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West granted bond in restaurant-beating case

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

A Clayton County Superior Court Judge granted a $320,500 bond, Tuesday, to a Poulan, Ga., man accused in the Sept. 9 beating of a woman at the Morrow Cracker Barrel restaurant, according to District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson.

The decision by Judge Geronda Carter came down late Tuesday afternoon, following a bond hearing Tuesday morning in the case of Troy Dale West, 47.

Conditions of the bond require that West have no contact with the victims or witnesses, wear an ankle monitor, and surrender his passport, Lawson said. In addition, West is barred from Clayton County, except when attending court, going to the airport, or travelling on the interstate -- unless accompanied by his attorney -- according to Lawson.

Prior to Tuesday's bond hearing, West pleaded not guilty during an arraignment before Judge Carter, Lawson said. Later, during the bond hearing, Lawson told the court that on the day of the incident, West beat and kicked Army Reservist Tashawnea Hill, 35, of Jonesboro, in front of Hill's 7-year-old daughter, while yelling racial slurs at her. West is white. Hill is black.

According to a Morrow Police Department press statement, witnesses at the scene of the incident told police that West nearly hit Hill's daughter with the restaurant door as Hill and her daughter were entering the establishment, and West was leaving. Witnesses said that Hill politely asked West to be more careful, according to the police statement.

However, during Tuesday's bond hearing, West's attorney, Tony Axam, said Hill threatened West "with language that is strong" and spit on him.

Lawson told the court Tuesday that video surveillance of the incident did not show Hill spitting on West. "I have watched the video approximately 40 times," she said. "As the mother [Hill] is walking into the interior of the store, the defendant grabs her, and pulls her back into the vestibule," she said.

Lawson said West then began to beat Hill. "He's using the 'F' word, the 'N' word, and the 'B' word, in reference to our victim," she said.

Axam called Sharon West, Troy West's wife, to the stand, during the bond hearing. Previous testimony had revealed that Sharon West was injured several years ago in an automobile crash, and has relied on her husband for transportation since then. "I can't drive ... I'm missing doctor's appointments [since her husband's arrest]," Sharon West said.

Axam told the court that Troy West is not a flight risk, or a threat to society, and should be granted bond. He said West has been married 25 years, has three children, and one grandchild, and attends church.

District Attorney Lawson, however, said West demonstrated on the day of the incident involving Hill that he is a flight risk. "He did leave the scene. He didn't wait for police," she said. Lawson said police approached West as he was walking away from the scene of the incident.

Dennis Baker, chief administrator for the Clayton County District Attorney's Office, testified that an investigation shows that West has a violent past. He said West was arrested in Tifton, Ga., in December of 1998, for simple battery and making terroristic threats against the manager of a Kmart store. He said West argued with the manager, Ray Lester, over the price of some items.

"Mr. Lester found out the receipts Mr. West was giving him were fictitious. Mr. West began talking loudly. Mr. Lester said Mr. West just snapped," Baker said. "He pushed Lester in the chest, and pushed him against a telephone booth, and told Mr. Lester he would kill him," Baker said.

Baker testified that West then fled the scene and was later located at a nearby restaurant. "He [West] had a loaded, automatic pistol ... in his possession," Baker said. He said the charges in that case were administratively dismissed in 2004, because records were no longer available at that time.

In the Clayton County case involving Hill, West faces felony charges of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and cruelty to children, as well as misdemeanor counts of battery and disorderly conduct.

Lawson said West's case could be placed on a trial calendar as early as Nov. 16.