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Dorsey Testifies in Sentencing Hearing

Aired August 15, 2002 - 14:24   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: There is another emotional hearing that is taking place just outside of Atlanta in DeKalb County, where Sidney Dorsey is the former sheriff there. He is facing sentencing, convicted of murdering the sheriff-elect in that county. It, too, is also very emotional. We will continue to follow that. We will listen in, as a matter of fact, right now.
SIDNEY DORSEY, FORMER DEKALB COUNTY SHERIFF: ... preliminary hearing some months ago. The visiting judge from Wynette County (ph), I believe, stated that this court will be in search of the truth. The court is a sacred place. Our system of justice in this country is not perfect, but it is the best we have in this world.

I am not -- I was not a party to the murder of Derwin Brown, I did not orchestrate, I did not plan, I did not play a role in the diabolical, horrible murder of the sheriff-elect. However, here I am. Shortly after the sheriff-elect was murdered, I was the number one suspect. Before the first witness was interviewed, I was the number one suspect. At 6:00 in the morning, a high up police official indicated that this was a political assassination. I was the number one suspect. At noon Saturday, December 16, 2000, a reporter called my house and he said, "You are the number one guy," and here I am.

My condolences continue for the Brown family. Derwin and I were merely political adversaries, but he was one that I respected. I respected Derwin because he was one of the few people in this county that stood up for something. He was one of the few people that I thought would stand up for a cause. But there has been a lot of talk about our God, and I do severe him, and I like to give you a perspective on my life that hasn't been told.

When I was four years old, I was living in New York, and I remember on Green (ph) Avenue with my mother -- and I don't know where my brother was at the time, but my mother had charged me with the responsibility of watching my younger sister, who is now deceased, and my mother had placed Veronica (ph) in a stroller and instructed me to watch her. So I stood in the room and I was shaking the stroller. My mother went into another room, to take care of some business, I guess, and for some reason, I just pushed the stroller on the other side of the room, and as soon as I arrived over there, the ceiling caved in where I had been. My mother rushed out to find us safe.

I want to fast forward to 1973. I was getting off from work, I was driving eastbound on I-20. I fell asleep at the wheel. Sometime later, I woke up, and my car was exiting McDaniel (ph) Street, and I woke up just in time to bring the car to a halt before going into the ensuing traffic. On another occasion, in the early '70s, I had a call to do a follow-up -- I had an occasion to do a follow-up call on the southwest side of Atlanta, and as soon as I walked up the stairs to knock on the door, I heard a gunshot. The bullet came from the inside and exited the door, and fell right to my feet and rested.

And the last case I would like to bring to you, and there are many others, in 1999, I was driving in DeKalb County, in Stone Mountain someplace -- I think it was Stone Mountain Industrial (ph), and I fell asleep again at the wheel. I woke up sometime later, and the car was driving down some moving down some strange community -- neighborhood and as I woke up like in a dream, the car was moving and there were cars parked on each side of the street, and I realized that I was not dreaming, I was in a car, and I brought the car to a halt, and I was lost.

I didn't know quite where I was, and it took me 10 minutes to find my way out of that community.

I don't know -- I simply want to say that. Shortly after the -- sometime before the verdict, and long before that, it was always my opinion and our opinion, the defense team, that we would be victorious. I never thought that an innocent man would be convicted of a crime that he didn't do. And my first objective was to walk over to the prosecution team's table and say, No hard feeling. And then I was going to do search out Mrs. Brown -- Derwin's mother, and apologize to her for raining down those curses. That I -- and I'm not a cursing man, I don't know why -- and it was captured, by a GBI agent, who was discussing something with me in my office and -- but that was extremely embarrassing to me, and it was one of the things that I was -- not withstanding what Cuffy has said, Sky (ph) has said, and all these other folks, the one thing that I regretted and the one thing that I was most concerned about, and one thing I was dreading hearing again was the playing of that tape, those curse words ringing down because I am not a cursing man, and that is probably the only time I've ever used profanity in that office.

I was given a book a couple of days ago by one of the inmates where I was staying, and on page 26 of that, of that book, I ran across a passage that truly moved me, and I thought that I would copy it down and read it to you all and maybe that would give you -- as it gave me some perspective about why I'm here.

If you will, your honor?

"If God had dealt with you according to your sins, you would be dead. But God is merciful. He is determined to maneuver you to a place where he minister to you. When you really belong to God, he will go to extreme measures to get you away from people. The cliques, the clubs, bars, pubs, society, or any kind of entanglement that will hinder you from hearing his voice. But when you are really listening, when you are called by God, he will orchestrate things in your life so that you can have -- he can have you to himself completely."

