Councilman’s trial interrupted by witness seizure
by Laura Camper
lcamper@annistonstar.com
Oct 30, 2012 | 4677 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A trial over whether Ben Little exceeded his authority as a city councilman was interrupted today when a witness had a seizure during his testimony.

James Fluker, a former employee of the city’s Street Department, was taken by an Anniston EMS crew to Regional Medical Center after the seizure, which happened as he was being cross-examined by Little’s attorney. District Judge Mannon Bankson later said Fluker’s condition had improved and he was expected to be released from the hospital this afternoon. The trial is expected to resume Wednesday morning.

Little is charged with violating Anniston’s Council-Manager Act, a state law that describes the duties and powers of the city’s elected and appointed leaders.

Specifically, Fluker alleges that Little ordered him in July to retrieve a copy of a surveillance video showing the theft of two trailers from the Public Works Department parking lot. The Council-Manager Act prohibits individual council members from giving orders to city staff.

The only punishment mentioned in state law for those found guilty of violating the act is removal from office, but prosecutors said Little would need to have another misdemeanor conviction on his record for that to happen.

Regardless, the case may not be decided before Monday, when Little’s third term is set to end as Seyram Selase takes office as the councilman representing Anniston’s Ward 3.

Selase defeated Little for the post in the Aug. 28 election.

Fluker filed a formal statement with the Police Department in July that Little had ordered him to retrieve a DVD from a city surveillance camera showing the theft of the two trailers June 15.

On July 27, based on Fluker’s statement, Little was charged with violating the act.

The trial, which started this morning at 9 a.m., was abruptly interrupted a half hour later when Fluker had a seizure on the stand during cross examination.

Before his seizure, Fluker testified he had known Little all his life and had attended a church Little had pastored.

Fluker testified that on July 24 after a City Council meeting, he, Little and another area resident, Ronald Heining, met outside the council chambers. During the meeting between the men, Fluker testified, Little told him to get a copy of the DVD from his supervisor’s desk and provide it to Little. Fluker also testified that Little asked him to get written statements from his coworkers about his supervisor Darrell Abernathy and Public Works Director Bob Dean.

Fluker said Little wanted the DVD and the statements to turn over to the state attorney general’s office.

Assistant District Attorney Randy Moeller asked Fluker if he felt he had a choice in retrieving the DVD for Little. Fluker said he did not.

“He’s the councilman,” Fluker said.

Fluker and others testified that he later reported the conversation to his supervisor, Abernathy, who reported it to Dean, he said. Fluker then met with Dean to make a formal statement, he testified. Eventually, the statement made its way to the Anniston Police Department, where Fluker agreed to make a phone call to Little about the DVD that would be recorded by the officers, he said.

During cross examination by Little’s attorney, Raymond Johnson, Fluker became agitated.

Johnson questioned Fluker about his 2010 guilty plea to a charge of second-degree sodomy. Johnson also questioned Fluker about his health. Fluker confirmed that he has a brain tumor which affects his memory.

As Fluker answered, he hesitated and looked repeatedly at prosecutors and police. As Johnson questioned him about his felony record, Fluker asked what that had to do with the current case.

When Johnson repeatedly asked Fluker whether he had been threatened into providing testimony against Little, Fluker’s eyes rolled back in his head, he reared back in his seat and fell to the floor.

After the EMS crew took Fluker away, the trial continued with testimony form Dean, Abernathy, City Manager Don Hoyt and police Lt. Allen George.

The court also viewed a video of and listened to audio of Fluker’s call to Little from the Police Department.

Star Staff Writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @Lcamper_star
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