A man caught in the act of stealing metal in 2011 was found guilty Tuesday of aggravated assault. Bulloch County Superior Court Judge Gates Peed sentenced James Christopher McMillan, 30, Bell Road, Brooklet, to 20 years to serve in prison.
Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Joseph L. Cushner said a jury deliberated two hours Tuesday, after the one-day trial, before convicting James Christopher McMillan, 30, of Bell Road in Brooklet.
On Aug. 18, 2011, James Luther Johnson Jr. was with his 3-year-old grandson when he drove past his family property on Deloach Church Road. He surprised McMillan and another man, Cornelious Ross Lee, who were on the property apparently stealing scrap metal, according to reports at the time from Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson.
McMillan threatened Johnson with a handgun before fleeing. Lee was taken into custody near the Johnson family property, but McMillan led responding deputies on a chase before he was apprehended near Cedarwood Acres Mobile Home Park on Old Register Way.
“James McMillan was previously convicted of felony fleeing and attempting to elude, obstruction of an officer, and criminal trespass in connection with the same incident,” Cushner said.
Bulloch County sheriff’s Investigator Bill Black, the lead agent on the case, testified, as did Capt. Todd Hutchens and Deputy Clay Williams. Johnson also testified, and the jury listened to the 911 call Johnson made and watched a videotape of the chase through Cedarwood Acres, Cushner said.
It was during the 911 call that McMillan pointed a handgun at Johnson, according to information overheard on a police scanner during the incident.
McMillan fled in a maroon 1998 Oldsmobile Aurora, nd Johnson followed his own vehicle while relaying information to Bulloch County Central 911 operators. He stopped when McMillan once again aimed the gun at him, but was able to provide 911 operators with the car’s tag number.
Deputies used the tag information to learn McMillan’s identity and went to Cedarwood Acres because that was where the car was registered.
“A short time later, the vehicle appeared in the area, and deputies pursued it through the mobile home park,” Anderson said in an interview after the incident. The chase continued “into a cotton field, where the suspect abandoned his vehicle and fled on foot.”
Deputies chased McMillan as he first tried to lie down and hide in the cotton, then fled into the woods, according to police scanner information. However, after a short time in the heat, he was spotted exiting the woods and was taken into custody.
McMillan has a prior record of crime in Bulloch County. He was released in 2009 after serving 10 years of a 15-year sentence for armed robbery in Bulloch County, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections. He was on probation for that crime when he committed the crime against Johnson, Cushner said.
McMillan was represented by Stuart Patray, an attorney with the Ogeechee Circuit Public Defender’s Office.
Cushner, who prosecuted the case, recommended McMillan be sentenced to the maximum sentence allowed by law on the count of aggravated assault. Peed followed Cushner’s recommendation and sentenced McMillan 20 years to serve in the state prison system.
Lee, 30, of Martin Road in Brooklet, was charged with criminal attempt to commit theft by taking and criminal trespass. His case is being handled separately.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.