Sherri Whitlock Hines, 40, of Villa Rica, a former bank manager for a Villa Rica branch of Community and Southern Bank, is alleged to have stolen more than $60,000 from bank customers in Bartow, Carroll and Paulding counties between March 2010 and April 2011.
During a calendar call Friday for Judge Jack Kirby’s jury trial week that begins Feb. 25, Villa Rica attorney Mac Pilgrim announced that he was ready to defend his client at trial.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Jeff Hunt announced that the prosecution, which will be led by ADA Vincent Faucette, was also ready for trial.
Kirby said the case will be the “first one out” on Feb. 25.
Hines was arrested in 2011 after employees of Community and Southern Bank discovered that she was “involved in some possible fraudulent withdrawals from customer accounts, loan creations and forgeries without their knowledge while she was employed at the bank,” according to the incident report filed by Det. Eddie Thompson.
Hines was indicted in October of that year. She was previously involved in a jury trial last August, which was canceled after what the judge called an “inappropriate” remark made by Faucette.
While a witness was testifying in front of the jury of 12 peers, Faucette mentioned that Hines was also facing charges in Douglas County.
The statement came during testimony from Community and Southern Bank staff auditor Marla Shadrix.
Dozens of documents, including emails, online account screenshots and fund transfer receipt copies, had been presented to the jury, including one from the bank’s Mirror Lake location, located in Douglas County.
Pilgrim objected to the use of the Mirror Lake documents, saying he did not feel they were relevant because the charges Hines was facing in the trial were for Carroll County, and anything that occurred in Douglas County would be irrelevant.
Pilgrim’s objection was sustained by Simpson, but Faucette was given a chance to respond to the objection.
Faucette disagreed and said the documents from the Douglas County location were relevant because they involved the same defendant and victim, and the victim would testify that she had never “stepped foot in” the Mirror Lake location. He then made the statement that effectively caused the mistrial.
“And also, the defendant has charges pending in Douglas County,” he said.
Judge John Simpson immediately sent the jury to the jury room. With the jury out of the room, Simpson addressed Faucette, repeatedly saying the statement was “inappropriate” and was not relevant.
“I see that as an effort to place the defendant’s character in question,” he said. “Whatever charges are pending in Douglas County cannot be incorporated in the Carroll County case.”
Faucette admitted that the statement was “improper,” but said a mistrial would be an “extreme remedy.”
Nonetheless, Simpson was not swayed and approved Pilgrim’s motion for mistrial.
During the trial last summer, Pilgrim argued that Hines was a scapegoat or “fall guy” for the bank’s mistakes.
“The bank led the investigation, not the state,” he said in August. “And eyes have only been turned to her. Not to anyone else. No one else has been arrested or charged.”
Also announced during Kirby’s calendar call Friday:
• Terri Gordon Morris, the former manager of Tanner Health System’s gift shops who is charged with theft by taking, had her case continued until July.
Morris, who is alleged to have embezzled $206,000 from the health system, appeared with her attorney, public defender Becky Dembkowski, who asked for the continuance.
Dembkowski told Kirby that her client is planning to plead guilty to the charge, though she’d like to wait until after her child has graduated from high school. Dembkowski said the first of Kirby’s non-jury dates after May 25 would be best for the plea, which Kirby said is July 11.
Morris allegedly wrote company checks and deposited them into her personal account, ADA John Cunningham said.
• The case of two Carrollton men charged with armed robbery was delayed until April.
Christopher Demond Almon and Thomas Arnold Kidd were arrested by Carrollton police last January. The two have been charged with armed robbery, aggravated assault and giving police false information.
Cunningham told Kirby that the case needed to be re-indicted to clean up some of the verbage, at which point Kirby continued the two men’s cases until his trial week beginning on April 8.
Almon is represented by Mac Pilgrim, while Kidd is represented by Talbotton attorney Roger Montgomery.
Capt. Chris Dobbs of the Carrollton Police Department said the two men were arrested at Chateau Apartments after officers traced cellphone calls made to local pizzerias back to a residence where they were located. The suspects had allegedly called for deliveries then robbed the delivery workers at gunpoint when they arrived.