Corning Beating Suspect in Court

August 31, 2006--Posted at 5:15 p.m. CDT

CORNING, AR--Poplar Bluff teenager Craig Matthews nearly died after being beaten in Corning with a baseball bat back in April.

The man accused of this alleged hate crime, Donald Groning, was in a Clay County courtroom Thursday morning along with Matthews.

Groning was scheduled to appear for a pre-trial hearing for first-degree battery and tampering with evidence charges.

In addition to those charges Groning could be looking at even more time in court.

"I have been retained by Craig Matthews to seek the possibility of a civil suit rising out of the conduct of Mr. Groning. We don't wish to make any further statements at this time," said attorney Christopher Yarborough.

While civil charges haven't been filed yet, Thursday's pre-trial proceedings in the criminal case were short.

One of the few items discussed was allowing Groning to leave the state for his job as a truck driver. Under conditions of his bond set forth by Judge Ralph Wilson, Groning has to stay in Arkansas.

Thursday Circuit Judge John Fogleman said he would consult with Judge Wilson before rendering a decision.

Surrounded by family members in the courtroom, Groning slipped out with little to say following his appearance in court.

With the number of ties Donald Groning has in Corning some members of the community have asked what is the likelihood the case could have a change in venue. However, that doesn't look likely because that's not something the prosecution can ask for, only the defense.

Another question is security. With the potential racial undertones generated from the case once the trial begins, there may be the need for a secure courthouse.

"We'll have extra deputies on duty. We'll have people roaming the corridors here in the courthouse and we'll just take the situation if we need extra help, we'll call more people in," said Clay County Sheriff Ronnie Cole.

The trial is scheduled to start October 3rd, but according sources that spoke with KAIT, the public defender for this case, David Copeland, is expected to resign before the next court date, which will most likely delay the start of this trial.