On Wednesday, Lovie McVeigh was released on bond during a special set hearing less than two weeks after she was arrested on one count of forgery in the first degree. The bond was granted by Senior Judge of the Superior Courts of Georgia Kathy Palmer, who set the hearing date after all four of the Waycross Judicial Circuit Superior Court judges recused themselves from the case.
According to a copy of the arrest warrant, McVeigh committed the act when she "knowingly and willfully" altered "several" false affidavits between 2/1/22 and 3/14/22 without the authority of the affiants. The warrant also accuses McVeigh of submitting those documents to the courts with "the intent to defraud" a pending custody case in which McVeigh was fighting for custody of her grandchild. At the time of her arrest, McVeigh was out on bond after being charged with one count of terroristic threats in November 2021, making this her second felony charge in the last five months.
The hearing occurred on Wednesday afternoon, with McVeigh's counsel, Atlanta-based attorney Kenneth Muhammad, claiming "this case began in 2018" and bringing up past "issues" she has had with Coffee County, including its elected officials and court system. Muhammad told the judge before the custody hearing that her sister, Dovie, made allegations of the affidavits being altered/falsified, which led to her arrest.
McVeigh's counsel told the judge that her history with law enforcement and allegations in court all involved her sister and claimed the warrant was "invalid," with neither him nor McVeigh knowing which affidavits were suspected of being altered.
Muhammad stated that before McVeigh's arrest, she had spoken with him about the warrant and told him she had been informed that a hearing would take place on June 16 on its "validity." Despite knowing a warrant had been taken out in mid-March, McVeigh did not turn herself in but instead made plans with her attorney to meet him in Coffee County and "deal with the warrant" through her counsel, as she was living in Florida at the time. However, McVeigh was arrested on May 27.
Throughout his opening statement, Muhammad brought up the history between McVeigh and Coffee County officials and prior charges that the Superior Court of Coffee County had tried. Muhammad specifically mentioned a pending lawsuit involving McVeigh and the Coffee County Commission, a 2018 case where a Coffee County jury acquitted her on one count of forgery, and most recently, a 2021 pending felony case in which she is charged with terroristic threats.
The 2021 charge, according to Muhammad, also involved her sister, alleging that deputies showed up to her mother's funeral, placed her on a 48-hour hold, and then charged her with terroristic threats against her sister.
Muhammad also stated that a motion would be filed to request that the Coffee County District Attorney's Office and any court in the Waycross Judicial Circuit not be allowed to prosecute the case and that it be transferred to another jurisdiction. Assistant District Attorney Ian Sansot objected, telling the judge this was a bond hearing and the statement was irrelevant.
Sansot, who took over after Assistant District Attorney John Rumker also recused himself from the case, told the judge Muhammad's opening statement had "many factual inaccuracies."
"This case did not start in 2018; this case started in February 2022 when a Superior Court Judge was given information regarding falsified affidavits, and then law enforcement began an investigation. A warrant was issued, and that is why we are here," Sansot stated.
Sansot called two witnesses to testify to show why the state believed McVeigh posed a risk of not showing up for scheduled court proceedings and intimidating other individuals involved in the case if the bond was granted.
Assistant District Attorney John Rumker was called to the stand first and testified that McVeigh failed to appear at an arraignment for her 2018 forgery charge.
Sansot also asked Rumker if he was aware of a complaint McVeigh had filed against Judge Andy Spivey to the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission and if he knew if he was mentioned in that complaint. According to Rumker, McVeigh alleged that he co-owned a lake house with Judge Spivey.
When Sansot asked Rumker how he ended up with McVeigh's case at the time, Rumker explained, "When we get cases, we divide them up by the alphabet. The cases I was given were individuals with last names that started with M through Z, which put me as the prosecutor for the case."
"You were supposed to be the prosecutor for this case, correct?" Sansot asked.
"Yes, I was," Rumker replied.
When Sansot asked Rumker why he had chosen to let someone else prosecute the case, Rumker stated, "I'm getting close to retirement, and I've been doing this long enough to know how it works and how it would be, and I don't need or want to get my feet muddy, so I chose not to."
The only other witness to take the stand was Coffee County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division investigator Chris Sumner, the lead investigator on the case.
Sumner stated that on March 25, 2022, he was informed that McVeigh had called the Coffee County Sheriff's Office warrant division asking to speak with him about the warrant. He testified that McVeigh told an employee in the division that she was at her home with her son in Florida, and law enforcement was knocking on her door to serve her a warrant.
According to the testimony, McVeigh said she avoided the officers by not answering the door.
Sumner then contacted law enforcement in Nassau County, where McVeigh was residing, checking into McVeigh's claims about a warrant attempting to be served at her home. When he spoke to 911 operators, he was told that no one in law enforcement was at McVeigh's house at that time but had been shortly before attempting to serve her with documents involving a civil case, according to the testimony.
The operator also told Sumner that the officers at her home drove down the road to trick her into thinking they had left the area, and when they did, they witnessed her walk outside, grab her cellphone, and a pack of cigarettes. When McVeigh saw their patrol cars, she ran inside and locked the door, according to Sumner.
