Aaron B. Nicely, a former youth football coach in Gainesville, had left town some time after accusations of having sex with a 15-year-old girl resurfaced in 2010.
When the 36-year-old’s face appeared on the local government’s TV18 as a wanted fugitive, family and friends flooded him with inquiries. So he picked up the phone and made a call.
“I guess now they’re running your picture,” said his lawyer, Gainesville attorney Dan Summer.
There was a warrant for his arrest, but Nicely wasn’t behind bars. Summer advised his client to turn himself in, but also opined on his specific circumstance.
“If you’re not in jail, don’t worry,” he said. “Let them bring the fight to you.”
It was a tip to the Hall County Warrants Division that eventually led to Nicely’s arrest in North Carolina, and he has been on trial in Hall County Superior Court since Tuesday. Attorneys gave their closing arguments to jurors Friday afternoon. The 12 men and women will decide if Nicely is guilty of child molestation and statutory rape.
The inappropriate sexual relationship was alleged to have taken place in 2006, and the case against Nicely was indicted by a grand jury in 2010 after the state initially dismissed charges in 2008, including the most serious count of aggravated child molestation, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years.
Summer represented Nicely when he was first indicted, and again when he made the call. Summer reassured Nicely that as his case languished and memories faded, the new charges would hold less water.
“Just go on about your business,” Summer said. “If something else comes up, just give me a call.”
Such moments of candor between client and counselor are rarely heard in open court. However the defense entered the audio-recorded calls as the state asserted Nicely’s culpability was partially proven by a fear of facing the charges.
There were several tongue-in-cheek moments as periodic court counterparts faced off in an unusual way. Testifying Tuesday, Summer was asked by Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance “who a dismissal was good for.”
“The defendant,” he said, and paused in reflection for a moment, then added with a laugh, “And incidentally, me.”
Nicely’s lead counsel is Atlanta attorney Bruce Harvey, known for representing high-profile clients and for courtroom theatrics. He made frequent objections to the admissibility of statements by the alleged victim and other state’s witnesses, as well as arguments made by Vance during closing.
He said the state had not proved its case, with corroboration — or the lack thereof — amounting only to repetition of a claim.
“Anyone can repeat the same thing over and over again,” he said. “Don’t be confused about the fact that because something is said more than once, it makes it true; it makes it corroborated; makes it something other than the story it is.”
Citing testimony from another woman with whom Nicely had allegedly had inappropriate underage relations, Vance said Nicely was trying to shirk responsibility as he had previously when avoiding arrest.
“He has manipulated the system. He has manipulated these two women. Don’t let him manipulate you, too,” she said.
Judge Bonnie Oliver gave jury instructions shortly after noon, and jurors began deliberations after a lunch recess.