Jury seated; trial of Velvet Riggins begins

Dougherty County School System's Assistant Chief of Police, J.C. Phillips, took the stand as first witness in the trial of school board member Velvet Riggins

/ Colby Gallagher

During the trial of Velvet Riggins, Dougherty County School System's Assistant Chief of Police J.C. Phillips took the stand as first witness. As the lead investigator of the school lunch fraud case, he set the background for the trial.

Phillips testified they began looking at the reduced lunch application of Riggins following a tip during a similar investigation - and he says they opened up their own investigation on Riggins when they found some discrepancies.

During the first application Riggins listed her income as a little over $9,000. A month later, she resubmitted the application to say she made just under $40,000 a year.

" I suspected immediately that the $9,066 was incorrect because I'm aware that she had more income than that working with the girl scouts and as a school board member," Phillips told the court.

The basis of prosecutor Heather Lanier's argument is that Riggins knowingly submitted the wrong information to qualify her children for free lunch - and she says that evidence shows in the actions of Riggins soon after the investigation began.

"This application was resubmitted on December 6th, December 8th and January 13th. We expect the evidence to show that this was in response to this investigation of the application," said Lanier.

But Riggin's defense attorney says her actions lacked criminal intent and she didn't mean to mislead the DCSS's nutrition department.

"It doesn't say for that year I made zero dollars from girl scouts, it doesn't say that I made $15,000. It's blank," said Brimberry.

On Wednesday the trial will readjourn to allow for more testimonies to shape the case.