Defense attorneys ask FBI agent about what defendants told him they saw

The following is a summary of the trial of United States vs. Wiley Griffin et al. We are attempting to be as accurate as possible in reporting the trial, given the restrictions on recording equipment within the courtroom. The article contains statements and claims made in court by attorneys and witnesses during the course of opening statements and testimony. Those statements and claims do not represent the views or opinions of or its parent company, Flint Media Inc.

The following story depicts testimony of FBI Special Agent Steve McDermott from approximately 11:00 a.m. to the conclusion of the day’s events (with the exception of a short testimony of Dr. Aric Aldridge) on Tuesday, June 2, 2015.

Defense attorney Christina Hunt questioned Agent McDermott on cross-examination about his understanding of the command structure at the Decatur County Sherriff’s Office. Specifically, she asked whether defendants Wade Umbach and Chris Kines were in the “chain of command”. According to McDermott, to his knowledge, they were not. In the words of Mrs. Hunt, Wade Umbach was “just a deputy” to which Agent McDermott agreed.

Later in the cross examination, Mrs. Hunt asked Agent McDermott about the public’s access to the FBI and GBI, two law enforcement agencies that have the authority to investigate excessive force claims. “Do you take phone calls about civil rights violations?” To which Agent McDermott responded, “Yes”.

Agent McDermott testified that he met with Aaron Parrish for the first time on August 29, 2013 and filled out a FBI Report 302, detailing the conversation. The content of that “302” was brought into question, specifically concerning how Aaron Parrish came to learn that he had been struck with a flashlight. According to McDermott, Aaron Parrish told him in the first interview that he learned that detail from Chip Nix.

Mrs. Hunt later questioned Mr. McDermott about his interview with defendant Wade Umbach. She asked if the interview occurred on the campus of North Georgia college, which is in the Northern District of Georgia. Agent McDermott replied that is was in the Northern judicial district. This was a point of concern in Mrs. Hunt’s opening statement. She then asked if the recorded interviews that the court heard earlier in the day were portions of the entire interview with Wade Umbach. Agent McDermott replied, “Yes, some clips were played”.

After a series of additional foundational questions, she asked if Wade Umbach told him (Agent McDermott) that he felt someone going for his gun. According to the audio clip that was played for the court, defendant Umbach said he didn’t feel anyone going for his gun, but did feel “something in the belt area”. Agent McDermott testified that Mr. Umbach told him his partner, Chris Kines had informed him that the subject was going for the gun, so “he went with that”. On the clip, Umbach was heard saying, “He could have been throwing his hands back grabbing at anything”. Mrs. Hunt also asked Agent McDermott, “He also said he didn’t see Wiley Griffin hit Aaron Parrish, correct?” To which Agent McDermott replied, “Yes, he was very clear about that”.

Finally, Mrs. Hunt asked Agent McDermott whether people he interviewed indicated that the scene that night was chaotic to which, according to his testimony, Agent McDermott indicated that because of different vantage points, everyone may have a different account of what they saw. He further stated, “Everybody has a different recollection of minor details”, to which Mrs. Hunt replied, “And that doesn’t mean they’re lying, right?” Agent McDermott answered, “No.”

Agent McDermott was then cross examined by Kermit Dorough, an attorney from Albany who is representing defendant Chris Kines. After several foundational questions, Mr. Dorough asked Agent McDermott about his first interview with Chip Nix. Specifically whether Chip had mentioned that he heard anyone say “Stop going for my gun, boy!” After reviewing the “302”, Agent McDermott indicated that his report did not reflect Nix mentioning that comment. Mr. Dorough pressed Agent McDermott as to why it wasn’t in the “302”: “Either he didn’t tell you or he told you and you omitted it, right?” Agent McDermott stated that it wasn’t in the “302”.

Later in Mr. Dorough’s cross examination, he showed Agent McDermott the report that defendant Kines generated the Monday after the incident occurred. Upon Mr. Dorough’s direction, Agent McDermott read a sentence that stated, “Other deputies were assisting as well” (with the arrest of Aaron Parrish).

Mr. Dorough also asked Agent McDermott to review the trial transcript from Aaron Parrish’s state trial, specifically Chris Kines’ testimony. Mr. Dorough asked Agent McDermott to read aloud from the transcript Kines’ testimony about whether or not his report was a summary. Agent McDermott read Mr. Kines’ words from the state trial transcript: “I wasn’t the investigating officer, so I didn’t write the incident report, just a summary that got attached to the case file.” One of Mr. Kines’ is charges is related to filing a false report.

At the conclusion of the day, Mr. Dorough was questioning Agent McDermott about his interview with deputy Vincent Edmonds. Mr. Dorough referenced the post-Thanksgiving 2013 lunch that Mr. Edmonds had with Wiley Griffin IV, to which Mr. Edmonds had previously testified. “You knew he (Edmonds) was going to have lunch with Wiley Griffin (IV) and you told him to get information from him, right?” Agent McDermott replied, “No, I did not, that is absolutely false”.

The trial resumed this morning, June 3, at 8:00 with Agent McDermott still on the stand under cross examination. Details from today’s testimony will be available later this afternoon.

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