Arthur Sumbry's forgery trial meets new delays

The perjury and forgery case against former Phenix City Councilman Arthur L. Sumbry Sr. has met a new delay, according to court documents.

A Russell County grand jury indicted Sumbry in January 2011 on charges he notarized an allegedly forged warranty deed and lied about it under oath during a civil proceeding. His trial had been scheduled for trial Dec. 3, but that date now will be used for a pre-trial hearing that initially was scheduled for Friday.

Visiting Judge Jacob A. Walker III of Lee County Circuit Court attributed the scheduling change to the recent cancellation of criminal trials in Russell County the first week of December. Judge George R. Greene issued a memorandum Wednesday postponing his Dec. 3 docket indefinitely, raising new questions about how long he will remain sidelined.

Greene, 62, took a medical leave of absence on Oct. 1, due apparently to his ongoing struggle with diabetes, and it’s not clear when or if -- he intends to return to the bench. Presiding Circuit Court Judge Al Johnson wrote in a recent filing that the duration of Greene’s leave remains “unknown.”

In the meantime, Greene also has scrubbed guilty pleas set for Nov. 27 and 28 and a docket call Nov. 29.

Sumbry was scheduled to appear Friday for a pre-trial hearing, but his defense attorney, Ken White, requested a continuance due to a “family matter,” according to court filings. White couldn't be reached for comment. Sumbry, who withdrew his re-election bid in August shortly before voters went to the polls, said he wasn't aware of the delay and declined comment.

Sumbry’s case has been repeatedly postponed for several reasons, from courthouse renovation to new charges -- jury tampering, intimidation of a juror and solicitation of perjury -- being added in May after Sumbry allegedly tried to influence a potential juror. During this time, Sumbry’s co-defendant, Ella Mae Sanders, 56, has been tried and convicted of perjury, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in September affirmed her conviction.

Sumbry’s original charges stemmed from a warranty deed he notarized that transferred the home of an ailing 94-year-old man. Sumbry claims he witnessed the man, Ambros Adams, sign the document. But Adams’ daughter claimed her father wasn't competent to execute legal documents, and a judge declared the deed void after a hand-writing expert testified it was fake.

Sumbry, 71, has maintained his innocence and says he has no interest in a plea deal.