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Grand jury indicts Clayton Sheriff's spokesperson

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A Clayton County Sheriff's deputy was indicted by a grand jury, on Thursday, on charges of "unlawful eavesdropping and surveillance, which invades the privacy of another" and "obstruction of a law enforcement officer," according to copies of the indictments.

More specifically, the charges Sheriff's Deputy Alicia Parkes is facing include allegations that she allegedly used her cell phone to record another sheriff's office employee without the employee's consent last year, and that she jumped on a Clayton County police officer, who was arresting one of her relatives in 2008.

Parkes became the sheriff's office's public information officer, or spokesperson, last year.

"[Parkes] did unlawfully through the use of a device, to wit: A cellular phone, without the consent of all persons observed, record the activities of another person ... which occurred in the stall of a rest room, a private place and out of the public view," The indictment for the "eavesdropping" charge states.

Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said the charges Parkes is facing are felonies, and she could face one to five years of incarceration, per charge, if she is found guilty of the alleged crimes.

Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough has declined to comment on Parkes' indictment. He did say, however, that she will no longer serve as his office's public information officer. It is also unclear, right now, if Parkes will remain an employee of the sheriff's office.

"I have not made a decision, yet, regarding her long-term employment," Kimbrough said.

The district attorney said her office has reached a bond agreement with Parkes, that includes the deputy turning herself into authorities. "We have consented to a bond agreement, with bond set at $7,000, or $3,500 per count," Lawson said. She added that she was not sure when the deputy was planning to turn herself in.

Parkes and her attorney, Ricky Morris, could not be reached for comment on Thursday. As of 8:40 p.m., on Thursday, officials at the jail said they did not have Parkes in their custody.

Lawson said the person Parkes allegedly recorded in a bathroom at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, in Jonesboro, "also works for the sheriff's office, but is not a deputy." The justice center houses Clayton County's magistrate, state and superior courts, the county jail, and sheriff's, district attorney's and solicitor general's offices.

Lawson said she could not specify what type of recording Parkes allegedly made of the other employee, because it is an active case that her office is prosecuting. The district attorney said the alleged April 17, 2008 obstruction incident occurred while Parkes worked for the Clayton County Police Department.

"[Parkes] did knowingly, and willfully obstruct Jeffrey J. Burdette, a law enforcement officer in the lawful discharge of his official duties by offering violence to such officer, by getting on his back in order to prevent the officer from detaining Marquel Bissessar, whom the accused had reported as a runaway," according to the indictment against Parkes, on the "obstruction" charge.

Lawson confirmed that Bissessar is related to Parkes, but added that she could not specify what the relationship is, because it is an ongoing case. The district attorney also said the deputy eventually left the Clayton County Police Department, and went to work for the College Park Police Department, before she moved to the Clayton County Sheriff's Office.

Lawson said Clayton County Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield held a hearing on Wednesday to determine whether Parkes could face her accuser in front of the grand jury. The district attorney previously told the Clayton News Daily that law enforcement officers are allowed to face their accusers in front of a grand jury, if it involves something that happened as a part of their job, while they were in the line of duty.

The district attorney said Benefield ruled that Parkes did not make the recording in the line of duty, and, therefore, could not appear before the grand jury

Lawson said among the testimony given during the hearing was a statement from Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Garland Watkins, who testified that Parkes has allegedly admitted to sheriff's office officials that she recorded the other office employee.

"In court yesterday [Wednesday], Chief Deputy Garland Watkins testified that Deputy Parkes admitted to making the recording, during an internal affairs investigation," Lawson said.