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Velvet Riggins' trial nearing jury phase

Suspended Dougherty County School Board member Velvet Riggins looks back at members of her family during a lull Thursday in her trial in Dougherty Superior Court. The case is expected to go to the jury today.

Suspended Dougherty County School Board member Velvet Riggins looks back at members of her family during a lull Thursday in her trial in Dougherty Superior Court. The case is expected to go to the jury today.

— The state and defense rested their cases Thursday in the lunch fraud trial of suspended Dougherty County school board member Velvet Riggins.

Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss instructed South Georgia Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Heather Lanier and defense attorney Mark Brimberry to prepare to present their closing arguments to the jury at 9:30 a.m. today.

The case could be handed to the jury by midmorning.

Riggins is facing three counts: a felony theft by taking charge and two misdemeanor theft by taking and public records fraud charges.

On Thursday, Goss granted Brimberry’s directed verdict motion to dismiss Count 1, which charged Riggins with felony public records fraud. Goss based his decision on the prosecution using the wrong state statute in its original charge letter.

The judge, however, denied Brimberry’s other directed verdict motions, allowing the three other charges to stand.

Prosecutors began the day by calling Lincoln Elementary Magnet School Cafeteria Manager Ladainial Hooper to the stand. Lanier asked Hooper if she ever saw Riggins’ son, William, eat a meal at lunch.

Hooper testified she had seen the younger Riggins in a lunch line, but couldn’t recall seeing him eat a lunch.

Lanier then recalled DCSS Police Assistant Chief J.C. Phillips to the stand in an attempt to exhibit a pattern of wrong income totals on Riggins’ lunch applications dating back to 2007.

The State’s case centered on a Free or Reduced Meal application for the 2011-12 school year, listing an annual income of just $9,066 from child support and her monthly stipend as a School Board member.

On the income (Part 4) section of the application, she had written “Girl Scouts” but left out a dollar amount in annual income. This qualified Riggins’ two children for free meals.

She filed a second application on Oct. 24, 2011, listing her $30,000 income from the Girl Scouts, which boosted her income to $39,053, which was more in line with previously filed applications.

The state’s case was weakened on Wednesday when former Child Nutrition Services Director Vanessa Hayes testified that because of the blank income line on the Sept. 20 application, it should have been flagged and not processed. She said the department violated its own policy in that regard.

Riggins was indicted in April. A month later, she was suspended from her job with the Girl Scouts and was dismissed shortly afterward.

In late June, Gov. Nathan Deal suspended Riggins from the School Board pending resolution of the case. She is the only candidate who has qualified to run Nov. 6 for a new four-year term representing District 3 on School Board.

Comments

ontario1966 1 year, 7 months ago

Riggins face looks like something only a Mama could love! And Riggins, we all know what you want? So do this, hold out both hands? And want in one hand and S*^? In the other and see which one you get first? Judgement is coming, come on jury do the right thing!!

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lynn227 1 year, 6 months ago

You're more concerned about how a person looks than his/her offense. That's sad! Since you brought up the subject, show your face. We'd like to make a comparison.We all need a point of reference.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 6 months ago

Again it's asked...."who is we?" "

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lynn227 1 year, 6 months ago

Again it's stated, "I wasn't speaking to or with you. Roll your tail along and find another commentor to enlighten." Besides, if a person dares to make a comment about another's appearance...he/she should at least have his/hers there for comparison.

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MRKIA 1 year, 7 months ago

I HOPE THE JURORS TAKE NOTE OF THE FACT THAT WHILE THE FORM WAS SUPPOSEDLY SUBMITTED "INCOMPLETE", VELVET MANAGED TO SIGN IT, ATTESTING TO IT'S COMPLETENESS AND ACCURACY. THIS IS JUST PART OF THE CON GAME BEING RUN HERE. DOES VELVETS TOTAL INCOME DISQUALIFY HER FROM EVEN APPLYING?

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jglass 1 year, 6 months ago

How many charges did she have? Looks like one has been dropped? Well, I guess we will see what the jury decides on the ones they are allowed to decide.

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RedEric 1 year, 6 months ago

What was the currency used to achieve this decision? Inquiring minds want to know. So a signed inaccurate document does not reflect intent to defraud? This is another story the outer world will not believe.

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ontario1966 1 year, 6 months ago

Red Eric I think you might be right, let's see what new car he drives next week, with the judgement he just made.

