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.
ALBANY 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.