Beech blasts Hodge for comments to LL-C
The deputy who arrested Greg Burroughs last summer did not show up in Jones County Justice Court in January, and that’s why the charges against Burroughs were dismissed, Judge Howell Beech said Monday. He provided documentation to support that claim and called out Sheriff Alex Hodge, who said last week that his former deputy, Josh Welch, was in court when he was supposed to be.
“Before the sheriff makes a statement about justice court, he needs to check the records,” Beech said Monday afternoon. “The sheriff was not in court. (Maj. Jamie) Tedford was not in court, and they didn’t check the records, so someone had to tell them (Welch) was there … That’s why a judge can’t listen to hearsay. You can’t depend on it.”
Beech provided his documents showing what happened with all five charges against Burroughs, who was arrested on July 2, 2016, after Welch responded to a disturbance call at Northgate Apartments off University Avenue.
Burroughs was found not guilty of DUI first offense and child endangerment and the charges of resisting arrest, domestic disturbance and disorderly conduct were dismissed. The reason given was “officer not in court,” and initialed by Beech on Jan. 12.
Deputy Brennon Chancellor, a DUI specialist for the Jones County Sheriff’s Department who was called to the scene to administer sobriety tests, was in court that day, but Welch was needed to make the case, Beech said.
“There has to be probable cause, so the first (officer) on the scene has to be (in court),” Beech said. “If he doesn’t show up for court, the state doesn’t have a case. The state had nothing to present to the judge.”
The prosecution and the defense are each allowed one continuance, Beech explained, and both sides used one. The case was first set for trial on Aug. 3, but Burroughs’ attorney Brad Thompson asked for a reset date. The trial was then moved to Nov. 3, but county attorney Wayne Thompson requested a continuance. The trial date was then set for Jan. 12.
Beech provided a subpoena for the Jan. 12 court appearance that was signed by Welch on Jan. 3. Burroughs and his attorney were in court, along with Chancellor and the county attorney, according to court records.
“Unless the officer that initiates the DUI arrest is there … you can’t get into the rest of it,” said Wayne Thompson (no relation to Brad). “The legal term is ‘fruits of the poisonous tree.’”
Last week, Hodge and Tedford called Leader-Call owner/publisher Jim Cegielski in response to a column he wrote that questioned several points of the latest investigation involving Burroughs and the shooting death of his 23-year-old girlfriend Katherine Sinclair. Some of those questions were about Welch being a no-show in justice court for the trial. “Welch needs to testify under oath as to why he didn’t show up. Did someone ask him not to? Was there a payoff?” Cegielski wrote.
That’s what prompted Hodge and Tedford to call Cegielski and say that Welch was in court and suggested that the dismissals and not guilty verdicts were the judge’s decision and had nothing to do with the sheriff’s department.
Welch was suspended from the JCSD at the time and left his employment there on Feb. 28 and was hired back by the Laurel Police Department in March. JCSD officials would not say why Welch was suspended, citing privacy laws concerning personnel matters, but they said it had nothing to do with the Burroughs case.
“They used hearsay to try to throw justice court under the truck,” Beech said. “I feel like it’s an effort of the sheriff’s department to try to find a scapegoat, but they’re looking in the wrong place. I have documentation and I have witnesses.”
Beech went on to say that any suggestion he was involved with giving special treatment to Burroughs or anyone else is false.
“I have no connection with Burroughs at all,” he said. “He’s just another person in court. All defendants are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There are many things that have to fall in line to get a conviction, and if anything in that line fails, it drops the ball … He (Welch) dropped the ball. He did not come to trial like he should have.”
Welch’s wife and supporters took to social media to blast the Leader-Call after Cegielski’s column was published on July 29. But many of them shared the Aug. 3 story that quoted Hodge as saying Welch was in court when he was supposed to be. Welch himself responded by writing that was “100 percent the truth.” Beyond that, Welch would not comment.
Beech says otherwise and has the documentation to prove it. He said the sheriff has not been in his courtroom, except for a few bond hearings, so he shouldn’t have made the statement about who was or wasn’t in court on Jan. 12 without checking the records or checking with him. When questions came up about this case, Beech said he checked the subpoenas to make sure that all parties had signed them, making sure that they had been notified.
A note was placed on the justice court calendar letting officials know that Welch would be out in January and February for training, but since he was leaving the sheriff’s department to go back to the LPD, that was no longer valid. A “clerical error” was cited in earlier articles as a possible explanation for the court date mixup, but Welch’s signature on the subpoena shows that he did indeed get the summons to be in court on Jan. 12.
“We’re accountable to the Attorney General’s Office, so everything is documented,” Beech said. “Everybody who comes in my courtroom gets the same treatment, the same justice, and that’s what they’re going to get.”
Sinclair suffered a fatal gunshot to the head in the garage of Burroughs’ home in the upscale Windermere subdivision on the night of June 1. Laurel police and the district attorney’s office are awaiting test results from crime labs across the state to decide whether the cause of death was suicide or homicide.
Welch, who is a certified polygraph administer for the LPD, gave Burroughs a lie-detector test while he was being detained and questioned by the LPD. Sources have said Burroughs failed the test.
In the case where Welch arrested him, Burroughs was accused of driving drunk with his then-8-year-old daughter in the vehicle with him, then fighting with a former girlfriend who is an employee at his family’s company, Burroughs Diesel.