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Former planning member sentenced in drug case

POSTED: July 25, 2012 4:00 a.m.
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Clark

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A former member of Dawson County's planning board has been found guilty of trafficking methamphetamine.

Elbert Phil Clark, 63, received a 20-year sentence, with 12 years to be served in prison and the remainder on probation.

Northeastern Judicial Circuit Senior Judge John Girardeau also ordered Clark to pay a $200,000 fine, as well as $150,225 in fees, court costs and surcharges.

Clark was arrested Aug. 15, 2011, after authorities said he bought 4 ounces of methamphetamine from an undercover officer during a sting at a local motel.

According to court testimony, Clark was struggling financially when he got involved with Marvin Gibson of Dawsonville, who arranged the transaction and worked with Dawson County Sheriff's investigators.

The jury heard testimony from investigators, Gibson and the defendant.

In what prosecutors said was a somewhat unusual move, the jury also watched video of the drug transaction, as well as Clark's arrest as he left the motel room.

In opening and closing statements, defense attorney Rafe Banks described Gibson, a known criminal who served prison time for drugs, as a slick-talking conman who lured his client into the drug trade for the purpose of setting him up and helping himself in a prescription narcotics case.

"This is not a ‘who done it.' It's a ‘why done it.' Why did it happen?" said Banks, who also questioned the use of the undercover operation in his client's arrest.

Assistant District Attorney John Wilbanks argued that it didn't matter whose idea the drug deal was, only that there was clear evidence the transaction took place.

"A reverse investigation is utilized to catch dealers," he said. "The question is do we want to catch these people who sell the drugs that kill the addicts. Do we want to catch the dealers or do we just want to pick the addicts up?

"This is not an addict case. Drug dealers are killers. Call it what you want to. It doesn't matter whose idea it is."

District Attorney Lee Darragh said the successful prosecution was the result of "an excellent investigation by the Dawson County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division."

Clark served as an alternate on the Dawson County Planning and Zoning Board for about 18 months beginning in August 2004.

He was appointed to the position by his daughter, Lori Clark McCormick, the then District 4 county commissioner.

 

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