Street fight ends in trial

Published 9:04 pm Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Beaufort County jury took less than 10 minutes to return a verdict in an assault trial Monday.

The jury was dismissed to the jury room for deliberation but returned so quickly prosecution and defense had just gotten in place for the next case to be heard. As the jury filed in, Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons Jr. told everyone to “stay where you are” and had the verdict read as the 12 jurors stood directly before the bench.

Kofi Juma Rodgers was charged with assault on a female after a fight on West Seventh Street in Washington last year. In the short trial, two witnesses testified that Rodgers had verbally, then physically, assaulted Ashley Glaspie in September 2012.

Ashley Glaspie took the stand and testified Rodgers drove by the home of her sister, Tiffany, while she, her mother and several of her children were parked in a minivan at the curb. She told the judge and jury what started as name-calling and spitting as Rodgers drove by several times, escalated to assault as he stopped the car, jumped out and hit her. Tiffany then jumped into the fray, Glaspie said.

“He was fighting me just like I was a man,” Glaspie said on the stand. “My sister had no choice but to get in.”

A witness to the entire incident, Glaspie’s mother, Marilyn Glaspie, attempted to call both the police and Rodgers’ mother to let them know about the altercation, she said under oath.

“I let those girls handle their own business; I hadn’t gotten in the midst, but this time I was upset because I had my grandchildren there,” Marilyn Glaspie said.

But other witnesses said differently. Defense attorney Tom Brandon called Orielle Satchell to the stand. Satchell lived a few doors down at the time of the incident and what she testified she saw was an entirely different set of events.

Satchell said when she stepped out onto her porch to see what all the noise was about, she saw one sister standing in the street in front of Rodgers’ car — preventing him from driving away — and the other sister beating on the car and beating Rodgers through the car’s open window with the handle end of a broomstick.

According to Satchell, one of the sisters — she couldn’t tell which — opened the driver’s side door and pulled Rodgers from the car and both began beating him. At some point, his clothing was partially removed.

“They literally drug him out of his pants,” Satchell said. “And at that time, I got on the phone with my mother to get in touch with his mom and tell her to come get him.”

Satchell also testified Marilyn Glaspie was not a bystander in the fray. Satchell said Marilyn Glaspie, a minister, at one point picked up the broomstick and also hit Rodgers.

Satchell’s story was backed up by the testimony of another defense witness, Tomekia Cox. Cox was driving down Seventh Street and couldn’t pass because of the crowd in the street, she said. According to Cox, when she pulled over and got out of the car, she saw one of the women beating Rodgers with the broomstick and another yelling, “Get him! Get him!”

During closing arguments, Brandon told the jury it was virtually impossible to figure out who assaulted whom first.

“Who struck who first? I’m not sure it matters,” Brandon said. “No matter what words were exchanged before then, it looks like he got the rough end of this deal.”

For the prosecution, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Rice asked jurors to rule based on the question, “Did he hit her first?”

“If he did, then I’m going to ask you to find him guilty,” Rice said.

After only minutes of deliberation, Rodgers was found not guilty.