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Judge hears Primetime Lounge case
Hearing continued after evidence presented to prosecution but not defense
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Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. Turner continued a hearing Thursday to determine whether Primetime Lounge, located on Northside Drive W., which was closed earlier this month by his order, should be allowed to reopen. - photo by EDDIE LEDBETTER/staff

After hearing testimony Thursday about an allegedly forged lease agreement and several incidents involving police, Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. Turner continued a hearing to determine whether Primetime Lounge, closed earlier this month by his order, should be allowed to reopen.

Turner ordered the case be continued until one day next week after Marty Pitts, the attorney for Primetime Lounge owners Karen Brown and Eurl Kittles, asked for time to review documents he said police provided to prosecutors, but not to him.

The date the hearing will resume was not determined Thursday.

During the four-hour hearing, Pitts questioned Statesboro police Capt. Tom Woodrum about police incident reports with narratives that were given to the state, but not to him. After Woodrum acknowledged the discrepancy and said it was a mistake, Pitts asked for the continuance so he can review the information.

Both Primetime Lounge, 608 Northside Drive W., and Platinum Lounge, at 2 Proctor St., were padlocked by police Nov. 13 following a weekend of shots fired at both clubs. Two men were shot Nov. 10 at Primetime Lounge. Johnnie L. Benton, 25, of Rincon, was killed, and Jamal Heard, 21, also of Rincon, was seriously injured when an unknown gunman opened fire at about 2:30 a.m.

Turner presided over a six-hour hearing Tuesday concerning the Platinum Lounge, again with the purpose of whether the nightclub should remain open or be permanently closed.

A homicide at Platinum Lounge remains unsolved.

On Aug. 19, 2012, Akeila Roschell Martin, 32, of Statesboro, was fatally shot, and another woman was injured, as an unknown man fired shots into a huge crowd outside the club shortly before 3 a.m.

During testimony Thursday, Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Daphne Jarriel, Statesboro City Attorney J. Alvin Leaphart IV and Pitts questioned several witnesses, including some who were at Primetime Lounge when the shooting took place.

They also questioned Brown and Kittles, as well as Mark Anderson, a partner with Bulloch Properties LLC, which owns the building that houses Primetime Lounge.

Of particular interest during questioning were two similar lease agreements. On one, only Kittles was listed as the club owner. On another, Brown was listed as the owner. When Jarriel asked Anderson about his agreement with Primetime Lounge, he testified that he leased the property to Kittles and had not dealt with Brown. When shown a lease agreement containing Brown’s name as owner, Anderson said he had never before seen the document and that the signature on it was not his.

When asked previously about the question of ownership and the two lease documents, both Kittles and Brown said Kittles was the owner, but Brown had an interest in the business and they wanted her name on the lease.

They each admitted Brown obtained the alcohol license in her name because Kittles has a record of several suspended license offenses, and he feared he would not be granted a license to serve alcohol.

They each testified that Brown received 10 percent of the club’s profits, while Kittles retained 90 percent.

Matt Ogburn, with the Georgia Department of Revenue’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division, testified as well, stating that Brown had told him via written statements and documents, including the allegedly forged lease agreement, that she was the “100 percent” sole owner of the club.

Other witnesses told the court they live near the club and are awakened and disturbed by the noisy crowd, littering and loud music. Two sisters, Roberta Small and Jasmine Small, of Claxton, testified about going to the club with Benton and seeing Heard there, and told the court what they experienced during the shooting.

More witnesses are expected to testify when the hearing resumes.

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

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