Courts

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Traffic arrests made outside a police officer's jurisdiction are a no-no, says Georgia's highest court

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 at 11:24 AM

GEORGIA SUPREME COURT
  • Georgia Supreme Court
Police officers can not make traffic arrests outside of their jurisdiction, the Georgia Supreme Court said in a unanimous ruling last week. 

The ruling stemmed from a 2013 case when Kennesaw State University Police Department Officer Decri Mason stopped and arrested motorist Bajrodin Zilke for two counts of D.U.I, failing to maintain lane, and operating a vehicle without headlights.

However, Zilke was arrested in Marietta, a good 10 miles outside of the KSU police department’s jurisdiction. According to the court, Mason was on his way back to campus after dropping off an arrestee at the Cobb County jail. The high court said that because Mason hadn’t witnessed the crime at KSU, and because he was outside of his jurisdiction, he had no legal authority to make an arrest.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fulton solicitor-general candidates say black lives matter

Posted By on Wed, May 18, 2016 at 11:54 AM

Candidates for solicitor-general of Fulton County, from left to right: Keith Gammage, Clint Rucker, and Teri Walker - MAGGIE LEE
  • Maggie Lee
  • Candidates for solicitor-general of Fulton County, from left to right: Keith Gammage, Clint Rucker, and Teri Walker
Down at the bottom of Fulton County voters' ballots on Tuesday is an office that’s not getting a lot of attention, but that is very important to the thousands of people who get busted for misdemeanors every year, or for those who are victims of crimes such as domestic battery.

A new solicitor-general will be chosen to head the office that handles misdemeanor prosecutions like simple battery, simple assault, stalking, driving under the influence, shoplifting, trespass, and marijuana possession of less than one ounce.

The election for solicitor-general is important enough to a coalition of Atlanta grassroots civil rights organizations that they held a forum for the three candidates, all Democrats, in the Old Fourth Ward on Wednesday night.

The problem, say activists like Mary Hooks, is that the criminal justice system is not serving justice. Law enforcement targets urban, black neighborhoods, she said, and people who haven’t been convicted are sitting in jail just because they can’t afford bail. And the solicitor plays a role.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Questions remain in 2015 Mechanicsville officer-involved shooting

Posted By on Mon, May 9, 2016 at 12:48 PM

JOEFF DAVIS/CL FILE
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
Twelve months ago, Yuric Ussery ran from two Atlanta Police Department officers when they tried to stop him while he was walking in Mechanicsville.

They shot him multiple times in the back. The officers said Ussery pointed a pistol at them while fleeing through the southwest Atlanta neighborhood, according to a police report. But after a hearing, a Fulton magistrate granted Ussery a $10,000 bond despite serious charges of aggravated assault on a police officer.

To this day, Ussery has never been indicted on the charges. That may be because he is not the only one under investigation.

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Fulton ADA, APD found in contempt for not sharing confidential informant information with public defender

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2016 at 2:49 PM

Leah Abbasi, an attorney with metro conflict defender, a state agency that defends indigent people. Abbasi was stonewalled after requesting information related to a paid confidential informant in a murder case she's defending. - JOEFF DAVIS/CL FILE
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • Leah Abbasi, an attorney with metro conflict defender, a state agency that defends indigent people. Abbasi was stonewalled after requesting information related to a paid confidential informant in a murder case she's defending.

Last March, Leah Abbasi, a lawyer in the Metro Conflict Defender's office, asked the Atlanta Police Department for information about a potential witness who could testify in a case involving her client's murder case. The witness, according to court documents, is a confidential informant, and Abbasi wanted to know how much they had been paid and their role in other investigations.

Months dragged on and no progress was made. When it came time for Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard's office to follow a judge’s order and turn over information, Abbasi was told the information didn’t exist. Only after Abbasi threatened to file a motion for contempt did the information arrive.

Now a judge has found the APD and Assistant District Attorney Vincent Faucette — whom the judge has jousted with in court in the past — in contempt. She’s given the police and prosecutor two options: Pay $1,000 each in fines or come back within 30 days with a training procedure to avoid delaying justice again.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Kenneth Fults to be executed tonight after paroles board rejects claims of juror's racial bias

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 6:40 PM

GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
  • Georgia Department of Corrections
Kenneth Fults is scheduled to die tonight at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Jackson, Georgia.

Fults, now 48, pled guilty to the 1996 murder of 19-year-old Cathy Bounds, who lived in a trailer next door. The Spalding county murder was brutal — Fults entered Bounds' home, made sure her head was wrapped and eyes closed with over six feet of electrical tape, and made her lie face-down on the bed and placed a pillow over her head. He then shot her five times in the back of the head. He wrote about the murder in a letter to fellow gang members.

Whether or not Fults committed the crime wasn’t in question for long. He pled guilty just as opening statements were beginning at his 1997 trial. What has been debated, however, was whether Fults’ right to a fair trial was upheld.

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

City Council committee approves $2 million payout in APD use-of-force case

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 2:01 PM

JOEFF DAVIS/CL FILE
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
Almost exactly three years after an encounter between an Atlanta police officer and a man at a gas station on Jonesboro Road, the story looks likely to end with a $2 million payout by the city.

That’s the sum an Atlanta City Council committee unanimously approved on March 29 to settle a civil lawsuit brought by Will King, who has accused then-Officer Kylema Jackson of an unjustified use of force in a 2013 shooting.

Atlanta City Councilman C.T. Martin, chair of the Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee, said that in voting for the sum he was deferring to the opinion of the city’s lawyers and that litigating the case could cost more money.

In the early evening of April 4, 2013, a silver Pontiac Bonneville pulled into the Citgo parking lot on Jonesboro Road just outside I-285, according to court records. Jackson pulled in and approached the vehicle.

