A supposed plot to reverse a Forsyth County man’s 2012 conviction played out in court Wednesday as another man pleaded guilty to his involvement in the case.
Sameem Ibn-Phillips, 39, entered a guilty plea for false imprisonment and aggravated assault for his role in the May 4 crime initially charged as kidnapping.
Ibn-Phillips, of Austell, received a 15-year sentence, with five years to serve in prison and 10 on probation, in his negotiated plea entered in Forsyth County Superior Court.
Also as part of the deal, he must testify in the cases of his two co-defendants, Tyrone Campbell, 54, and Darrin Scott Sherrill, 53.
Campbell and Sherrill could go to trial as early as February on the charges of kidnapping, false imprisonment and aggravated assault.
Wednesday in court, Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Scalia walked through the case, which began in July 2010.
Sherrill, whom she described as a “wealthy man,” was having his Forsyth County home renovated when a worker in the house saw some DVDs that he believed had been discarded, Scalia said.
When the worker took the movies home to watch, he discovered pornographic images of children, she said, and the case was turned over to law enforcement.
In August 2012, Sherrill pleaded guilty to the charge of sexual exploitation of a child and received 90 to 120 days in a probationary detention center and 10 years of probation, according to court records.
While in the center, Scalia said Sherrill may have realized that the charge could affect his business. He also met Ibn-Phillips.
Ibn-Phillips testified Wednesday that Sherrill told him evidence had been “planted in his house.”
According to Ibn-Phillips’ testimony, upon their release he met with Sherrill a few times about getting the contractor to change his story.
Scalia said Sherrill was paying for Ibn-Phillips’ rental car at the time and had promised “to put him on his payroll” in return for the favor.
Ibn-Phillips testified that his friend, Campbell, drove him in early May to the contractor’s home in Forsyth County, where they posed as insurance agents. They then told the man he was going to receive $50,000 from his mother’s recent death.
However, on the trip to the nonexistent office, Ibn-Phillips told the man that this wasn’t about insurance, but the situation with Sherrill.
According to Ibn-Phillips’ testimony, he got the man — with a gun in plain sight — to write a letter retracting previous statements and stating the DVDs were planted.
He testified that he then told the man he would call him in a few days with information about a payment in exchange for the letter, but Ibn-Phillips said he never had any intention of doing that.
According to Scalia, the contractor was afraid to report the crime, and waited a day to tell authorities. She added that he feared police were in on the plot.
The case was eventually connected to Ibn-Phillips, whom Scalia said was getting “a phenomenal deal based on his participation.”
The victim, she said, was comfortable with the state’s negotiation with Ibn-Phillips, believing that Sherrill is “the most culpable person in the case.”
Ibn-Phillips hesitated to enter the plea Wednesday, but eventually decided to do so instead of risking missing more years of his children’s lives, his attorney Bobby Wilson said.
His mother and brother both spoke in court of his love for his children and the terrible choice he had made.
Ibn-Phillips’ mother said he was having difficulty finding employment because of his criminal history and she believes he committed these acts out of “desperation” to make money for his kids.
“But what he did was totally wrong,” she said.
Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Bagley said the family support Ibn-Phillips has is something few people before his bench receive.
He advised Ibn-Phillips to “do your time” and “put this behind you.”
“This is a crime that calls for some prison time,” Bagley said, “because of the serious nature of what you’ve done.”