“Hey, Bartee is trying to get me to kidnap….”
In four hours’ testimony, Nick Blackwell said that during Seneca Fest he was approached by James Bartee about kidnapping a judge. A little later, Blackwell testified yesterday, another Bartee supporter handed him a card with the name Jimmy Williams and Williams’ address. Blackwell took the stand at 3 yesterday afternoon and remained there until 7 last night, as the prosecution’s final witness of the day. The trial resumes at 9 this morning, with indications that today’s session could run into the early evening hours tonight. The Bartee side has yet to begin its defense. Yesterday prosecution witness Blackwell rejected a label of confidential informant to describe his part that helped bring down Bartee’s campaign for Sheriff last year, only days before the scheduled primary election. He told the jury, “I was reporting a crime.” Blackwell recounted how he spotted an Oconee sheriff’s officer at a restaurant near Seneca and decided to tell the officer that Bartee wanted him to kidnap Williams. That report led to a state police investigation and the arrest of Bartee on the charge of solicitation to commit a felony. A retired judge, Williams pursued a civil court action to derail the Bartee candidacy on the grounds that the former Secret Service agent was ineligible to run under state law and, if elected, would have been unable to meet certification requirements by the start of the term. It’s a position Bartee has strongly taken issue with, contending his years with the agency that protects presidents makes him more than qualified. Whether on direct or cross examination, Blackwell yesterday insisted that after Bartee gave him $200 for materials to be used to abduct Williams, Bartee had a change of mind and put the plot on hold, as Blackwell put it, “until the dust settles.” In opening arguments to the jury, Deputy Solicitor David Wagner said by that point a crime had been committed.