Phenix City Councilman Arthur L. Sumbry Sr. won't go to trial on perjury and forgery charges until Dec. 3, a judge ruled this morning, scheduling the case for several weeks after the municipal election and October runoff.
A grand jury indicted Sumbry in January 2011 on charges he notarized a forged warranty deed and lied about it under oath during a civil trial. The case has been plagued by delays for a number of reasons, from the renovation of the Russell County Judicial Center to additional charges tacked on in May after Sumbry allegedly sought to influence a potential juror on the eve of trial.
The new trial date, set by specially appointed Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob A. Walker III, means Sumbry remains eligible to compete Aug. 28 in a six-way race for the south side District 3 council seat, a heap that includes his younger son. Defense attorney Michael S. Speakman said Sumbry wanted to proceed sometime after the Oct. 9 runoff, saying an earlier setting "conflicts with Mr. Sumbry's schedule."
District Attorney Ken Davis said prosecutors wanted to try Sumbry "as soon as possible" and requested an October date. The prosecutor has two capital murder cases scheduled over the next two months, and said he was amenable to the December setting. "I don't think I'm in a position to object," Davis said.
Prosecutors filed a motion seeking to consolidate the 2011 charges with the new counts of jury tampering, intimidation of a juror and solicitation of perjury. Speakman opposes the motion, saying it would be "overly prejudicial to try these cases at the same time." Potentially complicating matters further, Sumbry has hired another attorney, Ken White, to represent him on the new charges.
The original charges stemmed from a warranty deed Sumbry notarized that transferred the home of an ailing 94-year-old man. Sumbry testified he witnessed the man, Ambros Adams, sign the document. But Adams' daughter was outraged and claimed her father wasn't competent to execute legal documents.
A judge declared the deed null and void after a hand-writing expert determined it was a fake. Ella Mae Sanders, the woman who took the warranty deed to Sumbry, was found guilty of perjury at trial last year, but jurors couldnt reach a verdict on the forgery count, which was later dismissed.
Sumbry has been offered a plea bargain in his case, but said in a recent interview that he hasn't considered cutting any deals. "Im not going to take no guilty pleas," he said. "Im not guilty."