Michael Carothers remains in jail after serving his sentence

Other charges, motion to change plea have kept him locked up beyond year

ariquelmy@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 17, 2012 

Convicted and sentenced to a year in prison for spraying pepper spray at a black man, Michael Carothers has served his time in prison.

But the man known in Columbus for leaving white nationalist literature on vehicles downtown remains in the Muscogee County Jail weeks after his release date.

There are two reasons Carothers remains incarcerated: He filed a motion asking that his guilty plea be withdrawn, which is currently under consideration by Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters, and he also has pending theft and property damage charges in Cobb County, police records show.

Prosecutors accused Carothers, also known as Michael Weaver, of using pepper spray in December 2010 on a black man. He chose to plead guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to a year in prison, followed by nine years' probation.

However, Carothers also is banished from the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit for the length of his probation. At a June hearing before Peters, Carothers testified that his banishment is a main reason why he wants to withdraw his guilty plea.

"I am also banned from Columbus, Ga., which will leave me homeless upon my release," Carothers writes in an Aug. 9 court filing. "I have lived in Columbus with my father and grandmother for over 28 years!"

At the June hearing, Carothers argued that he was sleep deprived the night before his guilty plea. He also argued his attorney pressured him to accept the plea offer. Additionally, Carothers said he'd have gone to trial had he known no case law specified pepper spray as a weapon for the purposes of aggravated assault.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Craig dismissed Carothers' arguments in an Aug. 23 court filing, pointing to the laborious process Carothers' defense attorneys took in explaining their client's rights.

"(Defense attorney Robin) King stated that she had written down verbatim the exact conditions of Michael Weaver's guilty (plea) that she had explained to him, so as to have his complete understanding prior to the entry of his guilty plea," Craig states. "Additionally … the defendant claims that he 'did not clearly understand the concept of banishment.' In the guilty plea transcript, the record indicates that defendant Weaver knew exactly the consequences of banishment with regard to his guilty plea."

Craig said Friday he expects a decision from Peters this coming week.

If the judge allows Carothers to withdraw his plea, his case would return to square one. Carothers would have the option of going to trial or pleading guilty to aggravated assault. If convicted, he'd face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

If Peters denies the request, Carothers' conviction and sentence would stand. He'd be sent to Cobb County to answer for his charges there.

According to Cobb County police, Carothers faces charges of theft by taking, damage to property and criminal trespass.

He's accused of stealing "brass" from Kohl's in April 2011 along with another man. Police stopped the vehicle Carothers was in after the alleged theft and arrested him and the vehicle's driver.

A representative of the Cobb County Sheriff's Office said a warrant was issued for Carothers in January because he failed to appear for trial.

Carothers was in prison on the Columbus assault charge at the time.

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