TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A theft trial featuring numerous people from the popular “S-Town” podcast could be held in the fall.
Prosecutor Bryan Jones submitted a motion to continue the trial from its original June 26 date to sometime in the fall because of issues that have arisen as a result of further review of “S-Town,” a popular podcast that chronicles the life of John B. McLemore and his home in Woodstock, a small town in West Alabama.
In fact, Jones used “S-Town” to add a number of charges to the case and has plans to use the podcast in court.
“The state of Alabama needs more time to prepare for trial because some of the discovery issues have not been resolved,” the motion stated.
Since its release on March 28, “S-Town” — with the “S” standing for a vulgar word for excrement — has been one of the most popular podcasts online, having been downloaded 10 million times four days after it launched. As of May, “S-Town” has been downloaded more than 40 million times.
The case involves Tyler Goodson, a Bibb County man who was friends with McLemore, and charges that he stole property from McLemore’s land after McLemore’s death in 2015. On the podcast, Goodson said McLemore had promised him his land and custody of his mother, Mary Grace, in case something happened to him. Although he alluded to wanting to leave something for Goodson and his family, McLemore never left a will and his estate went to his mother.
Mary Grace was eventually placed in the care of McLemore’s cousin, Reta Lawrence, and Goodson was warned by law enforcement not to go back onto the property without permission. However, Goodson went back to the property numerous times and took many items he claimed were his, such as two school buses, an 18-wheeler trailer, and a number of tools, equipment and lumber.
“Mary Grace left me in charge and she wanted me in charge and so did John, but they (Reta Lawrence and police) bullied me out of the way and I had no rights,” Goodson said in an interview with The Tuscaloosa News published April 9. “All I asked for was my own belongings and they won’t even do that, so I will fight it to the bitter end.”
J.D. Terry, Goodson’s attorney, defended Goodson as being a good person and McLemore’s friend, adding he did not take anything with criminal intent, but because he was promised the items.
“He’s a guy that wants to work and take care of his girls and that’s about it,” Terry said.
Jones, an assistant district attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit, does not dispute Goodson’s friendship with McLemore, but Jones said Goodson took things that weren’t his.
“If he had the intentions of doing it the right way, he could’ve sued in court and claimed all those things were his, but he didn’t,” Jones said. “He has no proof that the stuff was his.”
Initially, Goodson was charged with five counts of first-degree theft of property, two counts of first-degree forgery, one count of third-degree trespassing and one count of second-degree possession of a forged instrument. However, a grand jury met in April and brought the number of charges up to 25, including 13 second-degree criminal trespass charges, two counts of burglary and two charges of forgery.
This month, a new indictment will be coming down that will replace the April indictment, taking off five of the criminal trespass charges, changing the forgery charges to possession of a forgery instrument and would include victims as being Mary Grace, McLemore and any of McLemore’s heirs.
Jones said the additional charges came after he and his team listened to “S-Town” and heard Goodson talk about some of the things he took from the property.
“In the podcast, he basically admits to the trespass and the burglaries and the thefts,” Jones said.
Jones said he intends to introduce parts of the edited podcast into court as evidence, pending approval by a judge.
“That podcast is going to be very important because it’s the only way of proving that the burglaries occurred,” he said. “I’m sure they (Goodson’s lawyer J.D. Terry) will try to keep it out, and we will try to keep it.”
Jones said even though “S-Town” creator and host Brian Reed would be an asset to his case, it would be hard to get him to come from his home in New York to speak about the case.
“It would be easier to get the evidence if Brian Reed was there to testify, but I don’t see that as a possibility,” he said.
Attempts to reach Reed by email were not successful.
Terry said he will likely try to file more motions leading up to the trial, but would not comment on them because the new indictment has not been entered in the case yet.
“Until it does, I’m just sitting here in limbo,” Terry said.
Terry said he has received a lot of attention since “S-Town” was released, going as far as claiming to have seen reporters from a British tabloid newspaper outside his office once.
“This is a rare case,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a case like this one with the publicity.”