Five current and former employees of the Bulloch County Clerk of Courts office entered not-guilty pleas Tuesday to charges filed against them last month.
Current clerk Teresa Tucker, former clerk Sherri Akins, deputy clerk Leatha Deloach and former deputy clerks Marion Puckett Williams and Amanda Kay Smith were indicted July 8 after a nearly three-year investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
All five have been charged with felony theft by conversion and violation of oath by public officer. Williams and Smith also are charged with public records fraud.
All pleaded not guilty to those charges Tuesday in Bulloch County Superior Court before Judge William W. Woodrum Jr., the chief judge of the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit.
The next step in the judicial process for the five defendants is a hearing on the pretrial motions filed by each of their attorneys, scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 10 in Bulloch County Superior Court. Jury selection and trial are scheduled for Sept. 17, according to their case file.
All five have the same condition of bond: that they not work or volunteer in any place that provides them access to public funds or access to computers containing government data or financial data, the case file shows.
The indictment returned by a grand jury July 8 alleges that each incidence of theft by conversion took place between Jan. 1, 2009, and Aug. 31, 2010, though the exact dates are unknown. Each theft by conversion count specifies that funds intended for deposit in a Bulloch County bank account were diverted to the personal use of Tucker, Akins and the current and former deputy clerks.
Felony theft by conversion means at least $25,000 was diverted from official use. A conviction carries a prison sentence of two to 20 years for each count, according to the Georgia Code.
The violation of oath charges refer to the theft by conversion charges. Each defendant violated her oath of public office “by converting funds belonging to Bulloch County to her own use,” according to the indictment.
Conviction of a violation of oath of public officer charge carries a prison sentence of one to five years for each count, according to the Georgia Code.
The public records fraud charges – only filed against Smith and Williams – stipulate that they “falsified records pertaining to the amount of traffic fines that were paid to Bulloch County,” the indictment says.
Conviction on the fraud charge carries a prison sentence of two to 10 years for each count.
Charles Sikes, the former special agent-in-charge for the GBI’s Statesboro office, was named an interim deputy clerk of courts after the indictments were returned. Tucker is eligible to resume her duties as clerk of courts should she be acquitted. If she is convicted, a special election would be held to fill the position.