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waltspecht 1 year, 6 months ago

If she's paying Brimberry, she won't be driving a new car for quite some time. However if the DCSS is paying the firm, then all will be well. You know, just like returning bail money to a Parent. Anyone even know what happened to the child that got bailed out? I'm guessing the charges were dropped or reduced.

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jglass 1 year, 6 months ago

I would really love to know who is paying Brimberry for her.

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Shinedownfan 1 year, 6 months ago

I still think the black preachers are.

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hotdog 1 year, 6 months ago

It amazes me the self righteousness when you are not the one on trial....Whatever the jury decides they decide....the stupidity of suggesting that the DCSS is paying for the trial is amazing....next it will be the Obama mindset of handouts that is to blame....If she is found guilty I am all for her being persecuted to the fullest extent of the law.....but if she is innocent will any of you come on here post your names and apolgize.?

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tywebb 1 year, 6 months ago

Knowing what the dcss has paid for in the past.....i don't think it's stupid at all to suggest they might pay for it. Do I think they did? no, BUT I wouldn't be surprised if it happened. Nothing surprises me anymore with regards to the dcss and school board......it only disappoints me

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ontario1966 1 year, 6 months ago

Hotdog, I will be glad to post my name after the verdict, and I will not apologize for nothing! This is one racist town? And coverups and corruption! And we have a right to freedom of speech! So take your bible bearing rear to the local hotdog stand and sit back and relax.

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jglass 1 year, 6 months ago

My name is posted very clearly on my comments. What she did was wrong and she got caught. Now, if the jury decides she is innocent, then we just have to live with that. There is so much cheating and stealing and lying with the "powers that be" within the City of Albany and the boards and leaders that it is so ridiculous. But, it all just gets swept under the rug.

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beenhereawhile 1 year, 6 months ago

hotdog, she is being prosecuted in a court of law, not persecuted. Look it up in the dictionary.

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Outtahere 1 year, 6 months ago

So this means, because she wasn't charged with a felony, her status on the board will not be effected. That's what I deduce from this article.

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RedEric 1 year, 6 months ago

No, theft by taking is a felony and of that she is charged. It doesn't read as though a defense was offered for that. Is that defense missing from the report? If it wasn't presented does no defense mean admission? We need more info.

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

Cool your jets, Eric, this is merely an update. I'll post the full story later today. She is facing one felony theft by taking charge and two misdemeanor counts of theft by taking and filing false information to obtain free or reduced school meals

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Abytaxpayer 1 year, 6 months ago

hotdog She cannot be found innocent. She may be found not guilty. BIG difference.

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MRKIA 1 year, 6 months ago

WHERES BVR AND COACH? THIS IS THE DUE PROCESS THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 6 months ago

They will be here front and center after Riggins is acquitted on all charges.

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lynn227 1 year, 6 months ago

They are waiting for due process to run its entire course.

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iko 1 year, 6 months ago

I know most of the posters here think Velvet is guilty, but does anyone here REALLY think the prosecution put on a strong case? Go back to the previous article and read what the state's own witness said. It looks like this may have been another photo op by the incompetent DA's office that was corrupted by the filthy and disgusting Phoebe-owned, Ken Hodges.

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washedupcoach 1 year, 6 months ago

As a former teacher, I know the lax attitude the DCSS admins take concerning this. If Ms. Riggins signed the form, she is GUILTY! She has certified the form submitted is correct and accepts responsibility for its content. Many more should be prosecuted because this, unfortunately, rampant. Another example of the incompetents that are now running the city and schools.

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saveourcity 1 year, 6 months ago

I think she will get off. The clerk should not have filed the incomplete application. It seems strange that she would have refiled with the correct amount in OCT, but I don't think its enough to convict her. There is reasonable doubt here. Of course I hope I'm wrong and they find her guilty, but I don't think it will happen. Not in Albany.

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

After sitting through the entire trial, I don't think I could vote to convict her. I've heard and seen all the evidence, and "beyond a shadow of a doubt" just isn't there, folks.

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RedEric 1 year, 6 months ago

Did her children receive free lunches? Did it extend beyond October? If so, what was done to stop it? If nothing, what the obvious conclusion would seem to be that it was done with intent. Speaking with cooled jets, of course.

