By Colby Dunn
More than 50 somber-faced spectators stood silently as a stream of mostly female jurors trickled into their seats at the Morgan County Courthouse on Tuesday, August 25, starting the felony criminal prosecution of Foss Hodges, 39, for aggravated child molestation and child molestation.
Hodges is represented by high-profile Atlanta trial attorney Dale Porter, who is seeking an acquittal for the Madison resident.
“This is a case about a good man who has done a bad act--not a crime--but a bad act while he was asleep,” Porter told the jury in his opening statement.
Prosecutors are leveling accusations at Hodges that he molested a 7-year-old girl as she slept in a guest room at his home in October 2007. Hodges admits to several of the allegations, but his team of attorneys maintains that he was asleep throughout the incident and meant none of it.
Prosecutors are crying foul, but the defense are expected to enlist a parade of expert witnesses in coming days to convince jurors that Hodges suffers from sleep disorders, including sexual behavior during sleep.
Assistant District Attorney Alison Burleson told jurors to be wary of this in her opening statements, saying that talk of sleep disorders only surfaced following attorney involvement.
“You will not hear that he ever said anything like that to the counselor; you will not hear that he mentioned that to law enforcement or to DFCS [Department of Family and Child Services],” she said.
By Colby Dunn
The atmosphere outside the Morgan County Courthouse was almost like an outdoor party Monday afternoon after a 12-person jury acquitted a Madison man of two child molestation charges.
Following a five-day trial and two-and-a-half hour jury deliberation, Foss Hodges, 39, received a not-guilty verdict on aggravated child molestation and child molestation charges relating to an incident in October 2007 when Hodges allegedly molested a 7-year-old girl at his home.
Much of the crowd seemed jubilant, despite the judge’s request for silence, and Judge Hugh Wingfield proffered a stern warning to Hodges before dismissing the court.
"We all know you did this," Wingfield told the defendant, "and I suspect a lot of this verdict had to do with [the child] rather than you. I'm telling you this because, when you leave here, I do not want you to feel smug or vindicated, because you're not."
Hodges' defense team, led by Doug Peters and Bob Rubin of Atlanta, spent the lion's share of the trial attempting to convince the jury that, while he did inappropriately touch the child on the night in question, that he was asleep and cannot, therefore, be held responsible.
"This is a case about a good man who did a bad act while he was asleep," Peters reiterated in his closing statements. "This is not a crime." They have maintained that both Hodges and the child have testified that he was asleep during the incident, and followed these testimonies with a barrage of costly expert witnesses who attested to their diagnoses of Hodges with a parasomnia with sexual behavior during sleep, popularly known as 'sexsomnia.'
Prosecutors contended with the assertions, and Assistant District Attorney Alison Burleson urged jurors to use "common sense" when evaluating the evidence, especially the sleep claims.
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Morgan Memorial officials confirmed this week that they have purchased an eight-tenths of an acre residential lot adjacent to the hospital for use in a future expansion.
“We closed last week,” said hospital CEO H.D. Cannington in an interview on Tuesday.
The hospital did not acquire any debt in purchasing the $100,000 piece of property, opting instead to use operational cash to pay for the land, said Cannington.
30625 fight for zipcode escalates
story by Jessica Blomquist • file photo by Angelina Bellebuono • illustration by Chris Howe
Would be profitable even without county subsidy, treasurer says
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
The Morgan County Board of Commissioners was expected this week to roll back the annual millage rate to 8.35 mils for fiscal year (FY) 2009, down from 8.43 mils in fiscal year 2008.
“The millage rate is going down, below the rollback rate,” said County Manager Michael Lamar in an interview last Tuesday. “The rollback was not difficult to achieve, in light of the total reevaluation [of county property values] last year.”
The total county budget for FY09 is $14.7 million, up 2.84 percent from this year’s budget of $14.3 million.
The two biggest changes in the budget, according to Lamar, are an increase in the utilization of the county’s general fund balance, up in FY09 to $651,000 from $346,000 in FY08, and a fairly significant decrease of an expected $117,000 in revenue from non-business licenses and permits in FY09, due mainly to slowdowns in both residential and commercial construction.
The county’s largest departmental expenditures in FY09 are expected to be in roads and bridges ($1.7 million), law enforcement ($1.9 million) and healthcare ($1.2 million). Other top departments are jail operations ($991,000), solid waste and recycling ($880,000), the fire department ($571,000) and parks administration ($437,000).
In a millage rate comparison for other counties either near Morgan or of similar size, Lamar showed that a millage rate of 8.35 is about average. Butts County and Jones County, in 2006, had millage rates of 15.4 and 14.7, respectively; Greene, Jasper, Newton and Walton counties all had tax rates in excess of 10 mils.