Several individuals appeared before Superior Court Judge Andy Spivey this Wednesday for bond hearings, including Latisha Brockington, Michael Clark, and Alexandria Bowen, who was arrested last month on trafficking charges for her alleged involvement in a heroin operation. Brockington and Clark were both denied bond on aggravated assault charges, while the judge has yet to rule on Bowen's motion for bond.
Brockington was charged on May 29 by the Douglas Police Department with one count of aggravated assault after she allegedly shot Courtney Sanders. Sanders was previously charged with the same offense after she was accused of pulling a gun on Brockington just last year. When the shooting occurred, Sanders was out on bond and had a bond condition that ordered her not to make any contact with Brockington.
Brockington's attorney, J.J. Strickland, called three witnesses to the stand, including Brockington's mother and two family members at the scene the night the shooting occurred, Jamiya Brockington and LaMichael Brockington. Both Jamiya, Brockington's sister, and LaMichael signed and submitted affidavits claiming Sanders had reached in the car and hit Brockington in the face, with Latisha then shooting the gun in self-defense. They also stated that a woman identified as Brianna Holmes fired a gun as they drove away.
Jamiya took the stand and testified about the details of the night the shooting occurred but, according to Assistant District Attorney John Rumker, was now giving a contradicting statement regarding who fired the first shot. Rumker asked Jamiya if she "knew what perjury was," which she said she did not. Rumker warned her that lying under oath could result in a witness being held in contempt.
According to Rumker, during an interview with Douglas Police Department Investigator Brittany O'Steen, Jamiya revealed that Brockington was the first to shoot but said in her testimony that she was unsure, and "shots were being fired everywhere." Investigator O'Steen was called to the stand by the state and said Jamiya had told her that Brockington had been the first to use a weapon.
O'Steen said Brockington told her she only purchased a gun because she feared Sanders after their prior altercation. She also told the judge that based on multiple interviews, her understanding of the altercation was that Brockington and Jamiya were going to a party to pick up money for one of their friends. When they pulled onto the street, the only available parking spot was across from Sanders' home. According to statements made to O'Steen, they left after realizing Sanders lived across the street, and "at some point," Brockington retrieved her handgun, and they returned.
Rumker said Brockington was "looking for a conflict" when she decided to return to the location with her a gun and asked for her bond to be denied. Judge Spivey agreed and denied the motion.
If found guilty of the aggravated assault charge, Brockington faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Michael Clark, who was arrested on many felony charges, including aggravated assault and home invasion, earlier this year was also denied bond by Judge Spivey. The case involves several conflicting narratives of the altercation from the three individuals involved, including Clark and his ex-wife Qwaima Clark and Garry Brinson.
According to the incident report, the dispute occurred on April 19, with Clark unlawfully entering the home that he previously lived in with Qwaima and threatening both her and Brinson with verbal statements and pointing a firearm at Qwaima. Brinson told investigators that he grabbed the gun from Clark and "wrestled it from him" before Qwaima took the weapon. According to the report, Clark and Brinson then went to the ground fighting, with Qwiama being hit by Clark's elbow and bruised in the process. When Brinson tried to leave the residence, he fell to the ground, and Clark allegedly approached him and began striking him with his fist. While attempting to leave the property, Brinson fell and broke his ankle.
Clark was taken to the Coffee County Jail on charges of aggravated assault, aggravated battery, obstruction, simple battery under the Family Violence Act, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and home invasion - first degree.
Mickeyala Brockington and Dcarius Clark, Michael Clark's children, both took the stand. They told the judge that Clark's local businesses, Lil' Mike’s Family Restaurant and Lil'Mike’s Transport, were declining due to Clark's incarceration. Mickeyala also stated that her grandmother, Michael Clark's mother, had just undergone triple bypass surgery and needed Clark to be released to help care for her.
Clark's attorney, Chevene King of Albany, also called Michael Clark as a witness. According to Clark, he and Qwaima had filed for divorced before the altercation, and she told him to stop by to get the divorce decree the day before. Clark said he was on his way out of town that night for work and stopped by Qwaima's house, which he claimed he was still living in when he was in town. When asked by his attorney if he pointed a gun at anyone, he admitted to having a firearm when he entered the home but denied pointing it at anyone.
