Chatham County Commissioner Yusuf Shabazz was convicted on one count of reckless driving in connection with an incident last June in which a City of Savannah maintenance worker was injured.
At the same time, he was found *not* guilty of two other charges, hit and run and driving on the wrong side of the road. His attorney, Stephanie Burgess indicated that showed the jury did not feel the State had proven all of its case.
But the district attorney’s office and a visiting judge, Jeffrey Arnold from Long County, said the charge of reckless driving was serious enough.
While Assistant District Attorney Andre Petorius requested a 90 day jail sentence, Judge Arnold sentenced Shabazz to 12 months probation but with a long list of provisions, including a psych evaluation.
“You are pompous, you are arrogant and you’ve been that way on more than one occasion,” Judge Arnold told Shabazz from the bench. “And I don’t think that’s what the citizens of Chatham County want in a commissioner.”
Arnold sentenced Shabazz to 120 hours of community service, ordered him to pay a $1,000 fine. And there was more. He said Shabazz must attend driving school and undergo a psychological evaluation. “And not just
driving, this is a complete drievrs’ education course,” said the judge. “I question whether you should be driving from the evidence presented to me. I question whether you should be driving .. and I want to have a psychological assessment.”
Assistant District Attorney Andre Pretorius reacted by saying “I believe Shabazz gets the message especially with the lecture that the judge gave him in court. I don’t know him so I don’t know if he (Shabazz) is pompous or arrogant but I do feel he uses his name to get out of trouble.”
The jury deliberated for about an hour Tuesday before handing down its verdicts on the three charges.
Earlier that day, the jury heard closing arguments.
Defense attorney Stephanie Burgess said Shabazz was not guilty (of all charges.) She said there were discrepancies between what city workers told police at the scene and what some said at trial. She also said that hit and run requires a driver’s knowledge that an accident has occurred. Burgess said several workers at the scene did not know that maintenance worker Beverly Ferguson had reportedly been hit so how would Shabazz have known? (After the verdicts were read, Burgess told reporters she thought the jury had followed the law as far as the charges of hit and run and driving on the wrong side for which Shabazz was acquitted.
Pretorius though had argued that there was plenty of evidence to indicate that Commissioner Shabazz knew that the female city employee had been hurt when his van hit the flag she was holding in her hand, Pretorius told jurors that a tape from a police officer who investigated the indicident showed two things: that Shabazz knew what happened and thought he was above the law. Pretorius said workers indicated that Shabazz said “tell the police I am Commissioner Shabazz.”
“Just saying you are a commissioner is not enough,” said Pretorius. “He had to stop.”
The prosecutor said we have maintenance workers with flags for a reason. He said Shabazz had endangered the worker’s life which is why he requested the jail time. However, Pretorius told us he accepts the judge’s sentence.
And while the defense had asserted that Shabazz’s case was about “selective prosecution” that was denied by Chatham County attorney Meg Heap. “Everyone is subject to the law. We don’t pick the victims and we don’t pick the defendants either,” she said.