Jury deliberations begin in drive-by shooting trial
by Jessica Loeding
Jun 15, 2011 | 3294 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Witnesses took the stand Tuesday in Bartow County Superior Court during the second day of testimony in the case of Beniam Dawit Tela.

Tela is accused of opening fire at a Bates Road home on May 29, 2008. He faces 11 counts -- six counts of aggravated assault, four counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and first-degree criminal damage to property.

According to the indictment, Tela committed aggravated assault on the victims by discharging a .380 caliber handgun in the direction of the Bates Road residence. Tela's ex-girlfriend was at the home at the time.

Witnesses testified Tuesday that a car passed the home slowly, with a passenger yelling profanities. According to one witness, the ex-girlfriend identified the voice as Tela's. The car then reportedly came back by at which time gunfire rang out.

A resident of the home testified that she was in the yard talking with the ex-girlfriend when the incident occurred. However, she could not provide a description of the vehicle or identify any of the occupants.

The resident's son had been involved in a verbal argument with Tela prior to the shooting. Prosecutors played tapes of Tela issuing threats against the man.

While no one was injured, a round entered the home through a bedroom wall, exiting into a closet. Another round hit the trim near the front door, but the slug could not be retrieved.

According to a supplemental report by Bartow County Sheriff's Office Lt. Robert Moultrie, Tela admitted to having an argument with the victim's son but denied having a part in the drive-by.

The gun allegedly used in the shooting -- a .380 caliber Beretta found behind Tela's Kennesaw residence, the shell casings from the scene and ammunition found with the gun were sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab for testing.

GBI Firearms Examiner Kyle Felix testified that he tested the handgun in September 2009 and determined the gun was the one used in the shooting.

When asked by defense attorney Tim Kimble why he did not test for DNA, Moultrie said he felt the gun examination was the simplest method of gaining information.

During closing arguments, Kimble urged the jury to consider that none of the witnesses could place Tela at the scene with absolute certainty and pointed out inconsistencies in each of their stories.

"The state did not do their job," he said.

Prosecutor Jana Allen told the jury in her closing statements that they must find Tela guilty beyond all reasonable doubt, not all doubt.

"I ask you to find Mr. Tela guilty of each and every count," she said.

The jury received the case just before 5 p.m. Deliberations will continue at 9 a.m. today in Judge Shepherd Howell's courtroom.

Patterson sentenced after being arrested at roadblock

A man arrested at a Highway 411 checkpoint in April was sentenced Tuesday in Judge Scott Smith's courtroom in a non-jury trial. Patterson faced four counts of felony obstruction and one count of misdemeanor hindering a law enforcement officer.

While working the checkpoint, deputies recognized Kevin Lee Patterson, 34, of Rydal, who was wanted on an outstanding probation violation warrant.

At the checkpoint, Patterson was resistant to arrest, and after a struggle, he was tased multiple times. Patterson received stitches at Cartersville Medical Center before being transferred to the Bartow County Jail. Two deputies were treated for injuries, including a bite, sustained during the struggle with Patterson.

Three deputies involved in the altercation testified Tuesday, saying Patterson attempted to flee the scene on foot and actively resisted arrest.

Patterson took the stand as well, testifying that he was going to turn himself in but deputies did not afford him the opportunity. He said an officer began choking him out before he could make it clear he was surrendering. Patterson said when he awoke he was at the bottom of an embankment being struck in the face by a Cartersville-Bartow Drug Task Force agent.

"You have done just about everything you can do wrong," Smith told Patterson. "I found your testimony offensive."

Calling Patterson "the reason they build prisons," Smith sentenced Patterson to 16 years for the charges in Bartow County, as well as additional counts from Gordon County. Smith did not specify if the two sentences will run concurrent and Patterson will receive credit for time served.