As Sumner was on the stand, Muhammad objected to the investigator's testimony repeating statements from the Florida officers. Sansot argued to the court that hearsay was admissible, as the rule of evidence does not apply during bond hearings. Muhammad replied, "I'm not arguing against hearsay; I just don't necessarily agree with calling him to repeat what these other officers said."
Muhammad also questioned the relevance of the line of questioning, and Sansot stated, "Running and hiding from law enforcement is extremely relevant in this bond hearing."
Sumner testified that the warrant for the forgery charge was taken out on March 14, and despite receiving word that McVeigh would turn herself in on March 15 at 9:00 a.m., she did not show up.
Two voice recordings were then played for the judge from March 15, with McVeigh admitting on the tapes that a warrant had been issued for her arrest.
Sumner stated that during this time, McVeigh contacted him on more than one occasion regarding the warrant. On May 5, he said he advised McVeigh to turn herself in to the authorities, and on May 9, he received emails and texts on his cell phone number from the defendant. When asked how McVeigh had access to his cell phone number, Sumner testified that he had never given it to her and wasn't sure how she got his number.
The voice memos were played in court, with McVeigh telling Sumner that her son "couldn't get even go to a school talent show" because she would be "unlawfully arrested" if she left her home. Sumner also stated that McVeigh admitted she was "avoiding the arrest."
Sansot asked Sumner if, during their communication, McVeigh ever threatened to "go after him personally." Sumner stated she had but that he did not take it as a physical threat but rather a warning that she would file a civil lawsuit if the warrant was not dismissed.
On March 15, according to Sumner, voice memos were sent to one of the affiants involved in the case. Sumner stated that McVeigh asked the affiant in the recording, "How could you? I didn't do anything wrong. I have a warrant because of you." Sumner also pointed out that the recordings were sent to the affiant the day after the warrant was issued.
A second affiant who spoke with law enforcement regarding the alleged falsified/altered documents told Sumner she was "stressed and concerned that if she told the truth, McVeigh would come after her."
According to Sumner, he also spoke to several other affiants, with at least four of them telling him McVeigh instructed them not to talk to him or law enforcement regarding the case.
When asked if he thought McVeigh imposed a risk of intimidating witnesses and not appearing at court hearings if she were given a bond, Sumner stated, "yes." Muhammad asked Sumner about a scheduling order filed by the magistrate court where he was listed as the plaintiff. Sumner replied that he was not the person who filed the document and that the magistrate court had filled it out but did not know why he was named as a plaintiff.
Muhammad also questioned why a hearing was scheduled for McVeigh in the Coffee County Magistrate Court before her arrest, something he said he "had never seen before." According to testimony, the hearing was set because McVeigh continued to contact the Magistrate Court, upset about her warrant, and if a hearing had been set, McVeigh might have shown up.
The state closed their arguments with Sansot telling the judge McVeigh "did all she could to avoid arrest."
"She [McVeigh] wants to do it her way, rather than how it is supposed to be," Sansot stated. He also told the judge he believed that stipulations restricting her from contacting the witnesses involved in the case would not prevent her from doing so if a bond was granted.
Sansot continued, "I won't get into the things in 2018 but this is not a conspiracy. This is a criminal case; that's what we do - we prosecute criminal cases, and that's why it is the same office [from 2018]; that's how this is set up."
In closing, Sansot asked the judge to deny the bond based on the evidence showing McVeigh imposed a risk of "harassing" witnesses and not showing up for her court appearances.
Muhammad disagreed, claiming they were "anxious" to show up for McVeigh's day in court "with a bag full of evidence." He also justified McVeigh not turning herself in while knowing she had a warrant for her arrest, claiming it was "reasonable" for her to think she could "just go handle" the warrant based on the "uniqueness" of the case. Muhammad stated, "I think the fact that all the judges recusing themselves from this case shows that it is a unique case."
Muhammad also complained about the warrant's wording, as it didn't mention "what the problematic document is." Arguments were also given that despite McVeigh not showing up to an arraignment in 2018, she was present every day during her 2018 trial, and "there was no reason not to expect the same with this case."
Last, McVeigh's attorney stated she had a 10-year-old autistic son, who was "absolutely terrified" without her, and he asked the judge to set a "low and reasonable" bond.
Judge Palmer told the state and defense that while she understood McVeigh had a second pending felony case, it did not keep her from receiving a bond. "This is a non-violent crime, and it seems that the defendant goes to extreme lengths to help herself, without knowing how the judicial system works." Earlier in the hearing, McVeigh's attorney told the judge she had worked in law enforcement for several years.
The judge also said she was "somewhat concerned" with certain factors in the case and called the warrant "poorly drafted." The judge also suggested that local law enforcement "not have such a knee-jerk reaction" to allegations against McVeigh.
McVeigh was granted a bond of $10,000 in property or $5,000 in cash. She was also told not to contact any of the witnesses/affiants in the case.
A bond revocation was also held after the bond was granted, with another judge, Senior Judge Gary McCorvey, presiding. Although Judge McCorvey stated that while there was evidence to show McVeigh's bond conditions had been violated, he chose not to revoke her bond.
This is not the first time a circuit-wide recusal was ordered in a case against McVeigh, with all four judges also withdrawing themselves in 2021 from her other pending felony case.