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|Conner pleads guilty to three counts|
Justin Conner pled guilty to misdemeanor counts of reckless operation, speeding and no seatbelt during proceedings Thursday in Seventh Judicial District Court in Vidalia.
The guilty pleas relate to an accident in Vidalia around 1:48 a.m. on July 22, 2012, when Conner's 2004 Chevrolet Suburban struck the foundation of a house under construction by Adam and Shannon Probst in a new subdivision on Alabama Street.
The incident resulted in the suspensions and eventual lay-offs of two Vidalia policemen who were on the scene that night.
District Attorney Brad Burget later launched an investigation into the matter.
"We wanted to get to the truth," he said, "and that's what we did."
Conner, 40, 210 Hayes Alley, Ferriday, is a pastor and the president of the local NAACP. He admitted in court Thursday that he had been drinking and was driving when the accident occurred.
Conner was not given a breathalyzer test at the scene.
After the incident, Vidalia Police Chief Arthur Lewis said his department was trying to determine "why they (officers) neglected to use a breathalyzer."
VPD charged Conner with careless operation and no seat belt.
Conner later filed a lawsuit against Lewis and VPD.
Last September, the District Attorney's office filed four bills of information against Conner, charging him with DWI, careless operation, speeding and no seat belt.
Both Judge Kathy Johnson of Division A and Judge Leo Boothe of Division B recused themselves from hearing the matter, each citing "prior ex parte communication about the facts of this case..."
Judge Glenn Strong was appointed to hear the case.
In court on Thursday, Conner changed his not guilty pleas to guilty on amended charges of reckless operation, speeding and no seatbelt.
Strong sentenced Conner to a $100 fine plus court costs on the reckless driving charge, $50 plus court costs on the speeding charge and $25 plus court costs on the charge of no seatbelt. All fines and court costs are to be paid in 30 days.
Burget commended DA investigators Johnny Loomis and Tron McCoy, and Vidalia police officers Brandon Gremillion and Stuart Boykin for their work on the case.
Burget said dozens of interviews were conducted during the investigation. He said he decided to amend the charges against Conner while consulting with the Probst family.
He said the insurer of Conner's vehicle compensated the victims for the property damage.
Conner was represented by attorney William R. Whatley of Marksville.
"The purpose of this investigation was to get the truth," Burget said. "We were able to prove that Mr. Conner was the driver of the vehicle which caused property damage and that he had been drinking and speeding. He was convicted. The victims were compensated."
"I feel justice has been served," he said.
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