Attorneys Victor Revill and Megan Garcia were taken into custody on Feb. 23, 2017, after leaving the courthouse with their client, Loyd Edwards, who was appearing that day in court in reference to a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order initiated by his wife, Jasmine Edwards. The attorneys were charged with obstruction of governmental operation and unlawfully refusing to produce an item subject to a search warrant. Both are misdemeanor charges. At trial, Revill was represented by Clayton Tartt, a Birmingham lawyer with the Parkman White firm. Stan Glasscox of Tuscaloosa represented Garcia.
The events that led to the arrests of Revill and Garcia were presented at a bench trial before Circuit Judge Steven King. Normally, misdemeanors are heard by a district judge, but in this case, District Judge Sherry Burns recused herself because she had signed the search warrant that was at the center of this case. Judge King sat as a district judge, an administrative move allowed by the courts.
The cases against Revill and Garcia were prosecuted by private attorneys Anna Sparks and Champ Crocker. They were appointed by Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey as special prosecutors. Sparks worked for the Blount County DA’s Office and was the lead prosecutor when Edwards was being investigated. In addition to the PFA, Edwards was a suspect in more serious allegations involving sexual abuse of a child. Sparks subsequently left the DA’s office, but had the most knowledge about the case, so Casey wanted her to continue with the prosecution. Casey agreed to Sparks’ request for Crocker to assist.
According to the transcript of the trials, Blount County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) investigator Sue Ashworth obtained a search warrant for the person and vehicle of Edwards, the client of Revill and Garcia. The warrant sought Edwards’ cellular phones, at least three of them.
Casey said it was alleged in the affidavit of the search warrant that the phones contained evidence. Ashworth testified that in video surveillance of the courthouse, BCSO Sergeant Brian Ratliff observed Edwards give Revill two of his cell phones, and they were placed in Garcia’s briefcase. Ratliff confirmed this later in his testimony. Outside the courthouse, Ashworth and Ratliff, along with Oneonta police officers, approached Edwards, Revill and Garcia, serving the warrant.
Under oath, Ashworth testified she talked with DA Casey and ADA Scott Gilliland to consult about how to proceed when she confronted Revill, Garcia and Edwards on the sidewalk, and the two attorneys refused to surrender the phones in Garcia’s possession. Ashworth said, even after that consultation, the decision to arrest Revill and Garcia was hers, alone. Testimony did not reveal what Casey or Gilliland said to Ashworth.
Edwards, who is still under investigation, testified for the prosecution. The defense attorneys for Revill and Garcia both brought up the possibility there might be a plea arrangement in place for Edwards if he testified. Sparks and Crocker told the court there was no offer of a deal and Edwards testified no offer had been made or suggested. When asked why he was testifying against his former attorneys, Edwards told the court, “I thought it was the thing to do.”
Edwards told the court following his PFA hearing that Revill told him “There may come a day when the prosecution wants your phone.” Edwards said one of the attorneys asked for the phones, and he gave them two phones. The phones were placed into Garcia’s briefcase. He said he was not sure which one asked for the phones, but it was one of the attorneys who initiated the conversation about them.
After the State rested, the defense attorneys made motions for a judgment of acquittal and presented arguments. Tartt told the court that the State had failed to meet its burden of a prima facie case, or in other words, did not prove that a crime had been committed because the search warrant authorized the search of Edwards’ person and his car, not his attorneys. In addition, Glasscox added case law regarding the obstruction of government operations requires the prosecution to establish the defendants intentionally acted and, according to Glasscox, “the State has offered no evidence of intent.”
Crocker spoke first for the State and argued testimony had shown law enforcement had observed the phones being placed into Garcia’s briefcase with both her knowledge and that of Revill. He said, even though the search warrant did not specify the attorneys’ persons, but rather that of their client, law enforcement was still authorized to seize the phones under a provision called “exigent circumstances.” Crocker told the court, “…law enforcement must have probable cause and exigent circumstances to do a warrantless search. Well, we had probable cause here because the search warrant had been signed. And these defendants’ uncooperative nature did nothing to diminish that probable cause, and the evidence is going away” or leaving the scene. Crocker also spoke about intent, saying that by not allowing the officers to seize the phones from the briefcase, “they intentionally obstructed and hindered the administration of law of the Blount County search warrant in preventing these public servants from exercising or executing the search warrant.”
Sparks pointed out the officers knew the phones were in Garcia’s briefcase and said, “in their effort to execute that search warrant, they see a faulty transfer, that they have reasonable grounds to search the individuals with the evidence.”
After further arguments, Judge King granted the defense motions of a Judgment of Acquittal on all charges stating, “I don’t find there was any physical interference” referring to the obstruction charges…And I do not believe that search warrant extends to the person of Mr. Revill or the person of Ms. Garcia. As to the other count…I think they didn’t have a lawful right to inspect.”
Revill told The Blount Countian he intends to file a civil action in federal court alleging civil rights violations including unlawful arrest, defamation and malicious prosecution. He said, “You would expect better from a seasoned investigator and an experienced district attorney.”
Casey had previously told The Blount Countian, “If they sue, we will vigorously defend this case with the facts and the evidence.” She also said she will make the transcript of the trial available to anyone so “they can make their own decision. We have nothing to hide.” She said she has researched the issue of appeal and found there is no remedy for the State for the acquittals.
According to Casey, there are two counts of sexual abuse of a child under 12 against Edwards pending the action of a grand jury. Revill and Garcia have withdrawn from his case.