SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)- Closing arguments are set for Tuesday morning the case of Chatham County Commissioner Yusef Shabazz who is facing three misdemeanor traffic charges in connection with an incident that took place last June 1. City maintenance workers testifies that Shabazz refused to follow their instructions to stop as a loader was blocking Holland Drive and as several put it “just plowed on through.”
Shabazz is charged with leaving the scene of an accident and failure to give aid, reckless driving and driving on the wrong side of the road. Several workers testified that Shabazz came back to them a few minutes after the incident and as they indicated they were going to call the police – that he responded by saying tell the police “I’m Commissioner Shabazz.”
In opening arguments, Assistant District Attorney Andre Pretorius said the state’s case against Shabazz was one of “impatience and a county commissioner who thinks he is above the law”. Pretorius said that Shabazz ignored instructions by tje city maintenance workers who were directing traffic at a roadblock, that Shabazz was responsible for one worker’s injuries to her finger. He also said Shabazz refused to provide information like insurance or driver’s license number.
Defense attorney Stephanie Burgess said her client was not guilty. She said Mr. Shabazz was doing his job of transporting disabled adults. Burgess said that Shabazz did not hurt anyone and that no one actually witnessed the incident.
City worker Lyneshia Stanford testified first saying that on June 1st, she was directing traffic when someone driving a white van went around her. Stanford said a short time later she her another female worker, Beverly Ferguson, yelling at the van to stop. City employee Benjamin Smith testified that he also heard Ferguson yelling to “stop that guy, he hit me.” Smith said Shabazz should have stopped at the accident scene, that as a commissioner that “Shabazz should have set more of an example.”
Beverly Ferguson, a senior maintenance worker who has been employed by the city for more than 14 years, took the stand next. She said Shabazz just kept driving and that the finger on her left hand was crushed as it was bent back by the flag after Shabazz’s side mirror struck the flag.
On cross examination, Burgess asked Ferguson if “her finger was so hurt” why she didn’t seek medical attention that. day. Ferguson replied that she to a workmen’s comp doctor the next day and that she still has pain in her finger.
Late Monday afternoon, a police officer assigned to investigate the accident testified and tape of a phone conversation with Shabazz was played. On the tape the officer asks Shabazz to arrange a time when he can be interviewed but Shabass is heard saying that “nothing happened.” Shabazz is also heard on the telling the officer “he will call Chief Lumpkin.”
Two clients of Shabazz’s (he provides transportation to the disabled) testified they did not witness Shabazz hitting anyone that day. The city maintenance workers testified that Shabazz was alone in his van at the time of the incident, that he went on to Holland Drive and picked up his two clients and then came back.
Before the trial began, Burgess asked the judge to disallow the Chatham County District Attorney’s office to prosecute the case saying this may be “selective prosecution for political reasons and a special prosecutor should be appointed.”
But the judge denied the motion. Coincidentally, the trial judge is Jeffrey Arnold who is from Long County. That’s because three state judges in Chatham County did recuse themselves in the case.