Courts news

Floyd County Superior Court Judge Jack Niedrach allowed the District Attorney’s office to drop indictments in a racketeering case against a group of people accused of defrauding the Floyd County school system of over $6 million.

While the current indictment has been dropped the DA’s office is allowed a six-month grace period to re-indict the defendants.

“We intend to re-indict (the case) before October,” Assistant District Attorney Luke Martin told the court.

In the hearing Monday morning, several attorneys for the defendants argued the judge should quash the two similar indictments, filed within days of each other. The state argued they should be allowed to drop the indictments and then re-indict the defendants.

If Niedrach would have quashed the indictments, it would have exhausted the state’s two chances to indict and the case couldn’t have gone forward.

“It appears this was an oversight by the state and not done with any malintent,” Niedrach told the court, continuing to state the indictment appeared to follow a prosecutorial standard. He then ruled the district attorney could drop both previous indictments and move forward with re-indicting the case.

Establishing jurisdiction

Attorneys for several of the defendants brought up the issue with the indictments in earlier motions. They said one of the factors that must be in the indictment is the establishment of the jurisdiction of the court.

The first indictment lacked the phrase establishing the court’s jurisdiction in the matter but also had “T” instead of “true” denoting a true bill from the grand jury. The second was corrected but still lacked the establishment of venue, according to motions filed in the case.

For example, attorneys filed to have the indictment dismissed in November 2018 stating “the indictment contains a specific fatal flaw in that it fails to allege venue as proper in Floyd County.” In April 2019, the state responded and acknowledged they “should take the opportunity to re-indict the case.”

“We’re pleased with the judge’s ruling and feel like it supported Assistant District Attorney Luke Martin’s argument on behalf of the state,” Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson said. She continued saying they will re-indict the defendants on all of the charges.

This leads into a second point which was to be addressed in motion hearings scheduled this week — whether or not the statute of limitations expired on many of the charges involved in the case.

According to court documents, several of the defendants are stating the time period has passed in which many, if not all, of the charges can be prosecuted. The state is claiming they’re still within the statute of limitations and are able to prosecute. For most of the charges there is a four year statute of limitations, for RICO violations the deadline is five years.

While the topic was brought up at the hearing, no ruling was made.

History and probable appeal

According to the now dismissed indictment and information presented in court, Derry Richardson is accused of using his position as maintenance director in the school system to steal millions of dollars from the school system and included family, friends and co-workers in the ongoing scheme.

Conspirators reportedly created inflated, and in some cases completely fraudulent, invoices for both construction and maintenance projects.

Multiple people have been charged with RICO violations and other charges in the case.

Along with Derry Richardson, his wife Lisa Richardson, his father Jimmy Richardson and brother Dwayne Richardson are all charged in the plot.

Those also listed in the indictment are Russell David Burkhalter, Samuel Max Tucker, Harry Anthony Bailey, Robert Chad Watson, Charles Raiden Sherman, David Gary English and Rodney Don Holder.

Among the technicalities discussed in the hearing also concerns the status of two men who were arrested after the previous indictment was approved by the grand jury. Sam Sprewell and James David Fielder both turned themselves in at the jail and were released on bond.

Niedrach brought up the point of whether or not they had to be re-arrested and make bond again since the indictment — the document in which they are charged — has been dismissed. The question, at least during the hearing, appeared to go unanswered.

The next step is whether or not attorneys for the defendants will appeal the judge’s decision. They have 10 days to notify the court whether or not they will appeal the issue.

However, Niedrach told prosecutors they should not wait on the resolution of any appeal before re-indicting the case.

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