Turner found guilty of Harassment

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2005

There were a lot of different opinions about what happened between Albert Turner Jr. and Vinnie Royster on April 22 of 2003. In the end, Judge Lynn Bright felt the prosecution had given the most convincing argument and ruled that Turner was guilty of harassment. The court appearance came at a very inopportune time for Turner, who is in the middle of his campaign for the House seat in District 72.

The election is May 3.

Several witnesses took the stand in the two-hour trial in the Perry County Courthouse and no two seemed to have the same perception of what happened.

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The dispute began on the April morning when Royster asked Commission Chairman Johnny Flowers to listen to a broadcast of Turners radio show, which airs on Sunday mornings. Royster was upset with the representation Turner had given the area on the air and wished to see something done about it. Royster claimed Turner came into the room in an aggressive manner, a struggle followed and she was left bruised and forced to leave in an ambulance. Turner, on the other hand, claimed it was Royster who was the aggressor.

Royster’s daughter Polly Al Hedaithi, who was at the courthouse the day of the incident, was the first to take the stand. Hedaithi said Turner was the aggressor from the very beginning.

“After everyone took their seats we began to play the tape,” Hedaithi said. “When the tape got to a certain point Albert Turner came in the room and started pointing and saying things to my mother.”

Hedaithi said her mother got out of her seat and began to trade words with Turner and that is when the problems began.

“She stood up and they talked back and forth and he pushed her back in her chair,” Hedaithi said. “Then he punched her and choked her in the corner. All I heard was an “uggg”sound. She went down and he came down with his knee in her stomach. He was slapping as they took him from the room.”

Hedaithi said her mother received scratches and bruises on her neck, injuries to her leg and ankle and other minor injuries from the struggle. She also acknowledged her mother had to leave the scene in an ambulance.

Tim Barbe, who was also in the room at the time of the scuffle also testified on Royster’s behalf. Barbe also claimed it was Turner who was the aggressor in the argument.

“Albert Turner busted in the door, pointed his finger at her and shoved her,” Barbe said. “He had his hands on her neck and was choking her.”

Barbe said he never saw Royster push Turner. He also said when Royster’s daughter tried to come to her rescue she was also pushed away.

“Her daughter tried to intervene and they grabbed her,” Barbe said. “They grabbed her and shoved her back. You could hear the thud after she hit the wall.”

The defense said Barbe’s testimony could be questionable because of his checkered past. Defense Attorney Robert Turner said Barbe had previously served 13 years in a state penitentiary.

Most members of the Perry County Commission had a different recollection of the events of April 22. Commission Chairman Johnny Flowers said it was Royster who ended up on top of Turner.

“Mrs. Royster was on top of him,” Flowers said. “Some county workers came in and pulled her off of him and at that point Turner got up and I pushed him out of the room because he was angry.”

Flowers said he did not recall seeing Turner hit Royster. Flowers said there was a lot o finger pointing and shouting, but no licks were passed. Flowers said the debate became heated when the two were pointing fingers and their fingers hit each other.

Commissioner Tim Sanderson also said Turner had not started the physical altercation. Sanderson said Turner had come into the room for a meeting the commissioners had been asked to attend and the finger pointing began. He said Royster then made her way toward Turner and a scuffle followed.

“Mrs Royster came toward Turner and said don’t point your finger at me,” Sanderson said. “They started rolling in the floor and I got between her daughter to keep her out of it and tried to keep everyone else out of it.”

Sanderson said Turner was not aware of what was going on in the room when he entered as others had claimed.

Commissioner Ronald W. Miller said Royster was the one who began the fight when she pushed Turner after words were exchanged.

“Words were exchanged and she got up out of her chair,” Miller said. “They were pointing fingers, she pushed him and the fight was on.”

Miller said his back was turned for most of the fight trying to restrain Rosyter’s daughter.

The lone commissioner to take the side of Royster was Brett Harrison. Harrison said it was Turner who instigated the fight by poking Royster in the chest with his finger.

“Turner hit her in the chest with his finger,” Harrison said. “She retaliated and they started fighting back and forth. One of them got down on the floor and the next thing I knew both of them were down on the floor.”

Harrison said it was Turner who was on top when the two hit the floor.

“Turner was on top still fighting,” Harrison said. “He had her pinned down on the floor and he had his hands on her throat.”

Royster was the last to take the stand. She said it had never been her intention to have Turner at the meeting because she was afraid something like this would happen. Royster said she was in a state of shock throughout the incident.

“He pushed me with is right hand and hit me with his fist,” Royster said. “He had me pulling at my throat. When he hit me it sent shockwaves all through my body. He was choking me so badly I felt like I was going to die.”

Royster said she was forced to take extreme measures in order to get out of the situation.

“I reached up and grabbed him by the groin,” Royster said. “I squeezed his groin and he turned me loose. I remember his knee coming down on my stomach. Then he put his hands back on my throat.”

Royster said she was then taken to Vaughn Hospital in Selma where she was treated and released. Among the injuries Royster received in the struggle were swelling in her leg, soreness in her throat chest injuries, heart palpitations and scratches and bruises to her neck and back.

Judge Bright, after ruling in Roysters favor, ordered Turner to pay a fine of $400, court costs and restitution to be worked out at a later date.

Turner said he would appeal the decision.

“We will file and appeal within the 14 day period,” Turner said. “She had no one to come in and testify but her daughter and a convicted felon and one of the commissioners that we are constantly at odds with.”

Turner said he maintained his innocence and looked forward to having the chance to plead his case before a jury.

“They have said I was the aggressor, but she was the aggressor,” Turner said. “We are not overly concerned with that. We will go to circuit court and have a jury to come before.”