Jury to begin deliberations

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- Jurors will decide the fate of former Downtown Albany Manager Don Buie this morning when Judge Denise Marshall hands the trial over to them.

Buie has been on trial for the last six days, accused of using his office to funnel money to his estranged wife and former girlfriend and entering into a shady deal with a downtown business owner.

The state officially closed its portion of the trial Monday and punted to defense attorney Johnnie Graham, who called three witnesses before closing the defense portion of the trial.

But the highlight of Monday's events had to be the political theater that were the closing statements, during which each side summarized and laid out evidence in the case.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Cohilas argued first and last, with Graham in the middle. Cohilas challenged the jurors to send a message to political figures to be responsible with taxpayers' money.

"What you do here sends a message to the community, the taxpayers, Mr. Buie and to other public officials who are entrusted with our tax dollars," Cohilas said. "... This case is about whether we, as a community, will demand, from our public officials, honesty."

In her closing statement, Graham questioned the motives of the state's three top witnesses and their validity as credible witnesses.

"If the misuse of government funds is the overriding interest in this case, then why grant these people a slap on the wrist?" Graham said. "This case is about sending a political message and using my client to do it."

Earlier in the day, Graham called Michael Hill, a radio announcer and entertainment personality who had been contracted to provide entertainment during First Friday and Wednesday lunchtime events. He testified that on some occasions Buie did provide sound equipment, which is listed as an expense on one of the invoices in question.

On cross examination, however, Hill said he didn't believe the sound equipment, which he described as mediocre, would cost the $350 Buie is believed to have given Nicole Brown to rent the device.

Graham next called GBI Special Agent Fred Wimberly, who testified about his encounter with Brown.

Finally, Graham called Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority Vice Chairman Andy Reid, who testified that the board was aware of ongoing negotiations for the downtown space that officials with Dollar Square were allowed to rent but said on cross examination that nothing had come before the board for a vote.