DeKalb County Georgia Judge Cynthia J. Becker, May Get Her Just Due!

New Trials for DeKalb Corruption Convicts Were Wrong, Judges Say

Kathleen Baydala Joyner, Daily Report

http://www.dailyreportonline.com/id=1202720970954?keywords=Pat+Reid+Tony+Pope&publication=Daily+Report&slreturn=20150223141513

March 18, 2015

The Georgia Court of Appeals has agreed with prosecutors that DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Becker was wrong to reverse the felony corruption convictions of a former county school district administrator and her ex-husband.

The decision by the three-judge appeals panel on Wednesday extends a roller-coaster ride for the defendants, who were released from prison after Becker’s surprise order last fall. The appeals court vacated Becker’s order granting a new trial to former schools chief operating officer Pat Reid.

Judge William Ray II wrote for the panel that even though Becker didn’t believe the testimony of Reid’s co-defendant and former boss, Crawford Lewis, Becker did not fully weigh Lewis’ testimony against the remaining evidence before granting a new trial to Reid. The court remanded Reid’s case to the trial court for further consideration of Reid’s motion for new trial.

The panel also reversed Becker’s order granting a new trial to Reid’s ex-husband, architect Tony Pope, stating she lacked authority over that matter.

A county grand jury indicted Reid, Pope and Lewis, the former schools superintendent, for conspiracy and theft in July 2013. The charges stemmed from allegations they manipulated school construction contracts for personal gain.

In October 2013, Lewis pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction charge in exchange for his testimony at trial against Reid and Pope. A trial jury convicted Reid and Pope in November 2013 of racketeering. Reid also was convicted of theft.

Reid received a 15-year prison sentence, and Pope received an eight-year prison sentence.

Lewis’ plea agreement with the DeKalb district attorney’s office called for a sentence of 12 months of probation. But Becker rejected that part of the deal and instead sentenced Lewis to a year in prison.

“Without challenging the truthfulness of Lewis’ testimony, the trial judge—admittedly incensed by what she considered to be the ‘abhorrent’ criminal conduct of all involved—emphasized that Lewis was ‘a public official, this was on his watch, he stood by. And then he hindered and interfered with and tried to stop the completion of a rightful, lawful investigation,'” Ray wrote in the opinion, quoting Becker’s words at Lewis’ sentencing.

Lewis then filed a motion for reconsideration, which Becker denied. The appeals court found Becker “changed her rationale for refusing to consummate the previously agreed upon plea deal, and stated for the first time that her rejection of Lewis’ plea and the resultant sentence were based upon ‘the credibility, the believability, the probability or the improbability of (Lewis’) testimony.'”

Lewis appealed, and the DA’s office—concerned about its credibility in making plea deals—took Lewis’ side. The Court of Appeals last October remanded Lewis’ case to Becker so she could identify specific testimony by Lewis that she considered to be questionable. In a footnote of that opinion, the court implied that if the credibility of Lewis’ testimony was in question, then the validity of Reid’s and Pope’s convictions should also be questioned.

Becker responded before the appeals court could send its remittitur, pointing out pieces of Lewis’ testimony she found untruthful and ordering new trials for Reid and Pope.

The Court of Appeals responded, halting her orders and the release of Reid and Pope from prison.

Reid and Pope had indeed filed motions for new trials, but Pope’s attorney withdrew his motion just before Becker entered her order and filed a notice of appeal. The DA’s office has alleged that this action was the result of ex parte communications between Becker and Pope’s lawyer.

Because Pope no longer had a pending motion for new trial, the Court of Appeals on Wednesday found that Becker’s order related to Pope was improper as a matter of law.

Becker later acknowledged that she was the subject of an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission but said she would step down March 1 to get married. Gov. Nathan Deal received a short list of candidates from his Judicial Nominating Commission nearly two months ago but has not yet made an appointment.

DeKalb Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams granted Reid and Pope bond in December.

A spokesman for DeKalb District Attorney Robert James had no comment.

Reid’s attorney, Tony Axam, said his client will remain free on bond while the trial court considers her motion for new trial. Axam also said he is confident that Lewis’ testimony was crucial for prosecutors and so the remaining evidence would not be enough to convict his client.

However, Axam seemed perplexed that another judge, one who did not witness Lewis’ testimony first hand, will be the one to decide whether Reid should get a new trial.

“I contend only Judge Becker can talk about whether Crawford Lewis passed the smell test,” he said.

Axam said he may consider subpoenaing Becker as a witness.

