Two attorneys going at each other in a murder trial is not unusual – unless one’s on the witness stand.
That’s what happened Thursday in the trial of Adrian Devon Patterson, who’s charged in the Nov. 5, 2014, fatal shooting of Robert Earl Bolden during a drug deal in Columbus’ Oakland Park neighborhood.
Patterson is the second suspect to be tried in Bolden’s death. His cousin Gary Lee Jones Jr. was acquitted in the homicide last year.
Jones’ attorney was Michael Eddings. Patterson’s defense counsel is Stacey Jackson.
At issue Thursday was a recording Eddings made while interviewing Patterson on July 22, 2017 – without Jackson’s permission. Jones by then had been charged in Bolden’s slaying, but Patterson had been arrested only for making false statements, having told police someone borrowed his car the day witnesses saw the white Geo Prism in Oakland Park.
In July 2013 and June 2014, Eddings was cited and fined for talking to other attorneys’ clients without their permission. In August 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court ordered that he be publicly reprimanded for violating the rules of conduct. Under those rules, an attorney is not to speak to another’s client in the same case without the other lawyer’s approval.
Eddings maintained that he tried to contact Jackson “out of an abundance of caution,” because of his earlier transgressions, but he did not need Jackson’s OK to talk to Patterson because Patterson had not been charged with murder.
Although Patterson had not yet been charged with murder, he would be after he talked to Eddings, and then repeated his incriminating statements to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent.
He wound up talking to the GBI after alleging Jones’ father kidnapped him at gunpoint in Cusseta, Ga., drove him to Eddings’ office in Columbus, and compelled him to tell Eddings that Jones didn’t shoot Bolden. Patterson reported this alleged kidnapping to the district attorney, who asked the GBI to investigate.
Eddings testified that Patterson and Jones’ father contacted him, and asked for the Saturday meeting.
He recorded his interview with Patterson, and gave a copy to Senior Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly, as part of the discovery process in exchanging evidence before trial. The GBI agent, Justin Lowthorpe, recorded two interviews with Patterson, which Kelly also used as evidence.
Patterson previously had told authorities he was down the street when Bolden fatally was shot outside Riverwind Apartments, at the end of Hawthorne Drive. In each interview with Eddings and Lowthorpe, he said he was not down the street: He was with Bolden, trying to buy marijuana before Bolden pulled a gun on him.
He said he gave Bolden his money, and Bolden handed him the marijuana, but then pulled a pistol and took the marijuana back. Bolden also wanted anything Patterson had in his pockets, and the two started scuffling when Bolden tried to pat him down, Patterson said.
He pushed Bolden away, and Bolden started shooting at his head, he said. He hit the ground, and that’s when Jones came up and shot Bolden point-blank, he said.
The bullet penetrated Bolden’s right side and exited his left, crossing his mid-torso. He died later at the hospital, on his 44th birthday.
The bullet that killed him came from a .32-caliber revolver. Another .32-caliber bullet was found lodged in the sunroof of the Honda CRV that Bolden had been sitting in.
The Honda’s driver, Frank Smith, said he’d given Bolden a ride that day, and saw Bolden get out to talk to someone in a gray hooded sweatshirt who abruptly shouted “Give me all you got!” before gunfire erupted.
Bolden ran one way and the guy in the hoodie ran another, said Smith, who tried to follow the shooter.
Patterson and Jones, who’d come from Cusseta in Patterson’s car, also had a driver, Antonio Benefield. They met him in Columbus and asked him to drive them to Oakland Park to meet Bolden, because they weren’t familiar with the city.
When the gunfire started, Benefield drove off, with Jones and Patterson running after the white Prism, crossing yards and jumping fences along Ramsey Road, where some residents’ home-security cameras recorded them dashing by. The recordings showed Patterson wearing a gray hoodie.
Jones was the first suspect charged in Bolden’s shooting, after Benefield identified him and told police Jones had said Bolden pulled a gun on him, so he had to shoot Bolden.
Jones was charged with murder on Jan. 18, 2015, and acquitted of all charges on Dec. 1, 2017, after testifying that Patterson shot Bolden.
Patterson was not charged with murder until Sept. 7, 2017, after he talked to Eddings, and then twice repeated his incriminating statements to the GBI, the first time on Aug. 21, 2017. At the time he gave those statements, Patterson was a witness for the prosecution, not a suspect.
Jackson, who did not want his client talking to Eddings, believes Eddings got Patterson charged with murder by recording the statement and giving it to the prosecution, before Eddings got Jones acquitted by blaming Patterson for Bolden’s slaying.
Fighting for words
To get Patterson’s recorded interviews into evidence in Patterson’s murder trial, Kelly had to call Eddings and Lowthorpe to the stand to authenticate them. Eddings then was subject to Jackson’s cross-examination.
And Jackson went after him, bringing up Eddings’ contempt citations and verbal reprimand, and repeatedly asking whether Eddings had his permission to talk to Patterson.
Eddings said he tried to contact Jackson: “I never got a response from you one way or the other, and he was not your client for the murder charge.”
But Patterson was charged with false statements in the murder case, Jackson countered, as the two attorneys argued back and forth so forcefully that Judge Ben Land repeatedly had to intervene, telling them to stop interrupting each other.
At one point Eddings refused to answer “no” to Jackson’s asking whether he had Jackson’s OK to talk to Patterson, saying the question was predicated on his needing Jackson’s permission, and he did not, as Patterson was only a prosecution witness in Jones’ case.
Eventually Land told Eddings he had to answer “yes” or “no,” and then explain his answer, and Eddings answered “no” and repeated his contention that he did not need Jackson’s approval.
Kelly also asked Eddings about his contempt citations, and Eddings acknowledged making some mistakes after he shifted his practice from real estate law to criminal law in 2012 or ’13, after his then-wife and office manager was charged with misappropriating escrow funds.
Of twice speaking to other criminal defense attorneys’ clients without their permission, Eddings said: “I learned from that. It happened twice. It hasn’t happened again.”
That’s why he tried to contact Jackson before speaking to Patterson, even though he didn’t believe he had to, he said, telling Kelly, “He never returned my call regarding that.”
After testimony ended Thursday, Jackson outside court said he didn’t return Eddings’ calls because he knew about Eddings’ contempt citations, and he didn’t want his client to get involved with Eddings.
Both the prosecution and defense finished presenting evidence in Patterson’s trial Thursday afternoon. Closing arguments are expected Friday.
Patterson is charged with murder, aggravated assault and armed robbery. He faces life in prison if convicted.