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

Since 2007, her kids always qualified for reduced meals at .40 each per day.. Based on the 9/20/11 application, her children received free meals for approximately 25 school days until her 10/24/11 application was processed and approved. Then they returned to the .40 reduced price. This is the evidence that was presented during the trial. Also, read this
:http://www.albanyherald.com/news/2012... And pay special attention to the Hayes and Holiday testimonies.

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iko 1 year, 6 months ago

I'd like to also note that these were the testimonies of the STATE's witnesses. Again, the Ken Hodges-corrupted DA's office knew how weak their case was before they brought these charges. They wanted to get themselves in the paper. Yet, does anyone know why they won't pursue the STRONG cases they have against the CRTC teacher cheats (which in some cases include admissions)?

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

IKO, the "admissions" are among the 20 or so who are no longer in the system.

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iko 1 year, 6 months ago

Yes, but recall, the possibility of criminal charges in the CRTC case was repeatedly raised here and elsewhere by the "powers that be." Certainly that particular scandal is vastly worse than someone who got a .40 cent lunch for a month because a form wasn't properly filled out.

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

The problem was proving it. Also the state spent probably $700,000 on an investigation that was expected to yield results. You have to remember that 95% of the people who post here never saw or heard the evidence presented by the state.

Same with Velvet Riggins. Many took an assumption and ran with it. Facts be damned. Sister Ruby on steroids.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 6 months ago

Great Terry, thanks!! I think Chris Matthews has a job waiting for you over at MSNBC. Good luck!!

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

When you show up in Superior Court, and there will be two more chances within the next few weeks, or attend a school board meeting, wave at me, will ya?

We'll chat.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 6 months ago

I know you're being objective. I had written 7 minutes earlier that she would be acquitted on all charges. I was just funning with you.

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lawlady 1 year, 6 months ago

Terry, You should know the legal system does NOT require "beyond shadow of a doubt" nor does it require "beyond all doubt" it requires beyond REASONABLE doubt....is there reasonable doubt to think Ms Riggins did not intend to defraud the system...NO it is NOT REASONABLE, why would she even bother to fill out the form in the first place if she did not INTEND to see what she could get?????? It is simply not reasonable for anyone to believe that someone would knowingly apply for free or reduced lunch with the intention of getting nothing in return...the intention was to see if she could get free or reduced lunch and SURELY she KNEW full well, she would not qualify so again, my question is WHY even bother to complete the application or sign anything in the first place?!?

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FlunkyMonkey 1 year, 6 months ago

SHE'S GONNA WALK--THE GRAFT AND CORRUPTION WILL GO ON!!

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

Would also like to point out this is the reason we are going to get state supervision over the DCSS's FRM program. Gloria Baker included.
Both cases could have been avoided with proper oversight of the FRM application process.
Ditto for Title I money

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 6 months ago

That's Rule #2. Blame it on Someone Else. Then you will get a slap on the wrist.

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

Um. You seem once again to miss the point.

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 6 months ago

with no felony now....Riggins will be back!!!!!

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 6 months ago

As the guy said in "Dumb and Dumber".......there's still a chance........

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tywebb 1 year, 6 months ago

there's still 1 felony and 2 misdemeanors. If she gets convicted of say the 2 misdemeanors, will you still be ok with her being on the board? i know, i know....it's a stupid question.....i just want to hear it from you

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tywebb 1 year, 6 months ago

and my point is now moot, but i know what the answer would've been.

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nofreeloader 1 year, 6 months ago

Isn't Theft by taking , knowing you are wrong but do so anyways.. The second form was submitted correctly. Did you know you didn't qualify , did you allow your children to eat free meals, that's my understanding of theft by taking.

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waltspecht 1 year, 6 months ago

I for one still believe that those in the employ of the Public, and elected officials should be held to a higher standard. I find it interesting that a Grand Jury found enough to indite, yet there doesn't seem to be enough to get a conviction. Basically the form was filled out with incorrect information, and signed and attested to that the information was correct. Kind of basic for a person like me to understand. If it weren't brought to light, what would have happened? Would she have pocketed the money, and would the DCSS have benefited from the inflated number? Was her desire to change it in October due to a warning from within the system? All things that say something was, and is wrong. No matter what the Jury decides.