The vehicle had an expired tag, no insurance, and matched the description of a vehicle suspected of being used in some area robberies, according to the Atlanta Police Department’s initial incident report.

In their filing, King’s attorneys said that the car had an improper dealer tag, but that their client and the passengers in the car did nothing to cause Jackson to believe that they posed an immediate threat of physical violence or had committed felonies. 

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Former state Rep. Tyrone Brooks sentenced to a year and a day in prison

Posted By on Mon, Nov 9, 2015 at 6:04 PM

Former state Rep. Tyrone Brooks speaks during a 2013 press conference at the Moores Ford Bridge. - JOEFF DAVIS/CL FILE
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • Former state Rep. Tyrone Brooks speaks during a 2013 press conference at the Moores Ford Bridge.
Longtime civil rights worker and former state lawmaker Tyrone Brooks was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison on Monday for fraud.

“This is a very difficult, sad case,” U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg said to the packed courtroom awaiting the verdict after a week of sentencing hearings.

Federal prosecutors said Brooks made false statements when he solicited donations to Universal Humanities, a nonprofit he had founded in 1991 and run almost single-handedly. It was meant to advance more than a dozen causes, including literacy.

Prosecutors accused the Atlanta Democrat of using peoples’ names as board members when they were not actually board members. And they said he was not running the programs his solicitations advertised. From 1993 through 2012, the government alleged he diverted some $1 million in charitable donations from corporations such as Coca-Cola and Georgia Pacific to his own pocket.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Driver in hit-and-run that seriously injured Decatur bicyclist sentenced to 15 years

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 5:31 PM

Greg Germani - COURTESY OF BETH ANNE HARRILL
  • Courtesy of Beth Anne Harrill
  • Greg Germani
Joseph Alan Lewis was sentenced Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court to 15 years in prison for running over Greg Germani, a bicyclist, record collector, and creator of the beloved Atlanta Time Machine blog, after a road rage altercation last June.

Lewis, then 19, was accused of striking Germani with his SUV on Flagler Avenue in Piedmont Heights before speeding off, leaving the bicyclist with severe brain injuries beneath a parked car.

Charges against Lewis' girlfriend Shanelle Woodward — whom police said assisted him with a cover-up of the incident — were dropped because she cooperated with prosecutors. 

Lewis entered a guilty plea on some charges and claimed first-offender status, and was given 15 years behind bars. However, he could face nearly 70 years in prison if he violates the conditions of his sentence, according to CBS 46

According to Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard's office, Lewis plead guilty to serious injury by vehicle, hit and run, criminal damage to property in the 1st degree, tampering with evidence, reckless driving, failure to report an accident, driving without a valid license and expired or no license plate/decal.

Beth Anne Harrill, Germani's girlfriend, and his brother John read impact statements to the court during Tuesday's hearing. Lewis also apologized to the family in court. (Efforts to reach Harrill were unsuccessful.)

While Lewis spends his time in prison, Germani will continue recovering from the injuries sustained when Lewis' SUV dragged him down the street, leaving him beneath a parked vehicle. In June, friends and family told Decaturish that Germani had made significant progress but will be "recovering for the rest of his life."

Harrill launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for his recovery efforts. According to the fundraiser page, that entails "a lengthy treatment plan requiring outpatient therapy, in-home care, the purchase of rehabilitative equipment, and potential modifications to Greg’s home." In the 14 months since the fundraiser has been live, supporters have helped contribute more than $75,000 of the $100,000 goal.  

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Retroactive first-offender sentencing could help some ex-cons clean the slate

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 2:36 PM

JOEFF DAVIS/CL FILE
  • JOEFF DAVIS/CL FILE
On Sept. 24, a Cobb County judge wiped clean the record of a 40-year-old man who had long been haunted by felony drug charges he picked up when he was 19 years old.

In July, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law House Bill 310. The measure overhauled Georgia's probation system by creating a new state agency to oversee offenders, enacting transparency requirements for private probation companies, and relaxing some regulations for men and women on probation.

The new law also allowed the Cobb man charged in 1994 to be resentenced under the First Offender Act, meaning his drug conviction gets dropped and his record gets sealed. The now-businessman was granted Georgia's first retroactive first offender resentencing for the charges because, as Cobb's District Attorney Vic Reynolds says, "he earned it."

Robert Hyden, the attorney representing the man, says his client has paid his debt to society. The new law allows people bogged down by old charges, if they quality, to reenter the job market without a black spot on their records. The option is only available to people whose attorney did not make them aware of first-offender eligibility when their case was resolved.  

“We always hear about recidivists," Hyden says. "We never hear about those who change their lives and make something positive... If a person is granted First Offender [status]… under state law, a job cannot use [a prior charge] against you."

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 10:21 AM

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 5-4 this morning that same-sex couples across the country have the constitutional right to marry. That includes Georgia, where voters approved the state’s same-sex marriage ban in 2004.

According to Greg Bluestein of the AJC, couples are ready:


Fulton County Chairman John Eaves earlier this month said the county was preparing to handle same-sex marriages. Emanuel County Probate Judge Don Wilkes said told the Judicial Council of Georgia in April that judges across the country were also taking steps to ensure a smooth transition if the ruling recognized the rights of same-sex couples.

Celebration events have been scheduled to take place in Atlanta if a ruling was favorable to same-sex marriage. One is planned for 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue, what has long been the heart of Atlanta’s LGBT community. Other events are planned for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights starting at 4:30 p.m. and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church this evening.

This is a developing story. More to come.

SCOTUS same-sex marriage ruling by thomaswheatley

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