sherri Akins,” the motion to quash reads.

The motion was mailed to Eastern Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney  Gregory M. McConnell, who is handling the case because Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Richard Mallard recused himself and his office from the case, citing a close working relationship with the clerk’s office and employees.

After review, Bulloch County Superior Court Judge William E. Woodrum Jr. responded to the motion,  stating he found Tucker’s presence was “not authorized by law” and “violated the precepts of secrecy which should have attended the instant proceedings of the grand jury.”  In his order, he stated “the irregularity” of Tucker and Snipes’ presence “is presumptively harmful to“ Akins.

Also, use of a recording device during the grand jury proceedings was ruled a violation of secrecy and unlawful, according to the order.

Woodrum signed the order Aug. 28.

Lanier said Akins did not wish to comment Thursday.

Woodrum also approved a motion to continue the case against Tucker and the three other defendants to Nov. 7, in order to “allow any defendant opportunity to enter pleas,” if they wish.

Jury selection for the trial is scheduled for Nov. 12.

Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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