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bigbob 1 year, 6 months ago

The point is not what happens to Riggins or the other crooks at DCSS, the point is that the government is watching how bad this city is. Next time they close bases this will all be remembered by the marine base which already wants to send their school chilren elsewhere because DCSS is so bad. I also believe Miller Brewing in Albany was just turned down for an expantion why don't you check into this. These big companys care about their employees and are not going to make them send their children to a joke of a school system for very long.

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doingwhatisright 1 year, 6 months ago

sigh.....and did you expect more? She too is a liar and thief...always will be branded .

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 6 months ago

This case may have a surprise ending waiting for you guys...........I cant wait.........

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tywebb 1 year, 6 months ago

you sound like Flounder from Animal House......This Is Gonna Be Greaaat!!!!

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FryarTuk 1 year, 6 months ago

I'm beginning to see a darker side of this woman than I suspected. With the story AH is presenting Velvet Riggins is emerging as a scheming person using other people in her plot to take lunch money from poor children. Her failure to include her salary from the Girl Scouts was not an oversight. She placed the application strategically in front of a subordinate so she could have plausible deniability. It also answers Terry Lewis question about why she included employment. She was incubating a deniable position. She signed the form, it's permanent record and so the escape hatch has to be set. She's worse than just a thief. She has absolutely no remorse for conscripting innocent subordinates in her conspiracy. First to provide her with the plausible deniability defense and secondly," the subordinate did it, not me. Blame the clerk not me. " I hope the prosecutor reads my comment before she does summation.

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URWrongAgain 1 year, 6 months ago

I don't understand. Although I think there may be some discussion in the jury room that the document was signed, is there a distinction between signing an incomplete application or an incorrect application? Can someone tell me if the income line for the Girl Scouts had the digit "0" or was it blank? Maybe I missed it in some of the other articles. If there was "0" on the line, I could see some of your points (those seeking a guilty verdict), but if it was left blank, then I think there is a strong argument for reasonable doubt, especially when a DCSS employee testified that she (Riggins) was called away (even saying she seemed distracted) by Mr. Lloyd and never returned. And she indicated that she (Riggins) would be right back. But maybe I could be WrongAgain.

I too think the statement by Ms. Hayes was very telling. I almost questioned why the prosecution called her as a witness.

I'm not advocating guilt or innocence, just justice. But if she is found innocent, I would hope that a lot of the emotional derogatory comments will decrease.

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tywebb 1 year, 6 months ago

she was probably "distracted" by mr. lloyd because she thought he was going to put the beat down on her like he did on r.d. harter! Terry.....why did she go back and fill out another app. in Oct? did hayes find the mistake? did riggins have remorse (cough) about filling out a fraudulent app? did someone tip her off that baker was getting busted? what was the reason for it? thanks

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

I think her omission was pointed out to her later by someone in the CNS office. She never took the stand to be asked that question.

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tywebb 1 year, 6 months ago

weird. so months after, someone looked at the app? And i find it odd they wouldn't want to know the answer to that question.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 6 months ago

Hence, the entrapment of the subordinate to submit the application. Had the amount been entered the subordinate would never have submitted the application. It would have been too obvious and thence not submitted. We see the plotting of a very devious fiend here to take the food from the mouths of hungry children. Too much plausible deniability. Elementary, my dear Watson. Quick, someone alert the prosecutor.

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

The clerk, Eva Holiday, put a question mark on this blank space, she then processed the application anyway. It should have never been processed. The CNS office violated its own follow up procedures. This is the rub. This is why she will not be convicted. This is just one reason why the state is sending down an overseer for the FRM program.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 6 months ago

Drat! Altered evidence. It foils a good summation every time. I see your point even the checkers aren't reliable. So the whole system stinks and therefore the whole system has to be policed. You've made your case Terry Lewis. You will receive a Pulitzer for this reporting and well deserved.

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Abytaxpayer 1 year, 6 months ago

Terry I think you are correct she will walk free. She is not innocent but will be found Not Guilty. I have to raise the question : Do you honestly think before she walked into the room to apply that she was not aware of the qualifications requirements? I ask that because this is not a secret program that was not widely talked about in Albany for decades and even most kids know the qualifications. Or could this just be more of the system is broken so I am going to get my part of the “Free Money” while it is raining money? If she knew the qualifications and applied anyway then it would stand to reason why she left lines blank. Smart thieves always have an escape plan, it is the dumb ones that paint themselves into a corner and get caught red handed. For me it comes down to did she know she was gaming the system or was it just another case of throwing spitballs on the wall to see if it sticks cause everyone does it? Cunning or Clueless?