Pope’s attorney, John Petrey, could not be reached for comment

JQC Files Complaint Against Ex-DeKalb Judge

Kathleen Baydala Joyner, Daily Report

http://www.dailyreportonline.com/id=1202721365396/JQC-Files-Complaint-Against-ExDeKalb-Judge?et=editorial&bu=Daily%20Report&cn=20150323&src=EMC-Email&pt=Breaking%20News&slreturn=20150223141240

March 23, 2015    | 0 Comments

(Image of Cynthia Becker Courtesy of KENT D. JOHNSON/AJC)

Former DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Becker is the subject of an official ethics complaint filed Monday with the Supreme Court of Georgia.

The state Judicial Qualifications Commission, the agency tasked with investigating and prosecuting wayward judges, has charged Becker with six counts of violating the Code of Judicial Conduct, mostly related to her handling of a 2013 DeKalb County schools corruption case.

That case resulted in the convictions of former school system COO Pat Reid and her ex-husband, architect Tony Pope. The jury found that Reid and Pope conspired to fix school construction contracts for personal gain. Former schools superintendent Crawford Lewis was to be a co-defendant in the case but took a pretrial deal in which he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction charge in exchange for his testimony against Reid and Pope. All three were eventually sentenced to prison time.

Lewis successfully appealed his sentence to the state Court of Appeals, with the judges holding that Becker should have honored the district attorney’s deal allowing Lewis to be free on probation. Becker had said she didn’t believe Lewis’ testimony.

The state Court of Appeals last week overturned Becker’s order granting new trials for Reid and Pope.

In its filing with the high court, the JQC charged Becker with failing to honor the plea agreement between Lewis and the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office; making false or misleading statements to the commission about whether she knew if Lewis or his attorneys had sought bond; engaging in improper ex parte communications with attorneys for Reid and Pope; and making public comments in a political forum about the Lewis case.

Two other charges stemmed from her actions while serving as the court’s November/December grand jury term judge. The JQC has charged Becker with refusing to perform her duty to charge the jurors and accept the return of new indictments in open court.

Although Becker stepped down from the bench on March 1, as she promised to do last fall, the JQC claims she is still subject to the judicial code because a complaint was filed within a year of her time as a judge.

Becker said Monday that she had not seen the JQC’s filing and had no comment on its contents.

The Daily Report will have more details later Monday and in Tuesday’s print edition.

ALL IN THE FAMILY! The husband of former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer has pleaded guilty to illegally obtaining county funds to help fund his and his wife’s personal lives

Husband of Former DeKalb Commissioner Pleads Guilty Theft of Funds

The husband and wife concocted a scheme to use county funds to pay for personal expenses.
By Justin Ove (Patch Staff)
February 26, 2015 at 11:47am

Husband of Former DeKalb Commissioner Pleads Guilty Theft of Funds
The husband of former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer has pleaded guilty to illegally obtaining county funds to help fund his and his wife’s personal lives, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced this week.

John Boyer brewed up a kickback scheme which saw Boyer hire a family friend as an advisor, who then submitted invoices to the county to the tune of $80,000, prosecutors said. As it turns out, the advisor did nothing to benefit DeKalb County, and $60,000 of the invoice money was funneled into the Boyers’ bank account to alleviate their personal financial problems.

Elaine Boyer resigned from the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners on Aug. 25, 2014 and subsequently pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. Her sentencing hearing will be held on March 20.

John Boyer pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud, and will be sentenced on March 6.

AJC: Police ID man shot by officer at DeKalb apartment complex 6:11 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014

Mike Morris
Police ID man shot by officer at DeKalb apartment complex
6:11 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014 | Filed in: Local News


http://www.ajc.com/news/news/police-armed-man-shot-by-officer-at-dekalb-apartme/njcn9/

The shooting happened at the Marquis Forest apartments on Pine Tree Circle.
Justin Crate/ WSB-TV

The shooting happened at the Marquis Forest apartments on Pine Tree Circle.
An armed man was shot by a DeKalb County officer who went to an apartment complex off Covington Highway on Monday night to investigate a stabbing, police said.

The incident happened around 8:50 p.m. at the Marquis Forest Apartments on Pine Tree Circle after someone called 911 to report the stabbing. The responding officer heard loud arguing as he approached the apartment, and it continued even after he knocked on the apartment door, which went unanswered. As the officer opened the door, he was charged by a large dog, which he was forced to fatally shoot, DeKalb police spokesman Capt. Stephen Fore said.

The dog’s owner then came to the door holding a gun. The officer ordered the man to drop the weapon several times, but he refused, police said. That led the officer to shoot the man, identified as 44-year-old Kevin Davis.

DeKalb officer shoots suspect after responding to stabbing call
Davis was struck in the abdomen, and he was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in critical condition. He faces a charge of aggravated assault on a police officer, Fore said.

