A former Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office administrative assistant said Thursday in Superior Court she had no idea she was the target of a criminal investigation when she met with an investigator in July 2011.
Regina Millirons during the records theft trial in front of Judge Frank Jordan said she gladly met with Georgia Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Deanna Jury because she thought she was looking into issues in the department that Millirons had been raising for months.
“I thought she was there because of the letter that was sent to Mayor Teresa Tomlinson,” Millirons told the jury.
Millirons testified that she had taken personnel information on four employees, given it to her attorney, Mark Shelnutt, and instructed him to share it only with the mayor.
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She said she did that after she had failed to get results from her complaints of falsified time cards. She testified she had previously gone to Reather Hollowell, then the assistant human resources director, Chief Deputy John Fitzpatrick and Sheriff John Darr.
“I thought if I could get it to get it to the mayor, hopefully she could do something to get me out of a rock and a hard place,” Millirons said.
Millirons faces four counts of records theft and three counts each of accessing computers for fraud and computer theft in a 2011 allegation. The punishment for each count of records theft, if convicted, is one to 10 years in prison. The fraud charges carry a penalty of one to 15 years in prison on each count and up to a $50,000 fine.
Millirons was on the witness stand for about an hour at the end of the day. She is scheduled to resume testimony under cross-examination at 9 a.m. today.
Millirons testified that Darr showed no interest in her complaints about his administrative assistant Tabitha Massey Champion, who replaced Millirons in that job when Darr took office in 2009. One of Millirons’ complaints was Massey was allegedly working a part-time job as an adjunct professor at Columbus Technical College on sheriff’s office time.
Millirons said when she expressed her concerns to Darr, he said, “It is what it is.”
“I took that as nothing would change, and I was talking to a brick wall. Got up, said ‘thank you’ and walked out,” Millirons said.
Champion, one of the four employees who had their records given to Shelnutt, testified that there was a rift between her and Millirons.
Under questioning from prosecutors, Champion outlined what she said was a difficult work environment because of Millirons.
“I went home in tears for 30 days because I took a job,” Massey said. “They made me miserable. She made me miserable.”
Champion has since left the department and is working in a private law practice as a paralegal.
Under cross-examination, Champion was questioned about her part-time job as a professor at Columbus Tech, where she was supervised by Felix R. DaVila, another employee whose records were given to Shelnutt. She said one time a student came into the sheriff’s office and took an exam. She testified she taught her class at Columbus Tech on her lunch hour.
Champion’s Columbus Tech pay was called into question in testimony by Leatha Cyprian, a professor at the school. Cyprian said she complained to DaVila about Champion not working her full hour and a half class.
When asked about her conversation with DaVila about Champion, Cyprian said, “That is why she is no longer there.”
Rick Kelly was the fourth and final employee who told the court he did not authorize Millirons to release their information to Shelnutt. But Kelly said he did not have a major problem with it because he had a relationship with Shelnutt that went back decades to when Shelnutt was in the district attorney’s office.
“The biggest grief I got was from my wife because her information was in there,” Kelly said. “But I have been in trouble with her before.”
That brought laughter from jurors.
The defense moved for a directed verdict, which Jordan did not rule on. As both sides argued its case in the directed verdict motion, it became a possible preview of closing arguments.
Defense attorney William Kendrick argued that the prosecution had failed to prove intent and the case should not go to the jury of eight women and four men.
“This turned around on a person who was trying to do the right thing,” Kendrick said. “ I ask your honor to see the truth.”
Prosecutor Pete Temesgen argued the state had, indeed, made its case.
“This is not your run of mill theft by taking case,” Temesgen said.
“This is not done in a vacuum. There is context and reasons she might have done this.”