3 of 10 counts end in guilty verdicts for horseman

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Spring Hill man was convicted Friday on three of 10 counts in a theft and forgery case brought by the state as a result of crimes reported at Free Sprit Farms on Globe Road.

The trial of Brian Mark Driggers, 38, lasted two days in Marshall County Circuit Court where former Bedford County Sheriff Clay Parker was the defense attorney. It was Parker's first jury trial as an attorney.

Marshall County Sheriff's Detective Capt. Norman Dalton brought the charges against Driggers in connection with the alleged misappropriation of a check book at the farm in August last year.

Warrants sworn out by Dalton at the Circuit Court Clerk's Office list Robert and Veeda Kielbasa of Free Sprit Farms as the victims when checks totaling $512 were issued and used. Other victims listed were First Commerce Bank and Rick McKenzie of Burke Building Supply.

The bank and the horse farmers were seen by the jury as victims, according to verdict papers in the case file. The fraud alleged against the businessman was one of the three charges for which not guilty was the verdict.

The five-man, seven-woman jury deliberated about two hours before Judge Robert Crigler read the verdict sheets and confirmed the conclusions at about 4:45 p.m. Friday.

During testimony Thursday, Veeda Kielbasa said that Driggers had been hired by her to bring in clients who would have their horses stabled by the farm so the barn would pay for itself. A number of the clients were from Franklin and Brentwood.

Under questioning from Parker, she conceded that her husband apparently gave Driggers more authority than she did. Driggers had no job title "per se," she said, but noted that while she oversaw operations, Driggers was to make sure the other employees had work to perform.

Driggers was recommended by another employee, she said.

Veeda Kielbasa testified that she never gave Driggers permission to write checks or sign signatures on them.

Parker explained the case saying Driggers was accused of signing checks without permission and that he pleaded not guilty because he was the property manager of the farm.

"Our theory of law is that he had the authority, or implied authority to sign and issue checks without permission" in each situation, Parker said.

"If you hire me and hold me out as a person with authority, then that's what I am," the attorney said.

Robert Kielbasa testified that when he hired Driggers, he was hired to be the property manager, Parker said.

After the verdicts were read, Veeda Kielbasa said, "I was a little disappointed.

"I thought the DA explained it very well" to the jury, she said.

Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard prosecuted Driggers.

"The law is confusing to some people," Veeda Kielbasa continued. "People have to decide. I appreciate the DA and Capt. Dalton."

Her friend from Nashville, Linda Dietrich, was less diplomatic.

"I don't think anything that happened today was good," Dietrich said. "The carneys (people who work in a carnival) came to town and got away with it.

"They'd have put me under the jail if I'd had done it," she said.

Given the guilty verdicts, the prosecutor asked the judge to either revoke or increase the bond, but it was allowed to stay the same.

Noting the nature of the charges and state sentencing laws, Crigler indicated the range of the sentence for such crimes is one to two years.

The judge set July 22 as the date for Driggers' sentencing hearing.