Inside the apartment, authorities found a 37-year-old woman suffering from a non-life-threatening stab wound. She also was taken to Grady.

The suspect in the woman’s stabbing, who was not named by police Tuesday evening, returned to the apartment and was taken into police custody.

Davis is not a suspect in the stabbing, Fore said.

No officers were hurt during the incident, which remains under investigation.

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Nuclear Exodus explores the ties that inexorably bind the nuclear power industry to the military industrial complex, and how the lust for nuclear weapons causes governments to push nuclear power on their citizens, while covering up the true health effects of radiation exposure. It delves deep into the legacy & lessons of Chernobyl, nuclear waste management, nuclear terrorism, & solar flares which could potentially trigger hundreds of nuclear meltdowns across the world – threatening life on Earth as we know it.
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ANYBODY CAN FORECLOSE ON YOU IN GEORGIA!

WTF?

The Georgia Supreme Court determined back when they made the ruling on the You case, that the foreclosing entity does not have to hold the Note, does not have to hold the security deed, and does not have to have an interest in the loan.’

It should not surprise anyone, they had been allowing it to go on for a long time.  Now, I am seeing the people who were foreclosed upon between 4 and 6 years ago, are being foreclosed upon again, but this time, by someone new, a different Lender, that never existed.  One day the real Lender will come, and they too will foreclose on the borrower.

Has everything gotten so bad, that the courts just don’t care?  What ever happened to contract law?  Are they going to allow all contracts to be violated by lenders, or just when it comes to real property?

I saw someone the other day, Bank of America had allegedly foreclosed upon the man.  Bank of America not only foreclosed, but evicted  the man as well.  Bank of Americas name is on the  Deed Under Power.  Bank of America swore under Oath that they were the current party with right to foreclose.  A month and a half later, US Bank sold the property to a third party, because they claim that they were the party with rights to the property.

So lets’s get this straight, when did Bank of America turn into US Bank?  There was nothing in the record showing Bank of America had any claim to the Note or Deed, nothing showing that Bank of America is anything to the loan.  The Deed Under Power of Sale, has Bank of America’s name on  it, with some of those squiggly marks that the foreclosing attorneys have been signing for years, to create a fictional assignment.  But… US Bank be damned, they were going to get some of that action.  So without any documentation recorded anywhere, of any kind, US Bank sold the property to a third party.

Good Ole DeKalb County!

 

http://biscuette.com/2012/07/16/fake-gregory-adams-debra-deberry-fun-new-characters-in-the-tragi-comedy-of-dekalb-county-government/#comment-2552

le biscuette Has It Right, Thank You For Your Truthful Rendition of DeKalb County, Georgia!!!

Fake Gregory Adams, Debra DeBerry Fun New Characters in the Tragi-comedy of Dekalb County Government

July 16, 2012

By 

Ah, Dekalb County, what a thriving bastion of the American spirit. We’ve been blessed with such American heroes as Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who proudly took to Libyan state television to decry US involvement in the movement against brutal dictator Moammar Gaddafi; there’s former Dekalb CEO Vernon Jones, for whom Dekalb taxpayers are on the hook for upwards of five million dollars in legal fees for a reverse discrimination lawsuit; we’ve got Dekalb school superintendent Crawford Lewis, indicted for operating a “crime ring” from his post. And these are just the most visible of our trusted public servants. Beneath the crusty surface of Dekalb County’s political life–embodied by McKinney, Jones, Lewis, and the like–is a colorful cast of crooks and con artists whose power to defraud derives from their elected or appointed post.

The July 31, 2012 political primary election has brought forth at least two fun new characters. And that’s sort of exciting, isn’t it? It’s like getting a new Angry Bird, or a zany addition to the cast of the Simpsons. It’s a fun addition to what is already a colorful and hilarious mix of deviants, a new car full of clowns to delight and entertain us as they bilk our precious tax dollars, and wreck our sacred institutions, for their own corrupt ends.

Let’s turn first to Debra DeBerry, who currently sits as the Clerk of Superior Court of Dekalb County. This is basically the person in charge of administering the functions of the highest county court, where death penalties can be issued, huge civil verdicts reached, marriages dissolved–basically, all the most important and consequential events that can happen in the life of a county. How did DeBerry become the Clerk? You’d assume she was elected, right? Nope. Or appointed by the governor, something to that effect? Not exactly. Deberry became Clerk in 2011 after the long-term Clerk, Linda Carter, resigned. No big deal, right? Well…

According to lawyers representing Linda Carter, Carter didn’t write her resignation letter. It was written by–guess who?–Debra DeBerry, signed by Carter, and then delivered to the governor’s office that very day by one of DeBerry’s subordinates. At the time, Carter was suffering from an Alzheimer’s-like mental illness. The kicker: not only did the DeBerry-drafted letter announce Carter’s resignation, it also named DeBerry as Carter’s replacement. Some coverage of the scandal below:

Now, of course, DeBerry denied wrongdoing. And apparently the lawsuit was settled before trial, so we’ll never know who was “right or wrong” here. But the entire situation smells incredibly nasty, doesn’t it?

