The morning started off with the press having a few heated words with each other in the back room. Don't know what it was about, but Marty Roney, Montgomery Advertiser Reporter came out smiling. Maybe he'll take the time to fill us in??
There were about 40 - 50 individuals in attendance today, with a few of us taking notes in the audience. I didn't see one person in the jury "box" taking notes.
I'll give you a short run down of what I observed and took notes on.
Sheriff Herbie Johnson was sworn in. After asking about duties of deputies and sheriff, jailors & jail wardens, it was determined that Billy had some authority to make purchases of items needed in the daily operation of the jail. The Prosecution introduced a "list" that was broken down during the morning, concerning expenditures that were not authorized by the sheriff himself, and Billy Brown was being charged with all of the expenditures. The sheriff seemed to be clearly perturbed at times and quite forgetful when questioned about his own expenditures concerning a list he & the bookkeeper had come up with.
Billy Brown has been charged with using his office for personal gain. HOWEVER, after listening quite intently to testimony by the sheriff today, it was made quite clear that many expenditures on the list of the sheriffs' were not items that could "fairly" be charged to Billy. It was determined that Billy had given advances and bonuses to employees; purchased tobacco for the inmates, purchased flowers for sick family members of employees; money was spent on a baby shower for a female employee of the jail, while it was pointed out that Herbie had also made expenditures for a retirement party, which was "a.o.k". Some of the items in question were a little confusing, as the attorneys went back and forth with the list vs. checks that had been written. I'll try to get a more detailed account posted at a later date. HOWEVER, I do want to make one point clear that stood out as MONUMENTAL during the whole testimony procedure of Sheriff James W. (Herbie) Johnson today.
Billy Brown had purchased a "Trailer" which was on the list that Billy is being charged with as an unauthorized expenditure. The sheriff was questioned as to if law enforcement had had a use for the trailer. Herbie said, "yes.". The sheriff was then shown a photograph of a trailer that the sheriff identified as the same trailer on the "questionable list". He was shown a 2nd photograph and identified the same trailer sitting in front of his barn on his OWN PROPERTY, loaded down with limbs and twigs. When asked if he was guilty of the same thing he was charging Billy Brown with. He seemed to be embarassed when he admitted he was.. ..It appears to me that Billy can't be guilty of using his office for personal gain as most of the expenditures that were brought forth and addressed today, were expenditures pertaining to the jail. The only question is that the sheriff claimed that he had not authorized most of the expenditures, It appeared, after listening closely to testimony the entire morning, that Billy Brown WAS taking care of his jail employees, to the best of his ability. You could accuse him of being a good boss. MORE LATER.