Defendants said a carjacking case that developed from an incident Nov. 10 resulted from confusion arising from a relationship gone bad, but prosecutors Monday said it was a theft.
Both prosecution and defense concluded their presentation of evidence in Hall County Superior Court on Monday in the case.
Investigators, two co-defendants and the defendant himself testified.
Richard Chambers, 40, is charged with theft by taking, robbery by force and possession of a gun by a convicted felon.
His lawyer, public defender David Hoffer, said in his opening statement that Chambers was misled and caught up in a conflict, carried out and plotted by the case’s co-defendants, Mitchell Adams and Stephanie Samples, formerly Stephanie Bolding.
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office had initially reported that “police impersonators” with a blue light pursued the victim. A different sort of picture was painted in from witnesses for the defense.
On a drive back to her apartment, Samples spotted the 1989 Jeep, and, believing it belonged to her, flagged the car down, according to testimony.
A somewhat disputed account ensued, but both sides have testified that in the end, the victim told the alleged thieves to “just take” the car.
Chambers was in some sort of physical altercation with the victim, and Adams drove the car to Samples’ home.
Adams, Samples and Chambers all testified that they had never intended to rob an innocent victim of his Jeep.
A Hall County deputy testified that Samples had contacted the office shortly before her arrest, tipping him off to suspect her, when in a “rambling” call, she said she “found” her Jeep.
“The day before, I got a phone call from Stephanie Samples. She called, rambling on that she had found her Jeep,” sheriff’s deputy Scott Buffington said.
Prosecutor Shiv Sach-deva asked Adams why he would claim innocence but plead guilty to the charges.
“You say you didn’t intend to do this, but you already (pleaded) guilty,” he said to Adams.
Chambers testified he believed he was helping Samples recover her property, and protecting her from a violent ex-boyfriend. Prosecutors put his record of theft and forgery before the jury.
“I (pleaded) guilty to them. I didn’t drag a jury into it. I took my punishment like a man. But I didn’t do it,” he said of the charges, his voice slightly emotional. “I messed up in the past, but I wasn’t the one that did it. I didn’t drive off in those vehicles.”
Samples, the defense’s final witness, was put in handcuffs upon arrival after failing to show up on time, and deputies were dispatched to retrieve her.
She did appear, albeit late, and upon conclusion of proceedings, Judge Jason Deal slapped her with a contempt of court charge, scheduling her to appear in court on Sept. 4.
Samples said she never reported the vehicle as stolen to authorities because, technically, it wasn’t.
“We were separated. He wasn’t supposed to sell it, but it wasn’t stolen,” she said.
Until the time she pulled the alleged victim over, and the time she was arrested, she believed the Jeep was hers, she testified.
Chambers apologized to the Jeep’s owner, saying he was deceived.
“I felt really bad. I apologize ... for any harm I caused,” he said, saying later, “I feel really mad at her. She deceived me.”
Both sides will present their closing arguments before the jury this morning.