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I-TEAM: In Commissioner Sias court process, could more charges still come?

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 6:58 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Commissioners say they plan to request another forensic audit into city finances. This is coming a day after Commissioner Sammie Sias was indicted on federal charges.

It’s important to distinguish Sias’ indictment is strictly about him lying and obstructing the investigation. That’s known as a “Process crime” – or a crime against the judicial process. It’s not about mishandling tax money, but could more charges still come? One expert said yes.

Sammie Sias’ future hangs in the balance tonight. The district 4 commissioner could lose his seat and his freedom for up to 20 years if convicted. Titus Nichols, a defense attorney who represented Reality Winner in federal court says it’s possible Sias could face even more charges – and more prison time.

“They can always file a superseding indictment, and then add on additional charges. It just depends on to what extent the prosecution wants to go,” said Nichols.

Additional charges could be tied to if Sias is found to have mishandled or misused public tax dollars given to the Jamestown Community Center which he oversaw.

“I’m assuming there was something important in one of those documents and that’s why they’re bringing those charges or maybe they can’t find anything else against them. And so this is all they can use to get him to provide more information,” he said.

Another big unknown right now is this – will the jury that is selected see the alleged crime as the federal government does.

“When you have a government official, not being charged with drugs, not being charged with violence, he’s not being charged with stealing but being charged with whether or not he gave all the documents in his possession to the FBI you really have the issue of is a jury going to care,” he said.

We found the southern district of Georgia has a very strong track record with juries. The I-Team analyzed all cases in the circuit in the last fiscal year and found a 90 percent conviction rate of the 315 cases that were brought in 2020 - only once did a jury return a not guilty verdict at trial for the entire year.

As Sias feels the full weight of the federal government coming down on him Nichols says there is already one possible defense in the case.

“It very well may be possible that when he told them ‘yes I’ve given you everything’ he thought he had given them everything. So it puts the burden on the government to prove that when he made the statement, in August of 2019 that he had turned over everything to investigators, that he intentionally made that statement with the intent to deceive,” said Nichols.

Sias could still be charged by the GBI, as well. It is possible the state could pursue charges related to the tax money and Jamestown if they have evidence to prove a crime occurred. Or the feds could charge him. Or a third possibility, he faces no charges for the initial allegations and only remains indicted for obstructing the judicial process.

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