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Case against Sheriff's son dismissed
Evidence inadmissible in court
John Jeffrey Wigington

The DUI case against the son of the Rockdale County Sheriff has been dismissed based on inadmissible evidence, according to the prosecuting attorney.

Special Prosecutor Todd Hayes of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, who was assigned to the case after Rockdale District Attorney Richard Read recused himself, issued a statement that "insufficient articulable suspicion supported the stop of Wigington’s vehicle."

John Jeffrey Wigington, of Stockbridge, who was 20 years old at the time, was charged with having an open container, driving under the influence of alcohol under 21 years of age and possession of marijuana less than one ounce for a March 13 incident.

He and three other suspects were stopped in the early morning hours of March 13 after a be-on-the-lookout call was issued for a black Toyota SUV with a Florida tag involved in a hit and run. Wigington was driving a black GMC Jimmy with a Georgia tag which was not involved in the hit and run, but marijuana was found with the occupants, who also admitted having had drinks before driving.

Because of the mismatch with the BOLO vehicle description, the evidence found by the deputies would have been inadmissible in court, according to Hayes.

"Because the stop of the vehicle was legally insupportable, evidence that grew out of it would be inadmissible at trial, leaving the State with nothing to support the charges," read Hayes’ released statement. He declined to comment beyond the released statement, but said he is routinely assigned to such conflict of interest cases.

Hayes said, "The deputies in this case did not in any way engage in any sort of misconduct or act in bad faith, but the unique facts of this case presented a fluid – and at times confusing – description of the vehicle targeted by the lookout."

Sheriff Jeff Wigington said, "I’m glad the criminal part is behind him. However, his mother and I, we don’t condone what he did. He’s learned a lot from it. He’s taken many steps to make sure it never happens again." He pointed out his son had gone through various classes and courses, such as DUI class and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, on his own on the advice of his attorney Michael Hawkins.

The sheriff said he did not know Hayes and had never met him before. "There are people who are implying he got preferential treatment because of me. The only thing I did was say, ‘Son, you need to get you a lawyer.’"

Michael Hawkins, of the Hawkins Law Firm in Atlanta, who represented John Wigington, said "It’s not common, but there are a whole host of cases in the Georgia law books where people are unlawfully stopped. I don’t think there’s any subterfuge here."

He praised Hayes background. "(Haynes) is a seasoned prosecutor with a well rounded knowledge of the law in this area. He was the type of prosecutor we did not have to wait to have court hearings on this."

Judge Nancy Bills of the Rockdale County State Court had recused herself from the case. Alvin Wong, chief judge of the DeKalb County State Court, was assigned to hear the case instead.