Former trainer pleads guilty in officer shooting

Butts County Superior Court briefs

A former Department of Corrections firearms trainer has been sentenced to 90 days in jail after pleading guilty to accidentally shooting a trainee at the state prison in Jackson.

Kevin Smith, of Leesburg, Ga., was indicted in January on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the Aug. 31 death of Probation Officer Tiffany Danielle Bishop. He pleaded guilty to the charges Feb. 7, according to Towaliga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Richard Milam. Smith was also sentenced to 10 years probation and was required to surrender his law enforcement certifications.

A Department of Corrections spokeswoman said Smith had been with the department since 1992, and was fired after the shooting.

Milam said Smith, while leaving for lunch, traded his training pistol for his real firearm while in his vehicle, but did not holster the training weapon on the way back to the classroom. Milam said Smith brought the real handgun into a training building at the prison where only non-lethal weapons are allowed. “He absentmindedly didn’t make the exchange,” Milam said.

While on a break from a class Smith was instructing, Milam said he sat in with a class led by another instructor, and during a demonstration, discharged the pistol striking and killing Bishop, 24, an employee of the Rome probation office.

Milam said Bishop’s family recommended the 90 days of jail time, and were supportive of the sentencing.

“In layman’s terms, it was an accident. He did not mean to kill this girl,” Milam said. “His motive was to be helpful. He was just not being very safe.”

Former South Ga. deputy sentenced in sex-sting case

A former South Georgia sheriff’s deputy has been sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of attempting to meet a 15-year-old girl for sex.

Albert W. Pole Jr. was arrested in Butts County Aug. 2, 2011, after authorities say he struck up an online conversation what an investigator pretending to be a teenager. After several days, authorities said he came to Butts County in an attempt to meet the girl for sex.

Pole, who was 63 at the time, was a part-time deputy in Crisp County, and had retired from a lengthy career in law enforcement, according to Crisp Sheriff Donnie Haralson. Haralson said Pole was fired the day after his arrest.

Pole was sentenced March 15 on charges of criminal attempt to commit child molestation and computer pornography, according to Towaliga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Richard Milam.

Pole was sentenced to a total of four years in prison, with 16 additional years on probation with sex offender conditions.

Milam said Pole, in online conversations with Investigator Joshua Oberst, made arrangements to meet what he thought was a 15-year-old girl while he was attending training at the nearby Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth. Milam said Pole arrived at the meeting location with women’s underwear and a sex toy.

He said after Pole’s arrest, investigators located evidence on his laptop, which he had left behind in a Forsyth hotel room.

Father pleads guilty to deprivation in scalding case

A father facing charges after his 16-month-old child’s hands were scalded with hot water pleaded guilty to a charge of deprivation of a minor in Butts County Superior Court, and was sentenced to a year in jail.

Authorities said the daughter of Mary Elizabeth Watts, 23, and Josue Velasco-Vasquez, 26, was brought to Sylvan Grove Hospital four days after suffering second-degree burns to her hands in February 2011.

Both parents were arrested and held on child cruelty charges.

Towaliga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Richard Milam said Watts, who authorities believed scalded her daughter’s hands while washing macaroni and cheese off of them, was found to be of diminished mental capacity and is no longer facing charges.

Velasco-Vasquez, who authorities said was in the country from El Salvador on an expired visa, pleaded guilty Jan. 31 to contributing to the deprivation of a minor, and was sentenced to a year in jail, Milam said. Unable to make bond, Milam said Velasco-Vasquez had already served the sentence.

Milam said the charge stems from the father not taking steps to get medical care for the child. “He served a year. We decided that that ought to be enough for failure to get the child some sort of medical care,” Milam said. “We’re confident that they didn’t intentionally do this.”

Milam said the child is in the custody of the Department of Family and Children Services.