AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – At his arraignment Wednesday, Commissioner Sammie Sias (District 4) pleaded not guilty to two federal indictments. He is accused of destroying records and lying to investigators, and if found guilty, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
He was indicted in July by a U.S. Southern District Court grand jury. The charges date back to 2019 when the prosecution alleges Sias altered and destroyed records related to the Sandridge Community Association. They also allege that when the FBI raided his home in 2019, he told investigators they had seized all electronics and records related to the case, but federal investigators later found invoices, agendas and other documents they claim Sias withheld.
Sias was not remanded into custody by federal authorities, but he does have pretrial terms that must be followed, according to the judge:
- Must report to federal supervision officer
- Must turn over his passport
- Must not step foot outside the southern district of Georgia (unless with explicit permission from the judge)
- Must not have contact with witnesses
- Cannot possess a weapon
- Cannot drink alcohol to access or consume illegal drugs or narcotics
- Abide by a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew
- Must report any contact with law enforcement
The judge in this case said any violation of these terms would be an “expensive mistake,” as Sias would forfeit the entirety of his bond and be jailed until trial. His lead attorney responded by saying considering Sias’ 28 years of military service, following these orders would not be a problem.
The defense team was given a one terabyte card containing photos, search warrants, witness interviews, work orders, and all evidence gathered by federal investigators in this case. Sias’ attorneys have 14 days to review the evidence and file any pretrial motions.
Cameras were not allowed in the courthouse, and when court concluded, Sias left with his two attorneys, and they did not speak to the media, nor did the prosecution.
Gov. Kemp has formed a panel to decide whether or not to suspend Sias from public office.
He pleaded not guilty Wednesday and was given until Monday at 5pm to pay $5,000 of a $50,000 bond which he paid Friday.