Attorney General: Others report probate problems

Published 11:06 pm Thursday, October 30, 2008

Alabama Attorney General Troy King said Thursday it would be “inappropriate” to comment on any further investigation his office may or may not be conducting into the estate in which former Covington County Probate Judge Sherrie Phillips was convicted of two counts of theft, or into any other estates she might have handled.

But he did acknowledge that his office has heard from a number of people who felt they or their families were wronged by Phillips’ actions as judge.

“We’ve heard from a number of them already,” King said. “If there is anybody else who feels they need to make a complaint, they can call our office.”

King said the attorney general’s office would ultimately request of anyone with a complaint to put that complaint in writing.

“I’ve talked to three or four myself,” King said in a telephone interview Thursday. “They aren’t vindicated by this. Other people also feel they were victimized.”

The only way his office can proceed with any other action, he said, is if his investigators have the facts of the case.

“And they need to provide whatever documents there are,” he said.

Wednesday, a Covington County jury found Phillips guilty of theft by deception and unlawfully using her office for personal gain for herself or a family member in the theft of a $1.8 million check from the estate of Cary Douglas Piper of Castleberry. During the two-and-a-half day trial, jurors learned that Phillips used the check to open a personal account from which she wrote checks totaling more than $516,000. On the day after state agents began an investigation, she repaid all but $917, and moved the funds to a public funds account.

The jury also learned that Phillips awarded both the administrator of the estate, Mary Drew Sullivan, and her attorney, John Brock of Evergreen, 15 percent of the $3 million estate, or approximately $450,000 each. Both Sullivan and Brock were ordered to repay the money in a separate case filed in probate court on behalf of Piper’s cousins.

However, when an attorney general’s investigator was asked on the witness stand by Phillips’ defense attorney if the investigator had charged John Brock with a crime, the investigator replied, “Not yet.”