A Pulaski County circuit judge has barred prosecutors from using video-surveillance evidence against a 25-year-old North Little Rock man accused, among other things, of holding up a Little Rock convenience store.
Judge Herb Wright sided with defense attorney Brandy Turner's argument that using the video against her client Gary Lynn Conley would be unfair because the recording does not show the complete encounter between Conley and 48-year-old Mohammed Ali Farooq, owner of Golden Foods EZ Mart at 1201 S. Woodrow St.
Deputy prosecutor Christy Bjornson told the judge that prosecutors would review his written findings to decide whether to appeal the decision.
Turner had two major issues with the recording, which was played for the judge at Monday's suppression hearing. The video was a police cellphone recording of the store's security video because investigators could not retrieve the actual video.
Turner said the recording is unfair because the officer who recorded it only recorded a few camera angles of the 12 available and chose to capture only incriminating angles. She said the July 4, 2018, encounter between the men might have looked differently from other angles.
Also, the officer did not record the entire encounter, leaving out an earlier argument between Conley, who did not testify Monday, and Farooq, Turner told the judge. By not duplicating all of the available video, police had taken on the decision about what evidence to preserve, discarding potentially exculpatory evidence.
Conley is charged with aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, terroristic threatening and felon in possession of a firearm. The charges carry a potential life sentence.
According to arrest reports, Conley made a purchase at the store and walked out, only to return and accuse store clerk Victor Onwyemele, 51, of shortchanging him by a dollar. Farooq told police that he told Conley to call the police and wait outside. Conley got mad, grabbed two cans of beer and left, the reports say.
Farooq followed him and grabbed one can back and removed the gasoline nozzle from Conley's car, the reports say. Conley threw the second beer across the street, got a gun from his car and, pointed the weapon at Farooq, who went back inside the store while Conley drove off, according to the reports.
Police pulled over Conley's vehicle at 4100 W. 17th St., a little bit more than a mile away, and arrested him, seizing a pistol that was under the driver's seat, the reports say.
Conley was released from prison almost nine months later on March 25 but was arrested again about six weeks later on May 10, two days after North Little Rock police say he rammed the 2000 black Honda Accord into his ex-girlfriend's vehicle at 11th and Division streets.
He has been jailed ever since on charges of second-degree domestic battering, two counts of aggravated assault on a family member and three counts of aggravated assault. The charges typically carry a 40-year maximum, but Conley could face more prison time since prosecutors say the incident occurred in the presence of children.
According to a police report, Karisha Grigsby had her three children, ages 3-11, and a friend, Tyrell Sims, 34, in her 2019 black Jeep Cherokee. Conley's 4-year-old daughter with Grigsby, 31, was one of the children in the vehicle.
Grigsby told officers that when she got out of her Jeep to confront Conley, he punched her in the face, got back into his car and hit her with it. She said Conley then turned the car around and drove back at her, sideswiping her Jeep, before leaving, reports state.
The children were not hurt. Grigsby and Sims were injured but declined medical attention. Two witnesses, Jackie Ann Hinton, 54, and Dewanda Michelle Robinson, 39, confirmed Grigsby's account, according to reports.
Police could not find Conley but tracked the Honda to 1505 Marion St., the home of the car's owner, Ciara Diane Butler, 22, and questioned her and her mother, 51-year-old Tina Butler, reports say. Both said they were present during the incident but neither woman would say whether Conley had been driving the car, the reports say.
Testifying Monday, Ciara Butler, who said she is six months pregnant with Conley's child, said that Grigsby was the aggressor who rammed Conley after he had gone to Grigsby's home to check on their daughter. She said police did not fully document what she had told investigators and that there was at least one other witness who would confirm her story.
Court records show that Butler is on probation for drug trafficking after pleading guilty in June. She was arrested with Conley in July 2018 by police investigating the robbery complaint at the convenience store.
Police stopped the 2003 gray Honda Odyssey she was driving and took Conley, her passenger, into custody. Police arrested her after finding bags of methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana in the driver's side door. Butler, a mother of four, was sentenced to three years on probation in exchange for her guilty plea.
Conley, a father of six, was sentenced to five years in prison in May 2016 after pleading guilty to gun and drug charges following an arrest with a shotgun and cocaine. He had been on probation at the time after pleading guilty to breaking or entering in September 2013, residential burglary and possession of oxycodone in July 2014.
Records show he was twice arrested in 2015 on felony domestic violence charges involving Grigsby, but the charges were dropped.
Metro on 08/14/2019
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