Sparks, a former Polk County Police Department investigator, is accused of running a Cedartown chop shop and is standing trial in U.S. District Court in Rome.
During a cross examination Monday, Cates said he contacted police in an effort to lead them in the wrong direction and accuse Johnny Lee Summerville, a Cedartown auto salvage yard owner, arrested in connection with the car theft ring in May. Pretrial motions in Summerville’s case are set for Aug. 2.
“Mark told me to throw everything on Johnny,” Cates said.
According to Cates, Sparks told him police were conducting a flyover of his property to search for stolen vehicles and that an issue for his arrest had been drafted.
Cates said he wore a wire when dealing with all of the men who were allegedly involved in the thefts. When the others became suspicious of his police involvement, they confronted him, Cates said, and Summerville even made him strip down to his underwear before speaking to him.
Sparks pleaded not guilty to six charges against him including running an illegal chop shop and interfering with a federal investigation by tipping off Cates.
“Law enforcement was the only ones that knew about the flyover, about (police) following me, about the warrant. The man on trial today was the only one who told me. How else would I know?” Cates said.
Sparks’ attorney, Jimmie Berry, said during cross-examination that Cates’ testimony had changed throughout the course of the investigation and trial and Cates had trouble remembering when the alleged thefts and investigation tampering occurred.
“It’s like this. We were all involved in this stuff together. I don’t want to see Mark go to jail,” Cates said. “He’s got a family, too. I don’t want to see me go to jail, we did this and at the end of this they’re gonna charge me, too. I gotta take my beating, too.” Cates has not been charged.
Sparks’ trial will continue today at 9:30 a.m. in Judge Harold L. Murphy’s courtroom.