Those We Look to for Protection

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corrupt  photo

Phil Skinner, pskinner@ajc.com

U.S. Attorney Sally Yates (center) announces that ten local police officers have been arrested on corruption charges in a press conference at the Richard B. Russell Federal Building in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday Feb. 12th, 2013.

By Steve Visser

Staff

Federal authorities announced the arrest of 10 metro law enforcement officers Tuesday on charges of arranging protection for a street gang’s drug deals.

“Obviously the breadth of the corruption is very troubling,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Yates . “It is certainly the most (officers) this office has charged in a long time.”

The case began as a street gang investigation by the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, whose undercover agents learned that gangs had officers on the payroll for protection, Yates said. The FBI took command of the public corruption aspects of the case.

At least one officer recommended that the gang use a school parking lot to exchange drugs for cash because trading backpacks there would not look suspicious, Yates said at a 2 p.m. news conference.

The law enforcement officers arrested today were: Atlanta Police Department Officer Kelvin Allen, 42, of Atlanta; DeKalb County Police Department Officers Dennis Duren, 32, of Atlanta and Dorian Williams, 25, of Stone Mountain, Georgia; Forest Park Police Department Sergeants Victor Middlebrook, 44, of Jonesboro, Georgia and Andrew Monroe, 57, of Riverdale, Georgia; MARTA Police Department Officer Marquez Holmes, 45, of Jonesboro, Georgia; Stone Mountain Police Department Officer Denoris Carter, 42, of Lithonia, Georgia, and contract Federal Protective Services Officer Sharon Peters, 43, of Lithonia, Georgia. Agents also arrested two former law enforcement officers: former DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office jail officers Monyette McLaurin, 37, of Atlanta, and Chase Valentine, 44, of Covington, Georgia.

Civilians arrested today were: Shannon Bass, 38, of Atlanta; Elizabeth Coss, 35, of Atlanta; Gregory Lee Harvey, 26, of Stone Mountain, Georgia; Alexander B. Hill, 22, of Ellenwood, Georgia; and Jerry B. Mannery, Jr., 38, of Tucker, Georgia.

Some of the officers were retired and some were active duty. The highest rank was sergeant and the payoffs ranged as high as $7,000 per transaction. Each transaction involved at least five kilograms of cocaine, which carries a 10 year minimum sentence, Yates said.

Officers were involved in multiple transactions, provided escorts to dealers and buyers and offered to provided muscle if necessary to protect their clients, Yates said.

Yates said the investigation is ongoing and declined to say whether more officers would be arrested.

ATF Special Agent in Charge Scott Sweetow would not name the street gang involved but he suggested the public corruption aspects would be more far-ranging.

“I can say this is probably not the last you will be hearing of this case,” he said.

A press release from Yates’ office detailed the following allegations:

DeKalb County Police Department

Between October 2011 and November 2011, DeKalb County Police Officer Dennis Duren, working together with Bass, provided protection for what he and Bass believed were four separate transactions in the Atlanta area that involved multiple kilograms of cocaine. Duren and Bass accepted cash payments totaling $8,800 for these services. During the transactions, Duren was dressed in his DeKalb County Police uniform and carried a gun in a holster on his belt, as he patrolled on foot in the parking lots in which the undercover sales took place. After the first two transactions, Duren allegedly offered to drive his patrol vehicle to future transactions for an additional $800 fee, and afterward received an additional $800 in cash for using his patrol vehicle in the final transaction in November 2011. Duren and Bass are each charged with conspiring to commit extortion by accepting bribe payments and attempted possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. Duren also is charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Between January and February 2013, DeKalb County Police Officer Dorian Williams, working together with Mannery and Bass, provided protection for what he and Mannery believed were three separate transactions in the Atlanta area that involved multiple kilograms of cocaine. Williams and Mannery accepted cash payments totaling $18,000 for these services. During the transactions, Williams was dressed in his DeKalb County Police uniform and carried a gun in a holster on his belt, and he patrolled the parking lots in which the undercover sales took place in his DeKalb Police vehicle. During a meeting between the three transactions, Williams allegedly instructed Bass to remove any cocaine from the scene if Williams had to shoot someone during the upcoming sale. In another meeting, Williams suggested that future drug transactions should take place in the parking lot of a local high school during the afternoon, so that the exchange of backpacks containing drugs and money would not look suspicious. Williams and Mannery are each charged with conspiring to commit extortion by accepting bribe payments and attempted possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.

