The Georgia Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of Mark Lindsay in an opinion released Tuesday, with Judge Michael Boggs writing that the gifts Lindsay received weren't technically stolen. Instead, Lindsay merely accepted goods his mistress bought with stolen money.
In January 2015, Catoosa County Superior Court Judge Ralph Van Pelt Jr. convicted Lindsay on seven counts of theft by receiving stolen property at the end of a bench trial. Van Pelt also sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
But, Boggs wrote in his ruling Tuesday, "a common sense reading of the plain language of the statute [for theft by receiving stolen property] requires the State to prove that the tangible goods received by the defendant were the same goods that were taken by the owner."
In other words, taking gifts that were bought with stolen money isn't the same in Boggs' eyes as taking the money itself — or anything else that was stolen.
Prosecutors with the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office plan to appeal Boggs' ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court.
The prosecution of Lindsay began in 2010, after the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department arrested Deborah Ann Holt on charges of forgery, embezzlement and theft. Holt had been working as a bookkeeper at the Gateway Mall on Cloud Springs Road, where police say she forged checks in her boss' name.
Soon after, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation charged Lindsay with receiving stolen property. In court last year, Holt testified she and Lindsay began having an affair in 2005. She started forging checks three years later.
According to a release from District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin, Holt bought Lindsay $50,000-$75,000 worth of items: a Yamaha Rhino, accessories for that Rhino, a 16-foot trailer, a 40-inch flat-screen TV, an electric smoker, and a .44 Magnum revolver.
Holt herself pleaded guilty to multiple counts of forgery and theft in March 2012.
Lindsay resigned from his position as Fort Oglethorpe's building inspector a day before his arrest in November 2010. City Manager Ron Goulart said Wednesday he doesn't yet know whether Lindsay will return to his job now that his conviction has been reversed. When Lindsay was arrested, Goulart was quick to point out that none of the charges stemmed from his time as an employee for the city.
"I haven't even had a chance to even talk to him or anybody else," Goulart said. "I really wouldn't be in a position to comment on it at this time."
After the trial, Lindsay filed a motion for a new trial in Catoosa County, making several arguments as to why he deserved another case. Among those arguments, Lindsay said he had to wait too long between his arrest in November 2010 and his trial in January 2015.
Before the case went to the Court of Appeals, Van Pelt denied Lindsay's motion for a new trial. Concerning the time period Lindsay had to wait, the judge said this was in part Lindsay's own fault. And this was his own fault, Van Pelt wrote, because his friend state Sen. Jeff Mullis caused the case to be delayed.
On Oct. 8, 2013, the case was three days away from a bench trial before Judge Brian House. But Mullis, who was on Lindsay's witness list, then called House. It's unclear what Mullis told the judge — who would decide whether Lindsay was guilty or innocent — but House felt uncomfortable handling the case and recused himself.
This pushed the case back, and Van Pelt handled it going forward. Van Pelt wrote that Mullis' communication with House was "impermissible communication."
Mullis, R-Chickamauga, did not return calls or an email from the Times Free Press at the time this information came to light, though he later told the Atlanta Journal Constitution he was merely trying to help a friend. He believed Lindsay was having to wait too long to go to trial — even though Mullis reached out to the judge just three days before the trial was supposed to start.
"No good deed ever goes unpunished," Mullis told the newspaper.
Attorneys Joshua Weiss and Marty Lasley handled Lindsay's case in the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6476.