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 6 months ago

Honest answer: I think it's a heck of a stretch to think she did it to scam the system out of a maximum $32.

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jglass 1 year, 6 months ago

So, I am thoroughly convinced she will get off scott free. The way the witnesses on the stand answered their questions, yeah, she is gonna go scott free. If the child was seen in the lunch line................duh, it is obvious he/she ate lunch. And, how can that person remember seeing that particular child in the lunch line when a whole lot of kids go through the same line daily. Now, I am confused......about the applications. You hear that only 3% can be verified. Then you hear that oh they remember looking at Velvets application and remember exaclty what was wrong and ran it through. How do you distinctly remember one person's app. when 1000s are submitted. Now, the blame is thrown on the admin. who did not do their job. It really sounds to me like the witnesses were "coached" as to exactly what to say and how to say it. Now, I wonder when the DCSS as a whole will start "KNOWING THEIR JOB AND DOING THEIR JOB". Only in Albany!!!!!

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whattheheck 1 year, 6 months ago

The issue of "did the kids eat the lunches" is kind of like the guy who robbed a bank but got no money. Was he really guilty? It is disturbing that prosecutors cited the wrong statute. This is what happened in Melissa Strother's voting case--her lawyer did the same as I recall and the issue became DOA. Did Riggins understate income on prior year's applications? I'm not sure DCSS really checks anything ,or processes anything correctly, or follows any rules which also will give Graper an out on being a poor performer. In DCSS, it seems rules are followed when and if desired and no one seems to know or care as long as a lot of money comes in and goes out each year. And if any education happens in the process, all is well in the Good Life, isn't it?

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lawlady 1 year, 6 months ago

Let's not forget that it is not as Mr. Lewis stated "beyond a shadow of a doubt." Our legal system requires beyond REASONABLE doubt. My question is "is it reasonable to believe that Ms Riggins did not intend to defraud the system." My answer is "NO it is not reasonable to believe she did not intend to defraud the system." As a school board member, surely she knew that given her income she would not qualify...so WHY would you even start filling out the form in the first place if not in hopes of getting something you know you are not entitled to? The jury MUST remember that it is not beyond a shadow of a doubt, nor is it beyond ALL doubt...it is beyond REASONABLE doubt...It is simply not REASONABLE to believe that she did not intend to receive some benefit...otherwise why even waste your time doing anything with the form?!

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lawlady 1 year, 6 months ago

Let's not forget that it is not as Mr. Lewis stated "beyond a shadow of a doubt." Our legal system requires beyond REASONABLE doubt. My question is "is it reasonable to believe that Ms Riggins did not intend to defraud the system." My answer is "NO it is not reasonable to believe she did not intend to defraud the system." As a school board member, surely she knew that given her income she would not qualify...so WHY would you even start filling out the form in the first place if not in hopes of getting something you know you are not entitled to? The jury MUST remember that it is not beyond a shadow of a doubt, nor is it beyond ALL doubt...it is beyond REASONABLE doubt...It is simply not REASONABLE to believe that she did not intend to receive some benefit...otherwise why even waste your time doing anything with the form?!

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tywebb 1 year, 6 months ago

WE HEARD YOU THE FIRST TIME!!!!!!! :)

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Shinedownfan 1 year, 6 months ago

She's a new commenter... guess she just getting the hang of how to post.

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Jimboob 1 year, 6 months ago

Guess what... She will qualify now. The Girl Scouts dropped her and the Gov ended her schoolboard gig so all she has is the child support. I could almost feel sorry for her... Almost.

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VietVet1 1 year, 6 months ago

And this folks is why the USA is in such bad shape.

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tywebb 1 year, 6 months ago

Wish I still lived in Hellbany. I'd go fill out a FRM form, get distracted by all of the pretty lights, forget to fill in my income, and then leave. Voilla.......instant hero to bvr, bsrn, corch, etc.

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lynn227 1 year, 6 months ago

You still live here, if only emotionally. You show up time and time, again. It couldn;t have been a HELLbany.

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RedEric 1 year, 6 months ago

Well she was judged not guilty. All of the blame was passed onto the DCSS. The system protected one person and indicted all of them. It is interesting it that the system has accepted that they are, at best, ignorant and deserve State intervention.

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