ANDALUSIA, AL (WSFA) - Sherrie Phillips, a former top official in Covington County, is on trial accused of breaking the people's trust.
Phillips held the position of Covington County Probate Judge before being forced from the position on charges of theft and felony ethics violations. The state says she took money from an estate with no heirs.
Now, defense attorneys are trying to prove their case by pointing to a state law which says money from an estate with no heirs, that includes real estate, must be turned over to the state if it is unclaimed after a period of two years.
The defense is raising the question of who actually owns the money until the two year period is over. Phillips' attorneys say she owns the money, as probate judge of Covington County, until the two year time period ends.
According to testimony, Phillips had a check for $1 million dollars made out to herself, and witnesses say that half the money Phillips spent was on personal items including a Cadillac Escalade SUV, home improvements and loans to her brothers.
Defense attorneys argue that all the money was paid back with interest, though prosecutors believe she paid back the money only after discovering she was under investigation.
Now, six heirs to the estate have recently been found, and an attorney representing them says they are second cousins who live in other states.