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Homicide defendant to stay incarcerated

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Homicide defendant to stay incarcerated

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New prosecutor, new attorney, new judge — but same result

The only two elements that were the same in a defendant’s attempt for reconsideration of bond were the defendant himself and the judge’s decision.

Gary Christopher Smith was in Jones County Superior Court Sept. 6, once again seeking bond. He had a new attorney since his first attempt, June 28, a different prosecutor, and a different judge, but the new judge’s ruling was the same.

After listening to the arguments of the attorneys, Superior Court Judge Alison Burleson stated that Smith would have to prepare for his trial while in jail.

“It’s clear to me why Judge Prior denied your bond, and I continue to deny you a bond,” she stated.

Smith was represented in the Sept. 6 bond motion by defense attorney Keith Fitzgerald, and Senior Assistant District Attorney Dawn Baskin stepped in to prosecute the case in the absence of Assistant District Attorney Ashley Herndon who represented the state in the original bond motion.

Chief Superior Court Judge William Prior was scheduled to be on the bench in Jones County Sept. 6, but a scheduling change put the case in front of Burleson. The reconsideration of bond is required to go back before the original judge, but Burleson was able to contact Prior and received his permission to preside over the motion.

Smith was indicted by a Jones County Grand Jury June 19 for three counts of homicide by vehicle in first degree, two counts of DUI, reckless driving, possession of methamphetamine and failure to maintain lane. He was arrested on the charges June 23. The collision that was the reason for the charges took place March 2.

Fitzgerald was the first to address the court. He stated that, at the first bond motion, the biggest argument was his client’s criminal record of serious injury by vehicle and DUI that occurred in Butts County.

The attorney explained that charge was the result of a joyride in a golf cart that ended in an accident. He also pointed out that Smith’s previous lawyer demanded a speedy trial, but he was withdrawing that request.

“We need experts, and that’s going to take time,” he said.

Fitzgerald stated that all the evidence the defense had received before he was retained to represent Smith had been shredded. He said his client had been on a fishing trip the night before the March 2 accident and fell asleep at the wheel.

The attorney said methamphetamine but no alcohol was found in Smith’s blood.

“I don’t want to argue how the case happened today, but I need him to be out to prepare his case,” he said.

Fitzgerald said it would be easy to keep his client from being a danger to society.

“He will voluntarily surrender his driver’s license. That will keep him off he road,” he said.

The attorney said his defense would be medical.

“His family is supportive. His wife is not able to work, and his employer is ready to put him back to work. I ask for a reasonable bond,” Fitzgerald said.

Baskin told the court that she had not heard any change from the initial circumstances of what happened March 2.

“The state is ready for trial. Nothing has changed since Judge Prior’s decision,” she said.

The prosecutor said Smith is a danger to those around him and goes through the same pattern of behavior over and over.

“He is a risk,” she stated.

Baskin said the defendant gave false statements on his employee form. She said he did not list the Butts County DUI, and then she listed speeding and DUI charges in multiple counties. She said Smith’s license had been suspended three times, and he had another wreck in 2006.

The prosecutor said the March 2 wreck was on video, and a number of people called 911 reporting his driving before the fatal collision.

“An ambulance driver behind the defendant watched in horror as he crossed the line and hit the car, killing its driver,” she said.

Baskin said the company Smith worked for terminated his driving privileges the day before the wreck.

“The next day, he kills somebody,” she said.

The prosecutor said the incident report of a 2012 accident with the golf cart indicated Smith’s wife was lucky not to be killed.

“He is a danger to be out. He’s not been honest about his previous driving history, so I’m not sure his volunteering not to drive is enough,” Baskin stated.

She went on to say that Smith claimed to have fallen asleep but he had meth in his blood.

“We’re ready for trial, and I ask you maintain the denial of bond,” Baskin said.

Fitzgerald had the last word and reiterated his argument, taking away the danger of his client by making sure he does not drive.

A report of the fatal accident by Jones County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Robinson stated that the March 2 accident occurred on Highway 22 near the intersection with Savannah Drive. The collision was reported at 6:14 a.m.

Natasha Ann Farlar was pronounced dead at the scene, and Smith was transported from the scene to Navicent Health Medical Center for treatment.

The victim was driving a 2012 Dodge Charger and was traveling eastbound toward Milledgeville. Smith was driving a 2010 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and was headed toward Gray.

Robinson said, based upon eyewitness accounts and the physical evidence he observed at the scene, the pickup truck driven by Smith crossed from the westbound lane of traffic into the eastbound lane and struck the Charger near the fog line.

Following impact, the pickup flipped end-over-end and came to rest on its passenger side with the front end facing east, according to the report. After the collision, the Charger was knocked in a southwesterly direction from the area impact, coming to rest approximately 36 feet from the area of impact.