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Petruzielo Takes The Stand In Marlow False Statements Trial

Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo refuted allegations made by school board member Kelly Marlow and her associates that he tried to run them over last summer.

Credit: Patch file
Credit: Patch file
Testimony continued on Thursday in the false statements trial of Cherokee County School Board member Kelly Marlow and two of her associates, who have accused Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo of trying to run them over last summer. 

Canton Police Detective Drew Henson completed his testimony under cross examination to the jury. 

Brian Steel, the attorney for Marlow, asked Henson if he could rely on the video to back up his belief that Petruzielo did not veer into the left lane when he allegedly tried to run over Marlow, her companion Robert Trim and resident Barbara Knowles, which they all allege.

Steel notes the camera outside The Painted Pig Tavern is not tilted high enough to show the white line indicating the division between the left and right lanes, so the footage that includes the superintendent's vehicle shows he was "clearly driving in the left hand lane."

Steel also questions Henson about when he spoke to Petruzielo over the phone to inquire about the incident. Steel asked Henson if his wife was trying to become a full-time teacher with the Cherokee County School District, and Henson affirmed that speculation. Steel also asked if Petruzielo brought up that tidbit of information during his conversation with him, which Henson also confirmed.

At that moment, defendant Trim could be seen with a smirk on his face while looking over his shoulder at residents who've openly criticized Marlow for her actions. 

On redirect, Assistant District Attorney Rachelle Carnesale asked Henson to discuss his wife's career ambitions. The detective said his wife was a substitute teacher, and is now a part-time paraprofessional in the district. Henson reiterated he didn't arrest the three defendants just to get his wife a job. 

Anthony Morgese, Knowles' attorney, also questioned Henson as to why he decided to take out an arrest warrant on the his client when the camera posted outside the restaurant only provides a limited view of the area. Morgese said the video doesn't show when his client possibly saw the superintendent's vehicle. Henson conceded that point to the attorney.

"There's a lot of things you don't know," Morgese shot back with. "You are making assumptions." 

The prosecution also called Melissa Whatley, Petruzielo's executive administrative assistant, to the stand for testimony.

Whatley recalled that when she left the June 13 school board meeting, she followed her boss through downtown Canton, as the route they normally take — Marietta Road to Hickory Flat Highway to access Interstate 575 southbound at Exit 16 — was closed because a tree had fallen across the interstate. 

So, Whatley said she and her boss got into their vehicles and proceeded to exit the parking lot behind the School Board Auditorium where the meetings are held. Whatley said she trailed her boss while they drove turned right onto Archer Street, left onto South Church Street and right onto East Main Street. 

Whatley said Petruzielo's vehicle was always in her sight. 

Other than minor power outages due to the tornado that ripped through Canton, Whatley said she never noticed anything unusual that would indicate an accident nearly taking place. The only people Whatley said she saw the night of the alleged incident were those on the sidewalk outside the Painted Pig Tavern.

She also said she did not see Petruzielo speeding or changing lanes "abruptly." 

Bill Sebring, the district's assistant superintendent for support services and facilities/construction management, testified about Petruzielo's mood the evening of the June 13 board meeting.

Sebring said he spoke with Petruzielo before they all left the "lengthy" meeting, and informed him about the tree across the interstate. His boss, he added, was appreciative of the information and did not seem to be in a bad mood. 

Resident Greg Glover, who was seen on video outside Painted Pig Tavern as Knowles, Trim and Marlow approach the restaurant, also testified he did not witness anything out of the ordinary. 

Perhaps the most anticipated testimony came when Dr. Petruzielo took the stand himself. The superintendent recounted how the June 13 board meeting went, which was delayed about an hour due to the storms that rolled through the area.

He noted the majority of the school board voted to table the fiscal year 2013-14 budget, which he characterized as a normal procedure, and also approved several policy recommendations. 

"There was no reason for me to be unhappy," he said. 

Petruzielo was told by his staff that a tree had fallen across the I-575 southbound at Exit 16, so he had to drive through downtown Canton to get home. 

As he turned onto East Main Street from South Church Street, Petruzielo said he could see "movement," which he determined to be people crossing the street between 75 to 100 feet ahead of his vehicle. He noted he slowed down to "make sure there would not be a problem." 

As he passed the individuals, Petruzielo said he noticed the people were Trim and Marlow. He said he made eye contact with Trim, but did not wave. That cool reception, he told Carnesale, was "not unusual" between the two. 

Petruzielo said he remember seeing Knowles at the board meeting, but said he did not see her as he drove through downtown Canton. The superintendent said the encounter didn't cross his mind as problematic until he was told of the allegations the three defendants were making, which he said "was a very big surprise." 

The superintendent later stated he never was uncooperative with the Canton Police Department, who were able to touch base with him on July 3. Petruzielo stated the delay in speaking with the agency occurred because he had knee replacement surgery in late June. 

