Convicted former Augusta Commissioner Sammie Sias claims in a motion for acquittal or a new trial that his highly-paid defense attorneys were ineffective.
A thumb drive of missing files could have cleared Sias, had his attorneys released it to authorities, but instead they focused on encouraging him to accept a guilty plea, it said.
A U.S. District Court jury found Sias guilty in about two hours of destroying records in a federal investigation, then lying to an FBI agent about it, last July 29 after a four-day trial.
Sias, whose second term on the commission ended last year, has not been sentenced and remains free on bond. After a series of delays, his court-appointed attorney Jesse Owen filed the motion last week.
The motion reveals much about the case never publicly known, including that Sias had attorney Troy Clark represent him prior to hiring David Stewart and Ken Crowder, and that he had frequent disagreements with his legal counsel.
A retired sergeant major in the Army, Sias paid Crowder and Stewart $100,000 at the outset for his defense, according to the motion.
After he was convicted, however, Sias filed a motion himself for a court-appointed lawyer and Owen was appointed.
The thumb drive
Sias was never charged with theft of the sales tax funds agents were investigating. Federal prosecutors claimed he deleted thousands of files they sought after learning of an FBI subpoena.
His motion for a new trial said Sias gave a thumb drive with the wanted documents to Clark in May 2020, over a year before he was indicted in July 2021.
According to the motion, Clark said he had not turned the drive over to the FBI because he “did not know anyone in the Department of Justice that he could trust.”
Crowder and Stewart, to whom Clark was supposed to provide a copy of the drive, also never gave it to the FBI, the motion states.
“The government will be provided with a copy of the thumb drive as soon as practical after the filing of this motion,” claims Sias.
Clark, a member of the same law firm as Crowder and Stewart, informed Sias he could no longer represent him “because he may be called as a witness regarding the thumb drive,” the motion states.
Troubles with counsel
In August 2021, after Sias agreed to pay Crowder and Stewart an additional $100,000, he asked Stewart about the thumb drive.
“You might be the one in trouble,” Crowder replied, it said.
Next, Clark mailed the drive to a Florida firm for a forensic examination without telling Sias. Crowder, a former federal prosecutor, “began excessively reminding Mr. Sias the government wins 95% of their trial.”
During weekly meetings, Crowder spent most of the time “lecturing” Sias and refusing his input into his defense, such as witnesses Sias suggested.
“But Crowder Stewart expressed no interest in any witnesses, with the exception of Willa Hilton,” it said.
Hilton is Sias’ former mistress who worked closely with him on the activities around which the investigation centered at city-owned Jamestown Community Center.
When she went public with allegations that gave rise to a 2019 FBI raid on his house, Sias revealed their affair and claimed her statements were those of a woman scorned.
Sias ‘remained undeterred’
Crowder also engaged in an “intense mock cross-examination” of Sias as preparation for the trial, “with the intent to intimidate him. It did not work. Mr. Sias remained undeterred.”
During the trial, Sias reported Stewart spent a 20-minute break chatting with FBI Special Agent Charles McKee, the lead investigator in the case, while he sat alone at the defense table, the motion states.
In an accompanying affidavit, Sias called the conversation between Stewart and McKee “typical” of their handling of the case.
“This callous disregard of my case was typical of Crowder Stewart behavior toward me because I did not fit their demand of an obedient minority client,” Sias said.
The motion differs greatly from the initial motion for a new trial filed by Crowder and Stewart last August.
The initial motion argued the evidence was insufficient for a conviction, and that prosecutors should not have been allowed to reveal anything about the underlying FBI investigation.
Withholding thumb drive ‘ineffective’
The new motion argues his lawyers were ineffective in that not turning over the thumb drive prior to Sias’ indictment was an error. Without it, Sias might never have been indicted on either charge, it claims.
It includes the FBI subpoena, with check-marks next to items sought by the FBI, such as invoices showing how he spent sales tax allocations of $130,000, $131,500 and $150,000.
Sias testified at trial his work “stood for itself” and that no receipts, invoices or documentation were necessary.
In the motion, he claims invoices for lumber, concrete, cabinets and other construction materials as well as construction services are on the thumb drive.
It said Crowder and Stewart spent much of their time with Sias attempting to persuade him to accept their recommendations, rather than his suggestions.
In the affidavit, Sias laments his lawyers’ unwillingness to follow his instructions.
“To this day, l still do not know why the FBI never received the subpoena’s evidence I provided to Crowder Stewart. My instructions were crystal clear,” Sias said. “My life was at stake then, and it continues at stake today.”
Have the renamed the street named after him yet? This complaint is the dying grasp a desperate man..it won’t work. He’s going to prison…
Yep, he’s going to the ole pokie.
No the street is still named after him Augusta Commission say it ain’t so!
I was in Federal Court ever second of the trial to include the Jury selection to the Jury verdict, Ray Charles could see Sias was guilty. Over the years I’ve given Public talks to the Commission about waste, fraud, abuse, and Corruption Sias was always defiat. No Doubt I’m innocent will be chiseled on Sias’s tombstone! It’s time for the Sergeant Major two report to a Federal prison for Duty!
“…I did not fit their demand of an obedient minority client,” Sias said.“ And you know it was inevitable that he would play the race card. Also, what defense attorney in his right mind would withhold exculpatory evidence before or during the trial and risk censor or disbarment by the GA Bar? This thumb drive ploy was probably plan B if he was convicted.
The sad joke of the Century. Sammie “Blow-Up Mattress” Sias, accept the fact that you got caught, tried, and convicted. Time to put on your “Big Boy Pants”. You did the crime — Now do the time.
It’s a shell game.
$200,000. for lawyers. Wow!
All of the trial defense attorneys are some of the best in the South. They had a client who was too stupid to listen to them. Case closed.
If I were charged with a federal crime, I know they’d be who’d I’d hire, and I’d be smart enough to listen to them. This is a ridiculous motion. Not only is it incorrect, but even if it were all true, it wouldn’t change the verdict one bit. Throughout this entire motion, he’s complaining about how his attorneys didn’t turn over the thumb drive to comply with the subpoena on the 9th. Problem is, he was charged with failing to turn over the documents from a different subpoena several days earlier. He got one subpoena, then deleted the documents (count 1), then he was asked “did you give us everything” and he said “no” (count 2), then they sent him another subpoena. Turning it over at that point is just an admission of guilt. It’s not as if the government didn’t have any of these documents, they recovered all of them from his computer almost immediately. This motion is legally, factually, and procedurally wrong. This is federal court, even if you’re trying to plead ineffective assistance of counsel, it’s the wrong time…that comes later in a 2255 motion (unless the judge denies this and says it counts as his one shot at a habeas corpus petition, woops!)
First of all there is not one attorney practicing law that doesn’t want to win the case. That case would bring him more clients if he did. And if it would have exonerated the Slick Silas they would have pulled it out and plugged it in!! He just needs more time with his blowup doll.
Put him in jail!