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Riggins prepares for trial

ALBANY, Ga. -- Dougherty County Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss denied three motions from suspended Dougherty School Board member Velvet Riggins' attorney, Mark Brimberry, on Friday, setting the stage for her school lunch fraud trial Monday.

Riggins reportedly turned down a second plea offer from South Georgia Assistant District Attorney Heather Lanier, who would neither confirm nor deny an offer was made, saying only, "We had been in negotiations (with Riggins), but we no longer are."

A source close to the case said Riggins had been offered an opportunity to plead down from a felony to a misdemeanor and probation, but she refused the deal.

Earlier in the day, Goss denied two demurrer motions from Brimberry in addition to turning down the attorney's request to individually interview each member of the 64-member jury pool on Monday.

Goss said the case had gone on long enough and that he was ready for resolution.

"We are going to get this case tried," Goss said to Brimberry. "I've set aside next week and expect it to be tried unless somebody is in the hospital or an emergency arises."

Riggins was indicted in April on four counts of theft by taking and public records fraud in the filing of free and reduced school lunch applications for her two children.

In May, Riggins was suspended from her job with the South Georgia Girl Scouts and was dismissed shortly afterwards.

In late June, Gov. Nathan Deal suspended Riggins from the school board pending resolution of her case.

The state's case centers on Riggins' lunch application for the 2011-12 school year. Her applications in the four previous years listed an income of between $36,000 and $39,000, which qualified her children for reduced-price meals.

On Sept. 20 of last year, Riggins submitted an application listing an income of just $9,066. Just more than a month later she submitted a second application listing an income of $39,053 -- which included her $30,000 salary from the Girl Scouts and was more in line with her previous lunch applications.

The arrests of Riggins and former Morningside Elementary School principal Gloria Baker and her husband, John, on school lunch fraud, caught the attention of the Georgia Department of Education, which cited those arrests as reason to doubt the school district's entire FRM (free and reduced meal) numbers from FY 2012.

Those numbers are used by the state to distribute federal Title I, Part A funds to districts throughout Georgia's public schools.

Concern over the lunch issue is the main reason the state is requiring the school system to hire a monitor of its choosing to oversee the system's free and reduced lunch application process.

Judge Willie Lockett is still considering motions in the Bakers' case, and has not yet set a trial date.

Comments

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 7 months ago

Velvet and Atty. Brimberry....don't forget the 3 rules for DoCo Success: 1. Confess and get punished 2. Blame another and get a slap on the wrist. 3. Deny and Lie and get off scott free with Gold Engraved VIP Invitation to the skating party already in progress at undisclosed location.

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RedEric 1 year, 7 months ago

She could use the Phantom Eraser defense. It is the same defense used by CRCT cheaters. It worked there, it could work here.

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nofreeloader 1 year, 7 months ago

I thought the "that's the way we always have done it " holds water here.It's sad that many kids go hungry because the system isn't fare for the struggling honest family.. They are denied assistance because of honesty when they get past their pride to belittle them selves to even ask. I think the restitution should be Riggings pay for at least 4 children's lunch for the same amount of time she rode the system for hers. Denied any part of the DCSS or Scouting. It's high time honest an law abiding people take back a broken system.

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VSU 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm betting she gets no more than a 60 day suspension if that much. That's how they roll around here.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 7 months ago

It's surprising that she did not accept a plea deal to reduce from a Felony to something lower. If convicted (ok....it's a real long shot) then she will not be able to serve on the School Board, nor vote.

OK, it's probably irrelevant because she will never be convicted in Albany GA.

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Amazed2 1 year, 7 months ago

Best the prosecution can expect is a series of hung juries. Unfortunately a portion of the jury pool gets free Lunch too so they dont see noting wrong with another sister getting her share anyway she can. I really hope they vote the evidence and vote for what is right and best for DCSS children.

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bigbob 1 year, 7 months ago

I bet she is found not guilty because she is black in Albany.

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43cop 1 year, 7 months ago

You can bet your sweet a__ on one thing, Judge Goss will not tolerate the misuse of his courtroom for a side show and if the evidence is there, she will be convicted or there is a possibility the decision will be set aside.

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