Geneva judge, Houston DA handle cop case

Published 1:45 am Saturday, August 31, 2013

It will be another week before there is resolution in the January case against an Andalusia police officer accused of harassing members of the county’s Drug Task Force.

APD Officer Roderick “R.C.” Covington is charged with two counts of misdemeanor harassment. Covington allegedly refused to leave the DTF office on Progress Driver after he was told to leave multiple times, and is accused of verbally harassing DTF Assistant Commander David Harrell and the department secretary, Amanda Hart.

The case went to trial Friday with a full-court press of counsel from all parts of the state, as local attorneys and judges recused themselves from the case. Geneva County District Court Judge Stephen Smith presided, while Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska tried the case. Patrick Dennis Mahaney of Montgomery represented Covington through the Police Benevolent Association (PBA).

Last fall, the Andalusia Police Department left the Drug Task Force. The DTF, funded in part by a grant, is now comprised of officers from the county sheriff’s department and Opp Police Department, with financial support from other departments.

Testimony given Friday alleged that the January incident occurred when Officer Covington went to the DTF office with APD Lt. Paul Dean following an undercover drug by operation conducted by other APD officers. The APD borrowed equipment from the DTF and Harrell was to help officers obtain video and audio evidence from the transaction.

Tension between the agencies began after the APD left the DTF, and Harrell testified that prior to his exchange with Covington, he was “thrown out of the APD” by APD Chief Wilbur Williams, Covington and other officers.

Hart testified that she’d informed APD officers that she felt uncomfortable in Covington’s presence and that Covington “was not welcome” at the DTF office.

The January incident began when Harrell questioned Covington’s appearance at the DTF.

Testimony then showed the exchange became heated when Covington replied, “I didn’t kick you no (expletive deleted) where.”

Harrell said he asked Covington to leave multiple times and eventually contacted a sheriff’s deputy to escort Covington from the property; however, Covington left on his own accord at his supervisor’s instruction.

At one point during the exchange, Harrell testified that Covington “positioned himself very close to my face and then stated, “(Expletive deleted), David Harrell.”

Mahaney maintained that since Covington made no threats, “it didn’t matter that his language was unprofessional,” and said there was no way the incident rose to the level of a crime.

Valeska said that Covington was asked repeatedly to leave the premise and refused and stated that when one looked “at the totality of things, taking into account the statements, the words used and body language” the crime of harassment was proven.

Smith said he would rule in the case next week.