On cross examination, Steel pointed out to Petruzielo that he was relying on his memory to recount the incident. He also said Petruzielo allegedly said he saw both Marlow and Trim behind a vehicle. Steel also asked Petruzielo if he told Henson he was in the left lane of East Main Street as he passed the restaurant.

Petruzielo countered Steel's arguments by saying he saw both defendants behind a parked car and by the time he made sure they were out of his way, they were already close to the Tavern's entrance. Petruzielo also said he told the detective he could not remember which lane he traveled in as he passed both Trim and Marlow. 

After Petruzielo's testimony was complete, Carnesale brought back Henson to ask when he started to view Knowles a suspect in the case. Henson said he and Detective Rodney Campbell spoke with Knowles at the Canton Police Department on July 3 and told her the video tape outside the restaurant did not match with her statement. 

Henson, who said the interview with Knowles was "fairly short," said Knowles was unnerved by the revelation. 

"She maintained what she said all along was true," he said, adding Knowles couldn't give an explanation as to why her story did not match what detectives saw on the video. 

A scheduling conflict with prosecution witness Capt. Bert Love with the Cherokee Sheriff's Office propelled Carnesale to allow the defense to present its first witness in the case: Sean Alexander, an accident reconstruction consultant.

Alexander, who spent 18 years in law enforcement before becoming a consultant, said he was contacted by Steel and asked if he could review the allegations and possibly recreate the scene the night of June 13. 

Alexander was able to use computer software to create a 3-D photographic image of the downtown area near the Painted Pig Tavern. Alexander said he was able to use the software to measure precisely how wide the travel lanes were, how wide the parallel parking spaces were in front of the restaurant and how fast Petruzielo's vehicle was traveling.

Alexander said he was able to calculate that the superintendent's BMW X5 SUV was traveling between 21.7 and 24.5 miles per hour, which is below the posted 25 miles per hour speed limit in downtown Canton.

Alexander also said his calculations show the superintendent was driving "much closer" to the parallel parking area than the center lane. Furthermore, Alexander said it takes the average person with a "normal" gait one second to travel four feet.

From his calculations, if Marlow had stopped in the road as she was traveling, it would have taken Petruzielo's vehicle between 1.1 seconds and 1.25 seconds to hit the board member if he'd been traveling 24.5 miles per hour, Alexander concluded.

As expected, Carnesale countered Alexander's point by saying he's basing his conclusions on whether Petruzielo was moving at a constant rate of speed.

She also countered his point with the fact that by the time Marlow's hand shows up on the video camera posted outside the restaurant, her body is most likely already behind the Dodge Durango parked outside the eatery. 

Capt. Love is expected to testify when court resumes on Friday, April 25 at 9 a.m. 
Karen Baker April 27, 2014 at 10:14 AM
If the "personal history of this superintendent is filled with unethical behavior and corruption, as a simple Google search easily reveals...." If you are such a big fan of Google just do a search on CCSD test scores and you will find the real value of Dr. P and our board. Believe me I have been a teacher for CCSD for 26 years and I have seen this school system go from being on the news every night like Dekalb, Atlanta, Henry, and others, to being a model system. That is until Marlow was voted to the school board, since then all she has done is try to disrupt everything good this board has done. Our educational system is about the kids not about Dr.P., Marlow, or me, but Marlow has made it about her. I can say by first hand account that CCSD is light years ahead of where we were 26 years ago. While "Googling" I came across this information take a look for yourself http://www.cherokee.k12.ga.us/Documents/CHOICES.pdf Now, tell me how bad our students are being lead by Dr. P and the school board. I hate what has happened to Marlow but, remember reap what you sow......
David R April 29, 2014 at 09:53 PM
Hey Allah, the Karma Train left the station Saturday night about 9pm. Your girl and her two friends were on it!!! See ya!!!
Allah Tabul April 30, 2014 at 09:08 AM
Ah yes, it's the district suckup and resident hypocrite David Reed, checking in. As is expected given your obviously-low IQ, you mistake my factual observations about our overpaid, unethical superintendent as support for the 3 Amigos. There is no karma train for me to board, my friend, as it is clear to me that these 3 people are guilty of their crimes. You can continue sucking up to the district and posting your hypocritical nonsense in hopes that any teachers reading your tripe will give your children preferential treatment. But I doubt they will, as they possess more moral integrity in their thumbs than you do in your entire body! Here is some information about your hero, the superintendent, and his moral code: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2001-01-30/news/0101300106_1_miami-dade-school-district-administrators-soccer-coach boom shakalaka amen!
Allah Tabul April 30, 2014 at 09:14 AM
Ms. Baker, I credit the teachers and parents for student performance rather than government bureaucrats who never step foot in the classroom. Also, the financial status of the parents seems to be a glaring indicator. Why else do our county's poorer regions test so much lower than our wealthier ones? Why has the heroic superintendent's policies not made all boats float on an equal tide? I do agree with you that Ms Marlow has not had a positive effect on the district and that this should be about the children. Her negativity is now gone. Thank you for your continued efforts to educate the children of Cherokee County, Ms. Baker.

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