I am sending this on short notice. I realize the Senate is receiving pressure from the PAC and The Sheriffs Association re HB941.
The citizens of Georgia deserve independent and incorruptible review of the serious cases covered by this bill. Brian Fortner is an honest, courageous prosecutor, but he is wrong on this case.
In June, 2010, Caroline Small was shot to death in a tiny, front yard at 228 Armstrong, Brunswick, Glynn County, Georgia. Google it. Her car was wedged between a utility pole, Trooper Malones car and Officer Robert Sassers car, and flanked by Officer Jason Dixon’s car and Officer Todd Simpson’s SUV. She had no place to go.
Simpson and Sasser shot her to death from just a few feet away. Trooper Malone did not shoot. Officer Dixon did not shoot.
Officer Simpson was on desk duty and had no business joining the chase. He admitted to the GBI officer that he was suffering brain seizures and was on serious medication. Officer Sasser had been the instigator in a prior unauthorized use of deadly force case in 2005, at a drug stop across from the local State College.
Within a few days of this tragedy Jackie Johnson was appointed DA. A few days later, she called me to a meeting in her office to discuss a recent Drug Sting. I was the Drug Court prosecutor. During the discussion I told Jackie that I thought it was important to present the Caroline Small case to the Grand Jury for indictment. I told her that based on my experience as a former police officer and as a prosecutor in GlynnCounty, 95-98% of our officers would not have shot Caroline in those circumstances. I said this in the presence of Stephen Kelley, the former DA and the newly appointed Superior Court Judge, Sherry Boyd and Paul Jones, our most senior Victim Advocates.
Jackie said she was not going to prejudge the case but would consult her friend, Rick Curry the DA from Ware County.
Within days, Jackie fired David Perry, the immediately prior Acting DA claiming in his personal file that his actions and statements to the effect that this case needed to be presented to the Grand Jury, had compromised her ability to work with the Police Department (GCPD). This fact alone, as a matter of proper prosecutorial ethics, required her to forward the case to the Attorney General. She did not.
From that time forward, she fired several other attorneys and staff without cause, several based on their beliefs and statements regarding the handling of the Caroline Small case.
Much of this tragedy and the misconduct has been accurately documented by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Georgia Times Union. The local Brunswick News has continued to mislead and lie to the local citizenry about this case. Jackie Johnson never presented an indictment to the Grand Jury. She froze our office staff out of this case, and conducted it out of Camden County. Contrary to our long established procedures, she bargained with the defense attorneys for Sasser and Simpson (Altman and Chamberlain) that she would not present and indictment so long as the officers came and testified. This is not authorized by law or practice.
At the Grand Jury presentation, for which none of our staff nor the victim’s family or attorney had notice, Johnson was asked about the charges. She replied there were none. They could only vote on whether the officers were justified, and 12 votes were needed. This can be confirmed by my friend and neighbor who served, Chuck McManus. By the way, Mr. McManus has serious credibility. He was the Senior Civilian Attorney for the Naval Air Systems Command, , thus the lead legal advisor for the contracts which built our Navy planes and Air Systems which protect you as you serve in the State Capitol this very day!!!
She allowed the defense attorneys to comment and question, and she presented a falsely constructed mock-up/not to scale reconstruction to be played to the Grand Jury.
I am able to come on short notice and testify why this is a classic case, which mandates the need for a Special Prosecutor in these extraordinary circumstances. The local citizenry cannot be expected to babysit a DA and discern when they violate their oath. Please do not buckle to the political pressure. Follow your conscience and your own instinct for truth.
David A. Peterson Carleton College 1968 US Navy officer and enlisted 1970-1977 Univ of Virgiina School of Law 1974-1977 Mass Mutual 1977-1980 District Court Law Clerk 80-81 Private Practice Peterson and Peterson Faribault MN 1981-2004 Asst District Attorney Brunswick Jud District under Hon. Stephen Kelley 2005-2010 plus