Billy NIchols, former Pryor code enforcement officer was found not guilty of concealing stolen property Tuesday.
Nichols was accused of taking a dog belonging to Terry and Stephanie Aylward and keeping it for 18 days.
On the stand, Nichols recalled how he came across the Aylward’s dog on Aug. 11 near the Credit Union. He said the dog was wet from the rain the night before. He picked the dog up long enough to get the Aylward’s phone number, but the dog bit him and ran away. Nichols said he spoke with Terry Aylward that evening by phone. He said Aylward told him the missing dog was black. In fact, the dog was a miniature schnauzer, black with silver points.
Nichols said a few days later, Aug. 18 or 19, he met a man on Whitaker Street who had a little dog following him. The dog did not have a tag. According to NIchols, the man said he had no way to care for the dog and gave it to him.
Linda Anderson, a witness for the prosecution, said she saw the Alyward’s dog with Nichols’ wife in their yard on Aug. 29. She called Stephanie Alyward, who collected her dog from the Nichols’ home.
Nichols maintained he did not know the dog he saw at the Credit Union was the same dog he kept at his house.
Terry Aylward said he spoke to Nichols on the phone Aug. 11 about the missing dog. When the dog was found at the Nichols’ home Aug. 29, Terry Aylward said he left his office on Adair Street, saw Nichols in his car on the street and confronted him. He said Nichols wanted to explain what happened.
“He acted like one of my kids when they didn’t tell me the truth,” Aylward said.
Defense attorney Terry Allen asked Aylward why he never contacted Nichols again after they spoke on Aug. 11, even though Aylward’s office is across the street from city hall. Aylward said he had no reason to believe Nichols knew anything more about the dog. Allen asked Aylward if the dog had ever gotten out of the yard. Aylward said a the dog had gotten out few times when he and his wife were working in their yard.
Nichols told Pryor Police Detective James Willyard in an interview, “I shouldn’t have taken the dog, but I wanted another dog. I honestly didn’t think it was that dog.”
Willyard told the court that he went to the Credit Union where Nichols first encountered the dog, but could not find any cameras outside the Credit Union which captured the interaction. Willyard told the court he went along Whitaker Street looking for a man that fit Nichols’ description. After five or six days of searching, he never found such a man.
If found guilty of knowingly concealing stolen property, Nichols faced a maximum of five years in the department of corrections and a $500 fine.
In his closing, Assistant District Attorney Nick Codding said the state was not charging Nichols with stealing the dog, but with knowingly concealing stolen property as Nichols had deprived the Aylwards of their dog. Codding said that as code inspector for Pryor Creek, Nichols expected people to be held accountable for their actions and that now Nichols must be held accountable for his actions.
In his closing, Allen said his client did not steal the dog. The dog was left in his front yard for anyone to see. Allen said Nichols would not jeopardize his career and reputation over a dog.
The jury took less than an hour to find Nichols not guilty.