COVINGTON - A battery charge against a Covington pastor, the Rev. Clara Mae Lett, was dropped by a judge last week at a preliminary hearing held in Newton County Magistrate Court.
According to Newton County District Attorney Ken Wynne, Judge John Degonia dismissed the case against Lett based upon a "credibility finding" of the witnesses who testified on her behalf, and he ruled there wasn't enough evidence to bind the case over to Superior Court.
Preliminary hearings in criminal cases are commonly heard in Magistrate Court to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with prosecution.
"I just knew I was innocent from the beginning," Lett said in an interview on Wednesday. "No one never heard my side of the story. I was never the aggressor. I never hit anyone. I was slapped, I was hit but I never hit anyone."
The charge against Lett originally stemmed from an incident that occurred earlier this year at the Rainbow Community Center in Porterdale in which she and her granddaughter, Ashley Kenyatta Derricho, allegedly became involved in a physical altercation with a 20-year-old woman.
Wynne said the case against Derricho, 20, is still going forward on the charge of affray.
Lett is the director of Rainbow Community Center, which is a homeless shelter currently located on Hemlock Street.
According to an incident report completed by Porterdale Police Officer David Henson, the 20-year-old victim said the altercation at the shelter began on the afternoon of Jan. 24, after she made the statement that "God needed to help Pastor Clara Lett run (the Rainbow Community Center), because she was not doing it properly."
Derricho then allegedly started "cursing (the victim) and putting her finger in her face," saying she wasn't going to talk to her grandmother that way, the report stated.
Lett, 56, was accused of getting between the two and pushing the victim down a set of steps. According to the incident report, the victim landed on her back and was then attacked by Derricho, who proceeded to start striking her in the face with a closed fist.
Lett said the person who levied the allegations against her is no longer a resident at the shelter.
Lett's Rainbow Community Center is slated to move to Covington, which recently approved a $1 million-plus expenditure to purchase and renovate property for the relocation.
Joel Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.