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Defense attorneys call for AG to drop charges against Selma police officers

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall speaks during a press conference on COVID-19 with Gov. Kay Ivey in April 2020. GOVERNOR's OFFICE/HAL YEAGER

Attorneys Julian McPhillips Jr. and David Sawyer are holding a news conference in Montgomery Thursday to again ask Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall to drop charges against three Black Selma Police Officers who were re-indicted on felony charges of lying to the attorney general.

McPhillips and Sawyer say that Marshall’s actions caused the three Selma Police Officers — Jeff Hardy, Tori Neeley and Kendall Thomas — to all be re-indicted, a move that the defense attorneys call unprecedented.

“For almost two years, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Arrington, assigned to the case, has refused to specify what the lie is, or was,” McPhillips and Sawyer wrote. “There has been no particulars as to any crime alleged, such as time, place, persons, things, and other details.”

McPhillips and Sawyer also are asking Marshall to stop issuing motions to recuse African-American judges in Lowndes County from the case. The first judge was Judge Collins Pettaway.

In July, the Court of Criminal Appeals granted the AG’s motion to remove Pettaway.

The AG’s office has said that the officers are being accused of “lying about the condition of the evidence room” and “lying about whether they were not allowed to re-enter the evidence room until they received permission from the Attorney General.”

The officers allegedly said the evidence room was “left in disarray” and the attorney general’s office said, “oh no, it was not in disarray.” Such differences are a matter of opinion, and not the subject of a criminal indictment, McPhillips says.

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“Such a petty dispute, driven apparently by rivalry, jealously, and/or racism from the Attorney General’s Office is unbecoming the highest law enforcement office in Alabama,” charged McPhillips.

Now, the attorney general’s office is seeking to remove Judge Marvin Wiggins — who is also African-American and was just recently assigned to the case.

The attorneys say that before calling this news conference, they tried twice to speak with Marshall about their concerns in this case but were rebuffed both times.

McPhillips and Sawyer are renewing their call on Marshall to dismiss the cases against the law enforcement officers, because the charges “are frivolous, irresponsible, racially discriminatory, and counter-productive to good law enforcement.”

McPhillips and Sawyer promise to reveal even more of the “unseemly details” at the news conference with all three policemen present and speaking in their own defense.

If Marshall refuses to dismiss the case, McPhillips and Sawyer are calling upon him to immediately cease all efforts to remove Wiggins.

The defense attorneys stated that this second recusal request is unfounded, highly racially prejudicial, discriminatory and unsavory.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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