WARRENTON, Ga. - A well-respected businessman in Warren County was sentenced to three years in prison and fined $60,000 after pleading guilty to multiple criminal felony charges in Warren County Superior Court on Monday morning.
Toombs Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Roger W. Dunaway, Jr. handed down the sentence to 47-year-old Michael Henry "Mickey" English shortly before 11 a.m.
Mr. English's punishment came as a result of his having pleaded guilty to three counts of operating a chop shop and three counts of theft by receiving stolen property. Three other similar charges were merged at the request of Toombs Judicial Circuit Senior Assistant District Attorney William Doupe'.
As to the three counts of theft by receiving stolen property, Mr. English was sentenced to 10 years - the sentence to run concurrent with the first one. He could have received a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison. Afterwards, Mr. English was immediately taken into custody by deputies with the Warren County Sheriff's Department. He was taken to the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center in Thomson, where he will remain until he is taken by officials with the Georgia Department of Corrections to a state prison.
The sentence followed emotional pleas from several close friends who sought leniency for Mr. English from Judge Dunaway. A total of seven people, as well as Mr. English's defense attorneys, Chad Medlin and Albert M. "Buddy" Dallas, of Thomson, spoke on his behalf. Mr. Dallas also presented the court several letters from people who expressed that Mr. English was a good neighbor and helped provide jobs for lots of people in Warren County.
After being indicted earlier this year on nine felony charges by a Warren County grand jury, Mr. English had pleaded not guilty. His guilty plea to six of those nine charges on Monday stemmed from the theft of an estimated $422,000 worth of heavy construction equipment from several sites in South Carolina. Several pieces of the equipment were discovered on his property, as well as property belonging to friends, according to David Leonard, a retired special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Leonard is now an investigator with the Wrens Police Department and presented several facts about the case prior to Mr. English being sentenced.
Mr. English, wiping away tears a number of times, addressed Judge Dunaway, saying he wanted to apologize first to his family, employees and friends. He also said he wanted to apologize to the people of Warren County "for all of the humiliation. I take full responsibility."
Judge Dunaway said he was impressed by what had been said about Mr. English by friends.
"What was said was moving," Judge Dunaway said, noting, however, that the court has a duty to administer justice "as fairly as I can."
In sentencing Mr. English, Judge Dunaway denied him first offender status and declined a plea from defense attorneys that a reporting date for incarceration be delayed until after the holidays.
Epp Wilson, a Thomson businessman, described Mr. English as the "fabric of the community," adding that he would give somebody the shirt off his back if they needed it.
Warrenton City Councilman Craig Hunter said Mr. English was the second person he met after moving to Warren County. Mr. Hunter said his friend helped him to get his farm started.
"He's been an asset to this community for many years," Mr. Hunter said of Mr. English. He explained that he had helped the poor and the unwanted.
"Give Mickey and his family a miracle," Mr. Hunter pleaded with Judge Dunaway. "Mickey takes full responsibility for his action. Mickey deserves a break, your honor. He can do a lot more good here than he can locked up."
Annette Black described Mr. English as "an upstanding citizen" and advocated that he be given a probated sentence - meaning that he would not have to serve time in prison.
Even O.B. McCorkle, president of the Warren County Chamber of Commerce, spoke on behalf of Mr. English.
"Mickey is a good man," Mrs. McCorkle said, noting that his family, employees and others needed him. She asked Judge Dunaway to be "merciful" in his sentencing.
Bobby Newsome called Mr. English "a great person."
Gail Fulbright, of Thomson, said Mr. English had been a father-figure to her son, Brandon, since the death of her husband a year and a half ago.
"That is the most giving man I've ever seen in my life," said Eddie Phelps of Mr. English.
Mr. Medlin, meanwhile, sought first offender treatment for his client, since he had never before been convicted of a crime. He also asked for probation, rather than time behind prison bars.
"They say a man is known by his works," said Mr. Medlin's senior law partner, Mr. Dallas. Mr. Dallas said he believed the court could fashion its sentence, even if incarceration was due, around Christmas - meaning that Mr. English might have a reporting date after the holidays. Mr. Dallas also suggested the possibility of Mr. English being placed under house arrest, monitored by an ankle bracelet.
Mr. English, owner and operator of English Maintenance and Mechanical, Inc., employed 18 people fulltime and worked up to as many as 40 people other times. The business was built "client by client," according to Mr. Dallas.
The defense attorney claimed that the only people who would like to see Mr. English sent off to prison would be his competitors.
Mr. Doupe' said he had heard several things about Mr. English during the course of preparing the case for prosecution, including that no one was hurt because there were no victims. The assistant prosecutor disagreed, contending that there were a number of victims in the case.