Former Augusta Commissioner Sammie Sias found guilty on both charges
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Former Augusta Commissioner Sammie Sias was found guilty after a four-day trial of destroying records in a federal investigation and then lying about it to federal investigators researching the case.
He has 14 days to file an appeal. U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hall will set a sentencing date for Sias following an investigation by U.S. Probation Services. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
We caught up with Sias immediately following the verdict to hear his reaction.
“First off let me say to y’all this, the process it is what it is. I think it was fair. We’ll be prepared to deal with this from this point forward. My team, I believe, put on a very good defense for me, but obviously, it did not go my way. We’ll be prepared to move forward from here. I hold no malice against the process. I hold no malice against the jury, or the judge, or the prosecutors. It is time for me, personally, to go ahead and prepare for this, deal with this and go on from there,” said Sias.
After four days of testimony, the jury deliberated for two hours before delivering guilty verdicts on both counts of the indictment.
Sias is free on bond pending sentencing.
The court listened to six witnesses and Sias himself on the stand Friday.
Sias was accused by a former employee of sexual misconduct, pocketing $10,000 of SPLOST funds, and mistreating children at the Jamestown Community Center – a center he’s been long criticized for managing while he’s a commissioner.
The defense talked about Sias’ character. They said he’s someone with lots of military services and has served in the community for a long time.
FBI computer experts testified that within hours of the agent’s visit, Sias deleted approximately 7,000 relevant files from a laptop computer in his possession that belonged to the Jamestown Community Center.
He said, “If they’re not there, then I agree with you,’’ and said Aug. 5th, around the time this happened, was his birthday, and he was having fun.
Sias justified passing the funds through his personal bank account because he would get a military discount on supplies to help make improvements to the community center.
FOLLOW THE SIAS TRIAL
The jury came in at 9:11 a.m. after the judge ruled in favor of the U.S. regarding objections from the defense about evidence submitted.
The defense argued again that the prosecution’s evidence didn’t meet definitions of obstruction or relevance to obstruction, which the judge overruled and continued back into a jury trial.
Opening statements from the defense were made by Attorney Crowder and ended at 9:29 a.m. He emphasized that Sias is a decent man that served in the military and dedicated himself to the Jamestown Community Center for over 20 years.
He stated his case would emphasize members of the board and community with Sandridge, as well as establishing that the city of Augusta overall owns the Jamestown Community Center despite any management agreements with the Sandridge Community Association.
The first witness, Parks and Rec Director Maurice McDowell took the stand.
He emphasized that he has known Sias since 2011, 2012, when he first started working for Augusta as the Parks and Rec project coordinator. His job included overseeing SPLOST money and projects.
The defense got McDowell to testify that Sias maintained Jamestown well and worked well when McDowell’s job essentially worked as a liaison between the city and Sandridge and said Sias produced records to show what projects he was working on.
The prosecution then worked on McDowell, in which they got McDowell to testify that he had never received receipts from vendors that Sias went through. It was also said Sias never told him (McDowell) about moving $137,000 of $150,000 of SPLOST funds into his own (Sias) personal bank account, and that McDowell agrees that moving said money into a personal bank account would be considered a red flag.
McDowell said that while receipts were not required, Sias said to him that he did not feel compelled to hand in receipts.
We then heard from three people who worked on Jamestown. One worker did say he wasn’t paid and that he volunteered on his own.
One Farrington Neighborhood Association member talked about occasionally using Jamestown as a meeting place. A Sandridge board member says never saw receipts or heard about Sias moving money to a personal bank account; he did see itineraries.
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