Man who crashed into gas station sentenced to three years in jail
by Wes Mayer
A man arrested in July for allegedly driving a vehicle into a gas station was sentenced this week in Coweta Superior Court to serve three years in the county jail.
Gregory Sims was arrested on July 30, 2013, after Coweta County authorities responded to the Exxon gas station on 2 Franklin Road and found Sims’ truck crashed through the entrance of the convenience store. According to Lt. Col. Jimmy Yarbrough with the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, authorities believed Sims was attempting to hit his girlfriend, who was inside the store, with his truck. At that time, Sims was charged with aggravated assault with a motor vehicle, terroristic threats and acts and driving under the influence of alcohol.
In September, Sims was indicted for three counts of aggravated assault, one count of terroristic threats and acts and one count of driving under the influence of alcohol less safe. According to Assistant District Attorney Robert Mooradian, who prosecuted the case, Sims was charged with three counts of aggravated assault because there were three people inside the store — his girlfriend, the clerk, and another man who is from Pakistan and was in Pakistan during the trial. The terroristic threats charge came from a separate incident on the same day after Sims allegedly threatened a woman with a machete.
On Tuesday at the Coweta County Justice Center, the jury found Sims guilty on two counts of reckless conduct, a charge lower than aggravated assault, and driving under the influence of alcohol less safe — all misdemeanors, Mooradian said. He was found not guilty on the other two charges. Sims was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Emory Palmer to serve 12 months consecutively for each charge in the Coweta County Jail.
“It was a tough case,” said Public Defender Charlie Cauble, who defended Sims. “I was proud of the jury. They were very thoughtful of the evidence presented to them.”
Mooradian said the case essentially boiled down to whether Sims had the intention to commit the crimes — in order to be found guilty of aggravated assault, the evidence has to show Sims was either using the vehicle to cause serious bodily harm or had the intention to place the people inside the store in harm. Sims’ girlfriend and other victims testified in the trial.
According to Cauble, his argument was that Sims did not intend to drive into the store at all. Sims chose not to testify.
“This was all just a terrible accident,” Cauble said, “and fortunately, nobody was hurt. That’s the big picture.”
Mooradian argued that the events of the day were more than enough evidence to prove Sims was guilty, he said. The incident began with an argument at the home of Sims and his girlfriend — Sims’ girlfriend left after Sims allegedly threatened to kill her.
Later that day, a second victim reported Sims threatened her with a machete, Mooradian said. While sitting in her vehicle at the Bridges Shopping Plaza on West Washington Street in Newnan, Sims pulled up beside her in his vehicle, they had a verbal exchange, and he got out with the machete — this machete was found in Sims’ vehicle after his arrest.
Sims later followed his girlfriend to the gas station, Mooradian said. There he ran his truck into his girlfriend’s vehicle, another vehicle and then drove through the entrance to the store. After this, Sims attempted to back out of the store, but his vehicle was stuck — after spinning the tires, Sims’ truck caught on fire and Coweta County Fire Department personnel were called to the scene extinguish it.
“I think all of these show he had some intent to hurt people,” Mooradian said. “What happened at the gas station was like a grand finale of the day.”
Cauble said he thought the jury did a good job focusing on the evidence. After deliberating for around an hour-and-a-half, the jury found Sims not guilty of threatening a person with a machete or one of the aggravated assault charges — against the man from Pakistan who was not present.
The jury found Sims guilty of two counts of reckless conduct for recklessly driving in a public parking lot, Cauble said. Sims was also found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol less safe because the state alleged he was impaired by alcohol causing him to drive less safe.