David Gibson, Sheriff Beam criminal and civil cases at standstill pending DA action

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

The criminal case against David Gibson, former captain of the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Uniform Patrol Division, as well as the civil cases against Gibson, Sheriff Wendell Beam and Spalding County, are at a standstill until at least mid-September.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten on Jan. 13 originally ordered the civil cases administratively closed and deactivated all pending motions. The cases were to be reopened after 120 days, or in mid-May, with a new status report to be filed by April 12.

The basis of this action was the criminal cases still pending against Gibson.

In his order, Batten acknowledged the plaintiffs’ interest in moving forward, as well as the interest of the public, particularly Spalding County residents, who the court said would desire a “speedy resolution” of cases such as this.

However, Batten’s order said the court “cannot ignore the potential prejudice to defendants from allowing the criminal and civil cases to proceed at the same time.”

Of specific concern to Batten was the “significant concerns” defendants raised regarding the possible effects Gibson’s Fifth Amendment rights could have on the civil case.

“The Fifth Amendment ‘not only protects the individual against being involuntarily called as a witness against himself in a criminal prosecution, but also privileges him not to answer official questions put to him in any other proceeding, civil or criminal, formal or informal, where the answers might incriminate him in future criminal proceedings,’” the order states, citing Baxter v. Palmigiano, existing case law.

On April 13, a status report was filed in U.S. Federal Court advising Gibson’s criminal case was still pending.

“The parties hereby advise the court that defendant Gibson’s case was not presented to the most recent grand jury. The next grand jury meeting is in September of this year,” the report stated.

Batten then extended the stay pending further court order. He instructed all parties that a status report should be filed with the court no later than Oct. 1 “indicating whether Gibson’s case has been presented to the grand jury and the status of any proceedings against him so that the court may reevaluate the stay at that time.”

The civil suits will therefore remain administratively closed until further action is taken.

This leaves both the civil and criminal cases involving Gibson, Beam and Spalding County at a standstill pending further action in the criminal case against Gibson by Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Scott Ballard.

Gibson was arrested more than eleven months ago following an investigation conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that Ballard had requested.

GBI Special Agent Jared Coleman on Sept. 9, 2015, took warrants on Gibson for two counts of aggravated sexual battery, aggravated assault, sexual battery, two counts of simple assault, influencing a witness, stalking, public indecency and violation of his oath of office.

Gibson was arrested at his home Sept. 10, 2015, and was granted bond and later released from the Clayton County Jail on Sept. 14, 2015.

In the eleven months since Gibson’s arrest, he has not been indicted.

This past June, Ballard explained the delay in the process said he would be making that grand jury presentment the following month – July.

“I had hoped to get to the grand jury in May, but I just couldn’t make it work fast enough. I couldn’t get it ready like I needed it to. Part of that is we’ve got these new procedures that I don’t fully understand yet when an police officer is going to a grand jury, so he’s scheduled to go to the grand jury in July,” Ballard said in a June interview. “We’ve got them recalled. I don’t remember the exact dates, but that’s the plan – to take it to the Grand Jury in July and then it could be ready for trial probably in October.”

However, July passed and Gibson’s case was not presented to the grand jury.

When interviewed July, Ballard once again offered an explanation for the additional delay.

“What happened was I got to looking at it and we’d recalled this grand jury like five times, and I think they’re exhausted. The last time we had them (in May), we took 90 cases before them in two days, and I just decided to step back and take it to a new grand jury, which I think will be Sept. 15,” Ballard said.

When asked, “So, the grand jury was not called back at all for July?” Ballard offered the following explanation.

“Yeah, we had Grand Jury in July. Uh, I’m sorry. Umm, a couple of things have happened since we talked (in June),” Ballard said. “I didn’t bring it in July, and the reason I didn’t bring it in July is we have a new statute about when you’re indicting police officers and there a lot of loopholes to jump through, and I’m trying to familiarize myself with them and I missed one of them, so I was going to need to postpone it to another time. Originally, I thought, okay, I would bring them back in August just to hear the Gibson case, but, um, I decided against that because like I said just a minute ago, we’ve recalled them several times and I just didn’t want to have to recall this same grand jury again. I thought I’ve overworked them, so the plan right now is Sept. 15 with a new grand jury.”

When told that was the reason he had given in June for delaying the Gibson presentment until July, Ballard said, “It is. It is, but I just keep learning things about it as I go. It’s a brand new statute. The bill covers multiple code sections and I was about to miss one of the hoops that you’ve got to jump through. There are a lot of new requirements on us when there’s a police officer that’s being indicted and I just didn’t want to mess it up, so I postponed it…I wanted to be sure I get this right. This is important to all of us and I want to be sure I get it right, so I’m learning the new statute as we go, and that’s the reason I wasn’t able to go in July, and I decided not to bring them back in August after earlier thinking that I would because the grand jury is worn out. We’ve recalled them way more than we usually do a grand jury.”

Ballard then denied the delays – the first coinciding with the May general primary and the second with the July run off, both of which involved Sheriff Wendell Beam – indicated political maneuvering.

“Yeah, I knew they would ask that and think that and the answer is absolutely no. It has utterly nothing to do with the election. That has nothing to do with it,” Ballard said. “I knew that people – and I can understand why people would raise those concerns – but the truth is it has nothing to do with it.”

Ballard now says he anticipates Gibson’s case will be presented to a new grand jury on Sept. 15.

 

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