The case of the state of Georgia vs. Robert Parker, a former Long County Sheriff’s deputy, was delayed again Wednesday morning when First District Atlantic Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Robert L. Russell III agreed to set Aug. 1 for a “Rule 20” hearing to allow Parker to enter a plea.
Parker was arrested June 29, 2010, after his second home was burned June 22, 2010. According to previous Courier reports, Parker was fired from the sheriff’s office after he was charged with first-degree arson, insurance fraud and violation of a public officer. His case has not come to trial because he has not yet made a plea of innocent or guilty.
In his ruling Wednesday, Russell asked attorney Nathaniel Merritt whether Parker was in the courtroom then asked for the next date on the calendar the court could hold a plea hearing. Parker was present, so Aug. 1 was set for the next court date with Aug. 5 set for jury selection.
“This was a ‘criminal plea in motion’ hearing,” Merritt explained after the case was delayed. “We’re just not ready to enter a plea today.”
Merritt said he wasn’t sure if his client will be ready to enter a plea at the next court date, despite having four years to prepare his defense.
After leaving the sheriff’s office, Parker has remained in the local news through his new business. He now is the owner of Parker’s Mortuary Transport. According to Courier archives, in June 2012, he submitted a bid for Long County’s body-transporting contract. However, the bid was awarded to Wells Transport, which, at that time, had had the contract with the county for 10 years. Then-Long County Commissioner Chairman Bobby Walker excused himself from the contract proceedings because he’s related to Parker.
Although Parker did not win the bid in 2012, he submitted a new bid this year and was awarded the contract last month in a unanimous decision by the Long County Board of Commissioners. During the contract proceedings, current County Commission Chairman Robert Long excused himself because he also is related to Parker.
Parker last appeared in court for the arson case a year ago. At that time, Russell agreed to a request by Parker’s counsel to continue his hearing until July 2, 2014.