A Hall County jury will begin deliberating today as it seeks to determine if a Lake Lanier fatality was merely an accident, or a crime perpetrated by the defendant’s recklessness.
Defense witness and boating collision expert Phil Odom said Wednesday that Atlanta man Jeffrey Hubbard was neither reckless or at fault in the July 6, 2012, collision that caused the death of 11-year-old Kile Glover and seriously injured Alpharetta teen Jordan Shepp, then 15.
Odom said the pontoon boat, which had begun towing the kids on a raft by most accounts, “should have taken action to avoid the collision.”
“More than likely, if the pontoon had stopped ... it wouldn’t have been in a collision,” Odom said.
Kile was the son of Ryan Glover, president of Bounce TV, who was driving the pontoon boat at the time of the collision.
Kile was also the son of Tameka Foster, and was stepson to entertainer Usher.
“The tube was actually pulled into the Jet Ski by the forward momentum of the pontoon boat,” Odom later added, to explain the children’s injuries, which were inconsistent, he said, with a DNR reconstruction.
“It didn’t happen the way they said it happened,” Odom said.
Hubbard, charged with homicide by vessel and serious injury by vessel, as well as misdemeanor boating charges, is on trial in Hall County Superior Court in Gainesville.
Odom said any collision invariably meant there was a navigational violation, with one or both drivers at fault.
“In a boating collision, if you have two vessels ... there is going to be a violation,” Odom said. “Whether it’s charged — that is up to the District Attorney’s Office.”
Barely a sentence was uttered without an objection throughout the day.
A frustrated David Powell, one of Hubbard’s attorneys, objected as Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance questioned Odom’s bias.
“This is nothing from my standpoint but theatrics,” Powell said.
Powell did most of the defense team’s talking as he questioned Odom, who was on the stand for the entirety of the day’s testimony.
Vance sought to draw jurors’ attention back to the briefly investigated BUI in the case, even asking that Odom, who has a law enforcement background, be admitted as an expert in DUIs.
DNR Ranger Mark Stephens administered a field sobriety test on Hubbard after smelling alcohol on his breath, Stephens had testified earlier.
Hubbard did not testify in his defense, although his brief interview and field sobriety test recorded by Stephens’ video microphone was played in court.
Hubbard generally performed well in the battery of tests, including zero out of six indicators of intoxication on the horizontal-gaze nystagmus test, which measures an involuntary jerking of the eye.
Stephens said Hubbard was “solid” before relinquishing him with no charges and warned him there would be follow-up on citations. He sent him back to dry land on the same personal watercraft implicated in the collision.
“Alcohol played no factor,” Odom asserted, speaking on redirect with Powell. “If you have no HGN, in my law enforcement training, I wouldn’t have even continued with the field sobriety test.”
It would be “out of the question,” Odom added, to let a suspected impaired person go back to operating a vessel.
Although the final evidence from both sides has been presented, the jury of seven women and five men will listen to attorneys’ closing arguments and receive instructions from Judge Bonnie C. Oliver before beginning deliberations.