ALBANY, Ga. — A Dougherty County grand jury reached a decision late Wednesday afternoon in the case of Dougherty County School Board member Velvet Riggins, but the indictments and no bills were returned after 5:30 p.m. and were immediately whisked downstairs and locked in the County Clerk's office.
Riggins, accused of two counts of falsifying free and reduced school lunch applications and one felony count of offense by a public official, will learn early today if she has been indicted.
"I was told that the grand jury determined that the case did not meet the three charges of malpractice, malfeasance and misfeasance," Riggins' attorney, Mark Brimberry, said. "We were never allowed into the grand jury room to make our presentation."
When asked if he felt confident that Riggins' case was in better shape than when the grand jury convened, Brimberry replied, "I absolutely feel better."
Southwest Georgia District Attorney Joe Mullholland, appointed to the case after Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards recused himself because he knows Riggins, said he did not know what decision had been made.
"The proposed presentments were put forth. The grand jury reached a decision," Mullholland said. "I have no idea if she (Riggins) was indicted or not. That's really all I know right now."
Edwards also said he did not know the results.
"The indictment folders were immediately taken by the bailiffs and locked in the clerk's office," Edwards said. "We'll find out when everybody else does in the morning."
Once the grand jury presentments are filed by the clerk, they then will become public knowledge.
Several witnesses were subpoenaed in the case, but only DCSS School Police Assistant Chief J.C. Phillips, who investigated the case, gave testimony.
"I think the grand jury discovered that Ms. Riggins was at all times qualified for free and reduced lunches," Brimberry said. "I think the grand jury also found that she didn't abuse her position as a School Board member. In other similar cases, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which administers the National School Lunch Program) has simply recommended that the money be paid back.
"I know this is frustrating for her to have to wait overnight, but she knows she did nothing wrong."
Riggins was arrested last December and is currently free on a $7,000 personal recognizance bond. She was scheduled to go before the grand jury early last month, but her case was delayed.
Her arrest came on the heels of three misdemeanor counts each of falsifying free or reduced school lunch applications brought against Morningside Elementary School Principal Gloria Baker and her husband John.
Baker was suspended by the Dougherty School Board for 15 days without pay.