NEWS- Tommybrook: Publicist to the stars ready for trial
After a year of anticipation, Buckingham publicist and chicken farmer Tommy Garrett will have to wait a little longer to have his day in court. At 2pm Friday, February 1, Garrett was set to face 11 counts related to allegedly forging checks, nearly a year after the trial was first continued in February 2007.
However, multiple defense witnesses did not show up at Buckingham General District Court, and after 45 minutes of waiting, all parties agreed to delay the trial a week.
When the trial finally does take place, it will be the latest in a long line of events that have put Garrett in the public eye. The website for Garrett's firm, ICONS Public Relations, boasts a client list including actors Clint Walker, Ruta Lee, and Rex Reason.
As if that weren't enough glittery info for one lifetime, Garret hosted a Hollywood retrospective series called Somewhere in Time on local CBS affiliate WCAV; in June 2006, he sent out a press release announcing he was attending the funerals of both TV producer Aaron Spelling and bereaved mother Patsy Ramsey; he released another statement heralding a cover story about him in Senior Magazine (a publication of which the Hook can find no evidence); and in 2007 he appeared on Ed Begley Jr.'s HGTV reality program, Living with Ed, to help Begley's wife, Rachelle Carson, choose her wardrobe for the Sundance Film Festival.
Said Begley of Garrett on the show, "I didn't really see eye to eye with Rachelle's friend."
Apparently, neither did Charles Colbert, the Bremo Bluff funeral home director for whom Garrett worked until 1995, when Garrett sued Colbert for $930,000 for defamation, back pay, reneging on a promissory note, and emotional distress relating to Garrett's charges of racism and necrophilia. A jury disagreed about the indecent liberties but awarded Garrett $41,000 since Colbert had accused Garrett of stealing without being able to prove the allegation.
When asked if he would answer a few questions following the proceedings, Garrett told the Hook, "You can ask all you want, but I probably won't answer since your publication called me a 'colored boy,'" before saying to an unidentified friend, "These are the people I'm going to sue next."
Garrett refers to a February 22, 2007 Hook article, "Publicist charged: 15 forgery counts continued," in which a reporter wrote that, soon after she spoke with Garrett and his attorney, but before publication of her article, she received an anonymous voice mail from someone claiming to be an 85-year-old woman and making allegations about Garrett's accuser's mental health, and bemoaning those who wanted to "ruin that poor little colored boy."
When Garrett referred the Hook's questions to his legal representative, Farmville attorney James E. Ghee, the attorney declined to answer any questions.
Ghee has some experience with charges of money mishandling himself, having pled guilty to 11 misdemeanor counts of embezzlement in 1996 and in the process losing his license to practice law in October 1995. Ghee was re-admitted to the Virginia State Bar on April 2 of last year.
The veteran attorney is considered something of an icon in nearby Prince Edward County, a racially troubled spot in the '50s and '60s where local government officials fought school integration all the way to the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education– the landmark case in which the Court ruled that "separate but equal" institutions are inherently unequal. (Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy famously remarked in 1963 that "The only places on earth not to provide free public education are Communist China, North Vietnam, Sarawak, Singapore, British Honduras– and Prince Edward County, Virginia.")
It was in this charged environment that Ghee became the town's first African-American lawyer on September 21, 1973. Such did Ghee's stature build over the next 35 years that despite his mid-1990s misdeeds, NAACP president and UVA professor Julian Bond nominated him to the NAACP national executive board in 1998.
Garrett's trial is set for Friday, February 8.