Your honor, and the Brown family, and my family, I know you are going to sentence me severely, but I do not have the blood of Derwin Brown on my hands. I'm going to be in prison on the outside, but I will be free on the inside because I do not have the blood of the sheriff-elect on my hands. Thank you.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: You have been listening to the former DeKalb County sheriff, Sidney Dorsey in the sentencing phase after being found guilty for gunning down sheriff-elect Derwin Brown. For the first time, we have heard from Sidney Dorsey addressing the judge in this DeKalb County court, as well as the family members of Derwin Brown.

Let's listen in one more time.


DORSEY: I regret hearing -- I regret hearing it, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't regret hearing about all the thefts you committed?

DORSEY: I did not consider them thefts, Mr. Detree (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you realize the jury did, and you have now been convicted.

DORSEY: I understand that, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't regret being convicted of racketeering?

DORSEY: I regretted being convicted of any crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what you told us a few minutes was the one thing you regretted was your looking bad, being heard on tapes using curse words. Is that not correct?

DORSEY: I said that I regretted hearing curse words...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the one thing that you regretted.

DORSEY: ... that I regretted using curse words against a -- the -- in regard to the sheriff-elect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you don't regret any of the corruption that you led that sheriff's department into for four years, using the deputies and the detention officers and the employees over and over to pick up your kids, to fix your own cars, to drive to other states, to steal from the county. You don't regret one bit of that, do you, sir?

DORSEY: I have never, to this day, Mr. Detree (ph) considered, anything that I did in that regard a theft -- it was never -- never to this day been my intention to steal. I was actually informed by one who I thought knew the rules and regulations and the behavior of the sheriff since he had been there so long, that these things were proper and above board, and I was within my legal right to do it. So, at no time, and had I thought I was stealing, had I thought I was stealing, I certainly wouldn't have made it known, because I never did anything in secret.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you didn't think it was stealing, if you didn't think it was illegal, if you didn't know it was wrong, Mr. Dorsey, explain to the court why it was that you had to go to such elaborate measures with Lt. Baker (ph), to lie, to falsify documents, and to lie to Fred Mays (ph) about what you were doing using his employees to work at your business, SID Incorporated (ph), a for- profit corporation that made money for you every time you sent one of these deputies there. Why did you think you had to cover it up, if you didn't think it was wrong, sir?

DORSEY: We never had any intention of the covering it up, Mr. Petree (ph). As a matter of fact, we were never paid by the bank. I considered it a public service when the bank called me personally because the person who was running the office was lying on her death bed and then eventually died, when there were times when the bank would not open because there was not an officer there, then I simply sent someone to stand by, but the bank wouldn't open until someone got there. But they never clocked in, they never signed in, and that was a process to be paid. There was never any exchange of money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't it true that you yourself clocked in as a security guard for SID (ph) while you were still sheriff, and signed those sheets showing that you were working at the bank.

DORSEY: No, sir. Never.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And isn't it true that you never once sent a deputy or a detention officer to any bank other than the one that made hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for SID. No other bank on the face of this earth got a free deputy sheriff or a detention officer, did it.

DORSEY: No other bank called me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that is where you had your contract.

DORSEY: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you say you don't feel you did anything wrong. Am I missing something, based on the stories about the bullets through the door knobs, and the falling asleep at wheel? You felt that somehow, someone was watching out for you, and you were special.

DORSEY: I know someone is watching out for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And because the bullet didn't hit you, the roof didn't fall on you, because you didn't fall asleep and kill somebody or get killed, somebody is looking out for you?

DORSEY: I think so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So somebody obviously wanted Derwin Brown dead on December the 15? Nobody was watching out for him, were they?

DORSEY: Well, I didn't want him dead. I had nothing to do with his death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's all, your honor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Step down, Mr. Dorsey.

WHITFIELD: Former DeKalb County sheriff Sidney Dorsey who just left the stand there faces life plus 40 years in prison. A judge is asking if there is anything further. Sidney Dorsey making some rather emotional comments there from the stand imploring the courtroom there, and making -- trying to drive home his point to the Derwin Brown family that he had nothing to do with the murder of the sheriff-elect. Let's listen in now to the wife now of former sheriff Sidney Dorsey.

SHERRY DORSEY, WIFE OF SIDNEY DORSEY: At first, I had not intended to speak -- as a matter of fact, I had just told Sidney's attorney that I declined but after listening to the conversation that I just heard a second ago from the prosecution, and after through all of this, when I did go to North Carolina and my sister did die, I didn't have the strength enough to get and up and speak at her funeral. Nor did I get up and speak to the young lady that Sidney just talked about that lost her life. My husband is still living, and I'm not going to let this pass the time. I'm going to get up and I am going to speak for him today.

Many people questioned, why did I stay with him through all of the improprieties or women that came up and said they had affairs with my husband. Well let me tell you, that was a sin, and it was wrong, but it is not a crime.