Clark told Assistant District Attorney Ian Sansot he "wasn't sure why Qwaima would have said they had been separated for five years" or that he had been staying at his restaurant because it wasn't true. According to Clark, he has "never slept at his restaurant." Sansot then asked Clark if he had ever seen the divorce petition filed by Qwiama, and Clark said he had. Sansot then asked if, while reviewing that document, Clark had noticed his address being listed as 611 South Gaskin Avenue, the mailing address for Lil' Mike’s Restaurant. Clark said he was shown the petition but "didn't see that part."
When Sansot told the judge he had no further questions for Clark, Spivey stated, "Well, I have a question."
"Why did you need a shotgun just to go in and pick up divorce papers?" Judge Spivey questioned. Clark said it was just a "habit" to carry a firearm because he always had one while working on the road.
During Dcarius' testimony, he stated that Qwaima wanted all the charges dismissed and the case to be dropped entirely. Sansot also commented that Qwaima had also contacted the District Attorney's office and expressed the same desire to them. However, according to Sansot, Brinson had no interest in dismissing the case and wanted it to proceed with prosecution.
Judge Spivey denied Clark's motion for bond, stating that while Qwaima's request would be considered if she was the only named victim, "that wasn't the case." He also said that based on the evidence, he believed Clark posed a risk of danger to the community and other individuals. If Clark's charges result in a conviction, he is facing a maximum penalty of a life sentence.
New details were revealed in what led to the arrest of Alexandria Bowen, and Bowen's request for bond was also the only motion Judge Spivey didn’t rule on.
Skylar Merson, her boyfriend, was arrested in February of this year after leading deputies from the Coffee County Sheriff's Office on a high-speed chase when he avoided law enforcement during an attempted traffic stop. An investigation led to Merson receiving several charges, including trafficking heroin, aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer, fleeing or eluding, possession of a firearm by first offender probation, and other charges.
According to his indictments, Merson is accused of being in possession of approximately 33 grams of heroin, making it "the largest heroin bust in the county."
Bowen, however, was not arrested at the time but was indicted on charges of trafficking heroin and tampering with evidence three months later.
Bowen's attorney, Sam Dennis, called four witnesses to the stand, including her grandfather John Harvey Johnson, a family friend and the pastor of Covenant Christian Church Gregory Pope, and Donnie Smith, a deacon at the church he said Bowen had been attending over the last year. All witnesses testified that Bowen, who was visibly emotional during the hearing, was an "exceptional mother" to her 22-month-old daughter and believed she deserved a bond.
Rumker asked Pastor Pope when the last time he had spoken to Bowen was, with Pope stating he spoke to her on the phone at some point since her arrest but didn't recall the last time they communicated before that day. He also said he has known her since she was born, and while he "didn't think she'd commit a felony or be in a relationship with a convicted drug dealer," he knew in a "house of 99, you always go after the one that is lost."
Johnson, who raised Bowen until she was nine years old, said his home is 100 yards from where Bowen and Merson were living and was with her the day she was arrested. He stated she "was upset, but cooperated," and she was training to take over his real estate business one day before her arrest. He also referred to her as the "best mother ever."
The last witness was called to the stand to speak on an evaluation she gave Bowen last Friday. Patty Cosey, a licensed professional counselor from Valdosta, was asked to conduct the evaluation by Bowen's attorney. Cosey said that based on her assessment results, she did not find Bowen a risk of any kind if she were to be granted bond. According to Cosey, Bowen referred to Merson as her "current boyfriend" and said, "sometimes women tend to fall in love with the wrong person."
Cosey also said Bowen's daughter was approaching a time when development is significant and that children are "very dependent" on their mother. Cosey stated, "Removing the mother from the child could disrupt her development."
Rumker asked, "As a counselor, you understand sometimes people, mothers, commit crimes and the children have to be removed from them?" Cosey said, “Yes."
"So do you believe no one should go to prison if they commit a felony crime just because they have a child?" Rumker asked. Cosey answered, "No, I do not believe that."
Rumker briefed the judge on the facts of the case and explained that authorities found text messages on a cell phone revealing Merson had sent a message to Bowen telling her to hide the drugs in their home, along with two firearms, just before his arrest. According to Rumker, Merson "sent her the defendant [Bowen] a text message saying, 'Go clean out the house now; get all the sh** from under the pillow.''"
