ALBANY — The trial of an Albany woman accused of covering up her marriage so that she could receive public housing assistance from the state started in earnest Wednesday with lawyers completing opening statements and the state calling its first witnesses.
Carol Ann Johnson has entered a not guilty plea; a move based on evidence her lawyer, Marcus Roberts, told jurors Wednesday will show that she being honest during the period alleged in the indictment.
Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards, who is trying the case for the state, told jurors in his opening statement that the case was a straightforward one stemming from lies that Johnson told in order to receive and keep the assistance she was receiving from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs' Housing Choice Voucher Program.
In his opening statement, Edwards told jurors that the evidence will show that at times between August 2007 and July 2008 the state issued more than $5,000 in housing assistance on Johnson's behalf based on a program application in which she checked boxes indicating that she was single despite the fact that she married Kevin Ashberry in March 2005.
Edwards told jurors that Johnson maintained that she was living alone with her children on a 2008 affidavit, despite the fact that Ashberry had registered Johnson's address as his address on Malone Drive on his driver's license and had changed his formal mailing address to her home.
In his opening statement, Roberts told jurors that he intends to show that the evidence will not support the allegation as set forth in the indictment while urging jurors to pay attention to the facts of the case.
"What (Ashberry) tells the department of driver services on his license is something that she has no control over whatsoever," Roberts said. "I don't expect Ms. Johnson could control where Mr. Ashberry got his mail delivered, here he had his car registered or whether he was employed."
Sharon Soogrin, an investigator with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General, testified about the details of her investigation into the matter Wednesday morning. Around 1 p.m., Edwards called Ashberry to the stand, where he invoked spousal privileged -- a legal doctrine that maintains conversations made between spouses is considered private and privileged from the court -- and was dismissed.