COLUMBUS, Georgia — A Columbus construction worker accused of shooting another man in April was acquitted of all charges Tuesday by a Muscogee County Superior Court jury that deliberated less than 15 minutes.
Victor Santiago, 39, of Old Cusseta Road, faced up to 65 years in prison if convicted of the April 4 shooting of John Howard.
Police investigated the incident immediately, but Santiago was unaware he was accused of a crime until he read an account of the charges against him in the Ledger-Enquirer…
Defense attorney Melvin Cooper presented evidence showing the shooting near apartments at 4200 Old Cusseta Road occurred after he saw a “slap-boxing” match involving a friend turn ugly.
Cooper said the match deteriorated into “four or five men jumping on Thaddeus Turner,” causing Santiago to retrieve a .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol from his residence to try to stop the abuse of his friend. When he returned, Howard grabbed the barrel of the pistol, which discharged twice, causing one bullet to lodge in Howard’s thigh and one bullet to graze his skin.
Police investigated the incident immediately, but Santiago was unaware he was accused of a crime until he read an account of the charges against him in the Ledger-Enquirer, Cooper said. He immediately surrendered to police and pleaded innocent to two charges of aggravated assault, aggravated battery and possession of a firearm during a crime, he said. Superior Court Senior Judge Bill Smith ordered a directed verdict of not guilty on the aggravated battery charge and the jury acquitted Santiago of the remaining charges.
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer • October 21, 2004