When law enforcement arrived to execute a search warrant, according to Rumker, the heroin and firearms had been moved from the home to the woods, just as Merson had instructed Bowen.
In his closing, Rumker continued, "The defendant hid five ounces of heroin in the woods, along with his firearms. Her boyfriend told her what to do and where to move it, and she knew exactly where 'all the sh*t' was when they arrived, and she knew it was going on. I don't necessarily believe she shows a risk of fleeing, but I do think she poses other risks if given bond."
Bowen's attorney Dennis stated that when he visited the Coffee County Jail to see Bowen, the jail staff seemed "perplexed" that she "was even charged" and questioned, "why she was still in jail." He continued, "She has no priors and no convictions, and as you can see, many people are here to vouch for her." At that time, Dennis asked those in the courtroom attending in support of Bowen to please stand, with 11 individuals coming to their feet.
After both sides presented their arguments on Wednesday, Judge Spivey said he would "take everything into consideration" before making the decision. As of Thursday night, the judge had not ruled on the motion.
Several other people appeared via Zoom for Wednesday's bond hearings throughout the day.
Those who were granted bonds include:
•Julio Pascaul - 2 counts of Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute; reinstated a $10,000 bond from 2019
•Octavio Ruiz - Possession of Methamphetamine and DUI; reinstated a $12,000 property bond
•Jessica Washburn - Failure to Register as a Sex Offender; $7,500 bond
•Devis Edwards - Use of Communication Facility in Commission of a Felony involving Controlled Substance and Possession of Methamphetamine; $5,000 bond
•Robert Humphrey - Failure to Register as a Sex Offender; $2,500 bond
•Stephanie Adams - Possession of Methamphetamine, Purchase/Possession/Manufacture/Distribution or Sale of Marijuana, and Possession or Purchase Controlled Substance
•Tiko Williams - 1 count of Theft by Taking (felony) and two counts of Theft by Taking (misdemeanors); $5,000
•Kristy Ford - Theft by Shoplifting (felony), Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a Police Officer and four traffic charges; $1,000
•Melinda Futral - Possession of Methamphetamine, Purchase or Possesses Controlled Substance, Receipt/Transfer/Possession of Firearm by Convicted Felony and two counts of Possession of a Drug-Related Object; $7,500 bond
•Fred Hartley, Jr. - Arson 2nd Degree; $7,500 bond
Those who were denied bonds are the following:
•Travis Bennett - Fleeing or Eluding a Police Officer
•Kenneth Williams Jr. - 2 counts of Aggravated Assault
•Noel Bohorquez-Avendano - Child Molestation
•Kentarius Williams - Possession of Tools for Commission of a Crime, three counts of Burglary 1st Degree, Entering Automobile or other Mobile Vehicle with Intent to Commit Felony or Theft, six counts of Burglary in the 2nd Degree and Arson 2nd Degree, Criminal Damage to Property 2nd Degree
•Kenneth Williams III - 2 counts of Financial Transaction Card Fraud
•Zamarion Pope - 4 counts of Entering Automobile or Other Motor Vehicle with Intent to Commit Theft or Felony, Possession of Firearm or Knife During Commission of or Attempt to Commit Certain Felonies, two counts of Theft by Taking, Willful Obstruction of Law Enforcement Officers, and four traffic-related charges
•Corey Carelock - Theft by Deception - Felony
•Ray Batten - Unlawful for Any Person to Purchase/Possess a Controlled Substance and Possession of a Firearm During Commission of or Attempt to Commit Certain Felonies
•Veronica Maldonado - Trafficking in Cocaine, Illegal Drugs, Marijuana, or Methamphetamine
•Joseph Troupe - 2 counts of Aggravated Assault
•Quashawn Graham - Possession of a Controlled Substance: Crack Cocaine
Two individuals also pleaded guilty to their charges and received probation sentences, including Robert Surrency Jr. - Purchase or Possess Controlled Substance (methamphetamine), received three years probation; Jesse McCabe - Possession of a Controlled Substance (2.9 lbs of marijuana) - 10 years probation.
DouglasNow will continue to publish any updates in the above cases, including the judge's ruling regarding a bond for Bowen.