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Man grabs phone from sheriff, runs

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Man grabs phone from sheriff, runs

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A foot-chase ensued inside Putnam County Courthouse Friday when Sheriff Howard Sills tried to stop a man from recording the sentencing phase of a trial.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Terry Massey was in the process of sentencing Thurston Cornelius Waller on Aug. 24 after a jury found Waller guilty of the sale of cocaine. Because it was Waller’s fourth felony, the sentence was life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sills said a probation officer and a court advocate in the courtroom told him that Waller’s half-brother, Jason Odell Dennis, was recording the event on his cellphone. Sills said he walked by Dennis and could see the bars going across his phone screen, revealing it was recording.

Because Georgia law requires expressed permission from the presiding judge to make any video or recording in any court proceeding, Sills took the phone.

The sheriff and the man went outside the courtroom and Sills told him that he could have his phone back if he deleted the recording, Sills said Monday.

“He snatched it out of my hand and took off running,” Sills added.

The chase went “all over the courthouse,” Sills said, and Dennis ran outside and started to run down the street, but stopped and gave up.

Dennis, 29, of Grand Avenue, Eatonton, was taken to Putnam County Jail and charged with four misdemeanor counts of obstruction of an officer. He bonded out Tuesday.

– Lynn Hobbs