The murder that has come before my husband today and he was convicted of, I want every Brown family member to look at me, because all of these people here, the media, the attorneys, and all of prosecution, they don't go home without your Derwin Brown or without Sidney Dorsey. It is really us. It is the family that suffers. These people are doing a job. So I want you to know, I am not doing this to get on the camera. I am telling you, I want you to look at me. I stayed with Sidney Dorsey through all of this because I knew -- I'm not talking about what I think. I knew he was innocent of murder, and that is why I stayed with him.

I heard a few minutes ago Derwin Brown's mother, she spoke about the fact that she dreams -- God speaks to her through dreams. God speaks to me through dreams. I dreamed during the time that all of this was happening, that Sidney was rolling down a hill and he rolled all the way down, but when he got up, he was a new Sidney. And the second Sidney that I looked back for, I couldn't find that one, and I knew what that meant. That was before he was arrested.

When I met Sidney, I met him on a blind date, and I met him here in Atlanta once when I was traveling, and when I got to the restaurant to meet with him, we sat and we talked that was the only time -- hot wings had just came down, and the was popular, fadish (ph) thing to do was go into a restaurants where they had hot wings and there was a young man that was in the restaurant. He was white, older man, that was homeless. He was a derelict. And because Sidney had just met me, and I didn't really know his personality that well, and the man passed by, and he was speaking to himself, and as he spoke to himself, Sidney stopped him and said, What did you say, and man said, they want me out of here. They said I can't stay.

He had a Burger King bag in his hand. And Sidney preceded to tell the man to come and sit with us, and I said to myself, I said, you know, I can't sit here and eat and smell this man, and I didn't really want the man to come sit with me, but I didn't know him well enough to say that, so I preceded to not say anything, and the man came and he sat with us.

And Sidney started talking to the man, and the music was playing in the restaurant and Sidney asked him, he said, You know that song?

And the man said Yes. He said, Sing it. And the man had a beautiful voice, he sounded like an angel. Well, make a long story short, before that restaurant, the people that were at the bar, the people who were sitting at the tables, that whole restaurant was at our seat, they were at our table, listening to this man.

And at that time, I never thought that I even marry Sidney. We were just dating then, but I looked at him differently, because of the heart that he had, because what he did, I would not have done. I can go on and on and tell you when I heard people talking in court and said that Sidney Dorsey is arrogant, well I remember times when I would answer the phone and people would call and say, my son has not eaten, and he is at your DeKalb County jail. I've seen him get up out of the bed and go and see about those people, and even show some of these parents that they have eaten more than she had that day. Sidney Dorsey was not a arrogant man. He was very dedicated to his job. He took down the Confederate flag when other elected officials were afraid to, and when he talked about it a second ago, when he said Derwin Brown was one of the people that was stand up, well, let me tell you, he said that before Derwin Brown was even sheriff.

WHITFIELD: You have been listen to Sherry Dorsey, the wife of former DeKalb County sheriff Sidney Dorsey, who is now in the sentences phase. He is now facing life plus 40 years or more.

We heard from Sidney Dorsey, making very strong statements that I had nothing to do with the crime, had nothing to do with the death of Derwin Brown on that December 15, 2000.

Let's bring in our legal analyst, Roger Cossack, to help us understand this phase in the sentencing phase of this trial -- this seems very unusual, almost as if it is a trial all over again, hearing from the character witnesses, and hearing from Sidney Dorsey himself for first time make his case as to how he was heart broken to hear about the death of Derwin Brown, and that his hands are clean he says. When he goes to jail, if that is indeed the sentence that the judge gives him, he feels that his hands are clean of the blood of Derwin Brown, Roger.

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Fredricka, this is a time, perhaps maybe the most dramatic time, when, as you point out, you finally hear from the defendant, the convicted defendant now, who stands up to the judge and in many ways says, judge now is the time for, perhaps, some mercy.

In my career as a lawyer, and also in doing this kind of work, I have seen many people do it, and it goes all the way from, Judge, I am absolutely innocent, as we heard this judge say -- Sidney say, or as this defendant say, to people -- literally, the old saying of getting up and throwing themselves on the mercy of the court. I must say, as a tactic, it usually works better to get up and say, Judge, I am guilty. I did a terrible thing, I have learned my lesson. I will never do it again, but clearly, Sidney Dorsey doesn't feel that way.

These are emotional times. These are times when the victim's family usually gets a chance to speak, the defendants' family, as we are seeing his wife speak right now. This is the time when it is all laid out. I will tell you this, that Judge Cynthia Becker, who is the sentencing judge down in this trial, is known to be a tough judge, and when there are public figures on trial convicted of horrible crimes like this, not only of murder but of literally robbing from the public trough, if you will, tough sentences come down, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this man gets pretty close to the maximum.

WHITFIELD: All right. Roger Cossack, thank you very much. Stick around, though, because we do want to bring the coverage of that sentencing live if indeed that happens.




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