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Akins, Tucker face new indictments

State finds ‘substantial additional evidence’ during delay of trial

Akins, Tucker face new indictments

Akins, Tucker face new indictments

Sherri Akins


New indictments have been filed against Sherri Akins, the former Bulloch County clerk of courts, and Teresa Tucker, the current, suspended clerk of courts.

The next scheduled court date for both defendants is a status conference on Dec. 16 before Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Chief Judge William E. Woodrum Jr. A status conference is a pretrial meeting of attorneys before a judge to inform the court on the progress of a case, including evidence that has been collected, settlement negotiations and the expected length of trial.

“We will be in discussion with Mr. McConnell to find out if we can avoid having to go through what we believe would be a very long and laborious trial in the case,” Akins’ attorney Sims Lanier said Thursday, referring to the prosecutor in the case, Greg McConnell, the chief assistant district attorney for the Eastern Judicial Circuit, based in Savannah. “But we are still in very early stages of that discussion.”

The Eastern Judicial Circuit DA’s Office is prosecuting the case because the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit DA’s Office recused itself, citing a close working relationship with the Bulloch County Clerk of Courts Office.

Akins and Tucker, along with three current and former clerk of courts employees, were originally indicted on July 8 on charges of felony theft by conversion and related offenses.

Tucker requested, and was granted a voluntary suspension from as the elected clerk of courts in August.

Akins’ original indictment was quashed Aug. 28, when Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Chief Judge William E. Woodrum Jr. granted a motion filed Lanier. Lanier stated in the motion that Akins’ indictment was “tainted” because Tucker and her attorney, Daniel B. Snipes, were allowed in the courtroom during grand jury proceedings and Tucker was allowed to present evidence — a privilege not granted to Akins or the other defendants.

So after new proceedings, a grand jury returned new indictments Oct. 23, according to documents obtained from the clerk of courts office, which is overseen by interim clerk Charles D. Sikes.

Snipes said Thursday that, while his client’s original indictment stood and was not quashed, he was “not surprised” by the new indictment. He said it was a procedural move and noted that the new indictment contains the same charges as the original one.

The new indictment charges Tucker with five counts of theft by conversion and one count of violation of oath by public officer, while Akins is charged with one count each of theft by conversion and violation of oath by public officer.
Both Tucker and Akins have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The theft by conversion charges allege that the defendants converted money that was supposed to be deposited in a Bulloch County bank account to their own personal use between Jan. 1, 2009, and Aug. 31, 2010, with the exact date being unknown to the grand jury.

The violation of oath by public officer charges say that, by converting county money to personal use, Tucker, as clerk of courts, and Akins, as deputy clerk, violated their sworn oaths to “faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties required” of their positions. These offenses happened between Oct. 24, 2009, and Aug. 31, 2010, but again, the grand jury did not know the exact date, according to the indictment.

Tucker’s trial date was originally scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 12. According to a motion for continuance filed by the state, which Woodrum granted, the investigation since Sept. 10 “has produced substantial additional evidence.”

Three other defendants — deputy clerk Leatha Deloach and former deputy clerks Marion Puckett Williams and Amanda Kay Smith — pleaded guilty Sept. 10 to theft by conversion. Under the plea deal reached by McConnell and the defendants’ attorneys, Deloach, Williams and Smith were sentenced to 10 years probation and must pay $6,000 restitution to Bulloch County.

“Recorded statements have been obtained from each co-defendant who entered a guilty plea,” the motion for continuance reads. “… Telephone records have been obtained. Additional witnesses have been located and interviewed.”

The motion adds that both Tucker and Akins have signed stipulations for the admissibility of polygraph test results, but that both have “failed to be polygraph tested as directed by the (Georgia Bureau of Investigation).” They have until Tuesday to submit to the polygraph, according to the motion.

“Because the potential for polygraph exams continues to exist, no additional discovery has been provided to Tucker and Akins as such new information would affect the integrity of the polygraph test results,” the motion says. “The undisclosed information consists of numerous CDs/DVDs, recorded statements and a large number of documents.”

The prosecution’s witness list has also grown. The motion says the state expects to add “approximately 23 witnesses … bringing the total number of anticipated trial witnesses to approximately 56.”

“Many of these witnesses reside outside of Bulloch County including one witness who must travel from New York,” the motion reads. “Making travel arrangements for this large group of witnesses will be time-consuming and expensive.”

Also, the initial “GBI investigative report is contained in 22 volumes,” according to the motion. “Numerous hours of recorded statements are included in the investigative file. The size of the written report and other discovery materials is approximately 1,000-2,000 pages.”

That initial report, the motion says, was given to defense attorneys Aug. 6-8.

Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.

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