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Jury is seated as Riggins' trial gets under way

South Georgia Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Heather Lanier hands Dougherty County School Police Assistant Chief J.C. Phillips copies of lunch applications during the opening of DCSS School Board member Velvet Riggins’ lunch fraud trial in Dougherty Superior Court on Tuesday.

South Georgia Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Heather Lanier hands Dougherty County School Police Assistant Chief J.C. Phillips copies of lunch applications during the opening of DCSS School Board member Velvet Riggins’ lunch fraud trial in Dougherty Superior Court on Tuesday.

ALBANY, Ga. -- The trial of suspended Dougherty County School Board member Velvet Riggins got under way on Tuesday in Superior Court Judge's Stephen Goss courtroom with an eight-woman, four-man jury being seated and opening remarks made in her lunch fraud case.

The panel, consisting of eight blacks and four whites, will consider four counts that Riggins falsified a school lunch application during the 2011-12 school year.

"She broke a promise by allowing her children to obtain free meals they were not qualified for," South Georgia Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Heather Lanier told the jury in her opening remarks.

"This was not a simple mistake that was made on Sept. 20 and Oct. 24. There is more evidence than just these two applications."

Riggins' attorney Mark Brimberry then addressed the jury.

"I had my opening prepared, but after I heard Ms. Lanier, I said 'nah, nah,' so I will go unscripted," Brimberry said. "This is not that complicated of a case, it leads me to think of 'mens rea,' or criminal intent. Remember there are two sides to every story and this case will really boil down to just one question: Do you think Ms. Riggins filled out that application on Sept. 20, 2011 with criminal intent?

"And also remember she filled out that application as a parent, not as a school board member."

Riggins is facing four counts -- two felonies and two misdemeanors -- resulting from an April grand jury indictment alleging she fraudulently filled out a school lunch application to obtain free or reduced meals for her two children in the DCSS.

In July, Gov. Nathan Deal suspended Riggins from office pending outcome of her trial.

DCSS Assistant Police Chief J.C. Phillips, the lead investigator in the case, took the stand as the state's first witness.

Phillips testified that he was investigating Morningside Elementary Principal Gloria Baker, who was arrested on similar charges just before Riggins, when he received a tip on the school board member.

"I began looking into Ms. Riggins applications as a result of the other case," Phillips recalled. "I got a tip and decided to look at her lunch applications."

Phillips testified that he discovered an application dated Sept. 20 of last year in which Riggins listed an income of just $9,066. Then, 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. This income figure and was more in line with her previous lunch applications from other school years, Phillips said.

"It was a pretty clear and obvious discrepancy," Phillips said.

When Lanier said she had no further question for Phillips, Goss recessed court until 9 a.m. today, when Brimberry will have the opportunity to cross-examine.

Comments

VietVet1 2 years, 3 months ago

"And also remember she filled out that application as a parent, not as a school board member."

Ah, so as a parent she's a dumb *&#, and as a school board member a piller of society? Get real. LMAO

To the outside world Albany is a zoo and it's not at Chehaw!

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agonized 2 years, 3 months ago

Good post and I thought that, too. Is she so stupid in that simple, self-explanatory forms blow her mind? If so, she shouldn't be a parent OR a school board member. Or does she have a magic thinking cap that she puts on before each board meeting? Maybe that's the reason her mom is always wearing a hat...

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RedEric 2 years, 3 months ago

Wow, unscripted, yeah that was sure the way to go. Criminal intent, oh yeah, none of that, absolutely. So, she filled it out that way because the taxpayers owe her children free lunches? Seems pretty thin to me, but it might work. Oh, by the way, good balance on the jury. That will help when the judge orders a new trial.....out of town.

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Jimboob 2 years, 3 months ago

Did her child get free lunches? Did Ms. Riggins (a well known liar and thief) make a lunch for her children or give them lunch money, or did she send them to school knowing full well that they would receive a free lunch? It isn't rocket scince here. Even if she ammended her application she allowed the thieft to continue.

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agonized 2 years, 3 months ago

Fifteen years ago, the schools in another county that I worked for maintained a list of chilren receiving free or reduced lunches because a LOT of funding comes from that, as we've heard about here. I can't believe it wouldn't be even more easily accessible or specialized now.

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ontario1966 2 years, 3 months ago

Jimboob! Gotta give that one to you!! You are so right!! I hope they checked that out! I would bet anything she knew her kids were getting free meals! I hope they call in the lunch lady at the register, and pull the receipts!!

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FlunkyMonkey 2 years, 3 months ago

Criminal intent? Didn't understand the application? Amended it and her kids still got free lunches? Does Brimberry think the people of Albany are that STUPID as to believe his opening? If she couldn't fill out a simple free lunch application, what the hell was she doing on the school board making decisions on behalf of the people of Albany? Stupid is as stupid does.

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Jimboob 2 years, 3 months ago

Actually he doesn't need to convince the people of Albany, just one of the twelve... And who doesn't think one of them is already convinced?

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jglass 2 years, 3 months ago

You GO, Heather Lanier!!!!! Don't let Brimberry get away with his well known tactics!!!!! She knew what she was doing when she completed the initial application and obviously she did not send lunch money to school with her children. Sounds like a "slam-dunk" to me, but you never know!!!!

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j1984 2 years, 3 months ago

This should be an slam dunk as jglass stated before, I really the jury does indeed find her guilty, there is too much corruption going on with our supposed "leaders," and I am fed up with it, as well as other blacks in Albany whom I spoken too. Not all of us are trying to beat the system, but the prominent ones give us a whole a bad name

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mr_nobody 2 years, 3 months ago

Ok, so if I go beat someone to a bloody pulp who harasses my wife, it should be noted in court that I did it as a husband and not as [my profession]. Great reasoning there, Brimberry. Breaking the law is breaking the law, no matter who you are. You can't separate yourself. You are who you are. Your responsibilities and professions are part of who you are. I do know this... I wouldn't want to be staring across the courtroom at Heather Lanier--she's a tough one. Make us proud!

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KaosinAlbany 2 years, 3 months ago

Those lady attorneys at the DA's office here are extremely good at their job. I would like to see one of them run for the DA's office next time. I have seen them in action and I was amazed.

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Fletch 2 years, 3 months ago

... "Good" doesn't have anything to do with it when you look at the demographics of the jury ... made up of the demographics of the "dark city". ....

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VSU 2 years, 3 months ago

So in a months time her income increased $30,000. Ha! Ha! The only way that could be justifiable is if she had just gotten the job at the girl scouts between the time of her first application.

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saveourcity 2 years, 3 months ago

sooooo, She is dishonest as a parent, but honest as a school board member? That makes sense...

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