IRWINTON, Ga. — Milledgeville Police Chief Dray Swicord’s DUI trial is set to begin Thursday in Wilkinson County Probate Court in Irwinton.
The bench trial is slated to start at 10:30 a.m.
Swicord, who has worked with the local police department since 1986, was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol less safe on Aug. 18, 2018, following a traffic stop by then-Trooper First Class Tyler Gay, who was at the time assigned to the Georgia State Patrol post in Dublin.
The traffic stop was made because the trooper said the driver, later identified as Swicord, was operating the truck with its high beam headlights on as he and the trooper’s patrol car passed each other.
Gay, who no longer is with the state patrol, will be one of the witnesses called to testify in the case.
The case, which is being prosecuted by Wilkinson County Solicitor General Jason Rowland, will be heard by Wilkinson County Probate Judge Vivian L. Cummings.
Swicord, meanwhile, has hired Carl Cansino, a prominent criminal defense attorney from Milledgeville, to represent him during his trial.
Swicord, who was off-duty and driving his personal vehicle at the time of the traffic stop and subsequent arrest, has maintained his innocence from the beginning.
The case originally had been set for a bench trial on Dec. 13, 2018, but in early January of this year, Rowland asked for and was granted a continuance during a special motion to suppress hearing because a key witness was unable to testify at the time.
Rowland was referring to Michael Ruff, a forensic toxicologist with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
During the January hearing before Cummings, Rowland indicated he would not be able to effectively prosecute the case without Ruff being present to testify.
Like Gay, Ruff will testify in the case next week, Rowland said during a telephone interview on Friday with The Union-Recorder.
At that same hearing, Cansino argued that the traffic stop that led to his client’s arrest on suspicion of DUI was illegal.
Rowland explained that had Cummings ruled in Cansino’s favor to suppress the evidence in the case there would have been no reason to go forward with a trial.
“But he was not successful,” Rowland said.
Instead, Cansino filed an interlocutory appeal in Wilkinson County Superior Court.
“Following that there was a hearing in Wilkinson County Superior Court where one of our judges instructed Mr. Cansino that he could not file an interlocutory appeal,” Rowland said. “He would have to go through the whole trial first, and at the end of the trial, if he was not satisfied with the results in Wilkinson County Probate Court, he could then appeal it to Superior Court for a review.”
Rowland said even though he had not seen the documents that it was his understanding that Cansino had withdrawn his appeal.
“That’s where the case is now, back in Wilkinson County Probate Court, and we’re going forward with the trial next week,” Rowland said. “If Mr. Cansino is successful, then I’m sure the case will be over, but if he’s not successful it would not surprise me if he decided to appeal the case to Superior Court at that time.”
Attempts to reach Cansino about the case were unsuccessful Friday afternoon by presstime.