Inmate suing sheriff wants trial moved

CONYERS -- The Rockdale County Jail inmate who filed a federal lawsuit against Sheriff Jeff Wigington has asked that his trial on charges for which he was originally jailed be moved to another location, citing concerns of having an impartial jury in Rockdale County.

Richard Ronald Warbington, 45, filed a civil rights complaint in U.S. District Court earlier this year, arguing that he was receiving inadequate medical care for his Hepatitis C and cirrhosis. Warbington blamed the jail's contracted medical staff for denying him care and ignoring his requests for care.

Covington-based attorney Beau Worthington is representing Warbington in the December 2009 incident that landed Warbington in jail.

Worthington announced before Rockdale County Superior Court Judge David Irwin on Wednesday morning that he has filed a motion to change venue.

The motion was filed Aug. 11 and mentioned due process and a "great deal of highly prejudicial and pervasive publicity in this case" as one of the reasons for changing the trial's location.

Worthington pointed to Warbington's complaint filed in court and articles appearing in the Citizen about the federal lawsuit. The attorney said the "extensive publicity" would likely cause prejudice in a jury pool selected in Rockdale County.

"A jury drawn from this pool would not be able to provide Mr. Warbington with a fair trial," Worthington said in the written motion.

Worthington asked that his client's case be tried in a county with similar demographics as Rockdale.

Irwin will hear the arguments from the defense and state prosecutor during a motions hearing in the near future. After the hearing, the judge will likely decide whether or not to grant the motion.

Warbington was indicted in February on three counts of aggravated assault, three counts of terroristic threats, two counts of third degree cruelty to children and one count of firearm possession by a convicted felon.

State prosecutors seek to have Warbington sentenced as a recidivist, citing 11 criminal incidents that date as far back as 1985 in Rockdale, Clayton, Bibb, Monroe and Fulton counties, according to court documents.