A Hull convenience store owner has filed a complaint with the United States Department of Justice, claiming he was harassed by former sheriff Clayton Lowe in Sam’s Club in Athens in July.
Meanwhile, Lowe said the claim is false and nothing more than an attempt to hurt him politically before Aug. 21, when he faces incumbent sheriff Kip Thomas in a runoff in the Republican Primary.
Mohammad Shafiq, owner of Kwik Mart in Hull, maintains that he has been the victim of “repeated harassment and intimidation, along with threats of forthcoming closure of his convenience market place of business” by Lowe and his former deputy Randy Spence.
Shafiq’s attorney Eric K. Krasle, Athens, sent a letter Aug. 1 to the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice claiming that Lowe threatened Shafiq July 27 at Sam’s Club. He alleges that Spence threatened Shafiq on July 21 “merely for posting signs supporting incumbent Sheriff Kip Thomas (insisting that they remove the signs).”
“We would like to request a formal investigation of violations of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for violation of Mr. Shafiq’s civil rights in this manner,” wrote Krasle.
Lowe said he’s puzzled by Shafiq’s claim. He said he ran into the convenience store owner in Sam’s Club and Shafiq asked “How are you?” Lowe said he responded: “I’ll be a whole lot better after the election.”
“I don’t know how that is harassment,” said Lowe.
Shafiq remembers the encounter differently. He said he saw Lowe and his family in the store and approached the former sheriff.
“I said ‘Hey,’ and he said, ‘You’re helping the other guy; I’m coming after you,’” said Shafiq. “I was surprised. What is wrong with him? He is arrogant. He is a bully.”
Lowe and Shafiq have encountered each other in the past. The former sheriff arrested Shafiq on commercial gambling charges in 2007. And both have vastly different perspectives of what happened. Shafiq maintains that he was targeted for having gambling machines, while others who have the machines were overlooked by the sheriff. Shafiq said he does not offer cash payouts from his machines. He said he only offers legal awards, such as groceries, gas or lottery tickets.
“What he (Lowe) did, he had another buddy and they had a machine and I had a machine and he took my machine and took my money and told me to sign a paper and I could keep from going to jail, but they would keep my money,” said Shafiq, who said he was “robbed” of $60,000. “He only targeted me.”
According to documents in the office of the Clerk of Superior Court of Madison County, Shafiq pleaded no contest in November 2007 to a misdemeanor gambling charge (reduced from commercial gambling).
The sentence for the misdemeanor charge reads: “three months suspended (confinement) upon payment of the fine, court cost, surcharges and fees.”
Lowe said Shafiq was arrested during a multi-agency sting that included the sheriff’s department, Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad (MANS) and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
“We hit several businesses at the same time,” said Lowe. “It wasn’t anything where he (Shafiq) was singled out.”
Lowe said the forfeiture of money by Shafiq to the county was part of a plea bargain arranged by Shafiq’s attorney and the district attorney’s office. He said he had no part in that.
“That’s a deal he cut with the DA,” said Lowe, who added that the money went into the department’s seized funds account.
Lowe said he believes Shafiq is scared of him getting elected.
“I think he’s concerned about his own interests and worried that if I prevail, he’ll suffer,” said Lowe. “And because of that, he’s doing everything he can to get me, including this trumped up threat.”