Stone Mountain Police Department

Between April and September 2012, Stone Mountain Police Officer Denoris Carter, working together with Mannery, provided protection for what he and Mannery believed were five separate transactions in the Atlanta area that involved multiple kilograms of cocaine. For these services, Carter and Mannery accepted cash payments totaling $23,500. For all five transactions, Carter dressed in his Stone Mountain Police uniform. In four of the deals, he arrived in his police cruiser and either patrolled or parked in the parking lots in which the undercover sales took place and watched the transactions. During the final transaction in September 2012, Carter was on foot, displaying a firearm in a holster on his belt, and he walked through the parking lot in which the transaction took place and watched the participants. Finally, during one of the transactions, Carter agreed to escort the purchaser of the sham cocaine in his police vehicle for several miles, until the purchaser reached Highway 78. Carter is charged with conspiring to commit extortion by accepting bribe payments, attempted possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Atlanta Police Department

Between June and August 2012, Atlanta Police officer Kelvin D. Allen, working together with Coss, provided protection for what he and Coss believed were three separate transactions in the Atlanta area that involved multiple kilograms of cocaine. Allen and Coss accepted cash payments totaling $10,500 for their services. For two transactions, Allen dressed in his Atlanta Police uniform and carried a gun in a holster on his belt. Allen patrolled on foot in parking lots in which the undercover sales took place and appeared to be monitoring the transactions. During a meeting after the three transactions, a cooperator gave Allen and Coss each a $1,000 bonus payment in return for protecting the three transactions. Allen and Coss are each charged with conspiring to commit extortion by accepting bribe payments and attempted possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. Allen also is charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

MARTA Police Department

Between August and November 2012, MARTA Police Department Officer Marquez Holmes, working together with Coss, provided protection for what he and Coss believed were four separate transactions in the Atlanta area that involved multiple kilograms of cocaine. For these services, Holmes and Coss accepted cash payments totaling $9,000. During the transactions, Holmes was dressed in his MARTA Police uniform and carried a gun in a holster on his belt. In two of the transactions, Holmes patrolled on foot in the parking lots in which the undercover sales took place and monitored the transactions. During the other two deals, Holmes drove to the site in his MARTA police cruiser and parked next to the vehicles in which the undercover drug sale took place. Holmes is charged with conspiring to commit extortion by accepting bribe payments, attempted possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Forest Park Police Department

Between October to December 2012, Forest Park Police Sergeants Victor Middlebrook and Andrew Monroe, sometimes working alone and at other times together, provided protection for what they believed were six separate drug deals in the Atlanta area, all involving multiple kilograms of cocaine. For his services in the first four transactions, Middlebook accepted cash payments totaling $13,800. During these transactions, Middlebrook wore plain clothes, but displayed his badge and a firearm in a holster on his belt. He patrolled on foot in the parking lots nearby the vehicles in which the undercover sales took place and appeared to be monitoring the transactions. For the final two transactions, both Middlebrook and Monroe provided security and were given cash payments totaling $10,400. Middlebrook again monitored the transactions on foot in plain clothes while displaying his badge and gun, while Monroe watched from his vehicle in the parking lot and afterward escorted the purchaser of the sham cocaine for several miles. Middlebrook and Monroe are charged with conspiring to commit extortion by accepting bribe payments and attempted possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine; Middlebrook is also charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office

In January 2013, former DeKalb County Sheriff Jail Officer Monyette McLaurin, working together with Harvey, provided protection for what they believed were two separate drug transactions in the Atlanta area that involved multiple kilograms of cocaine. Harvey already had provided security for two undercover drug transactions in December 2012, falsely representing that he was a DeKalb County detention officer and wearing a black shirt with the letters “SHERIFF” printed across the back during the transactions. Harvey then stated that he knew other police officers who wanted to protect drug deals, and in January 2013 he introduced McLaurin as one of these officers. During a meeting to discuss future drug transactions, McLaurin falsely represented that he was a deputy employed by the DeKalb Sheriff’s office, even though his position as a jail officer ended in 2011. McLaurin and Harvey further stated during this meeting that they may need to kill another person who knew that Harvey had protected drug deals, if this person reported the activity to others.

During the two transactions in January 2013, McLaurin was dressed in a DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office uniform with a badge, and he carried a gun in a holster on his belt. He accompanied the undercover seller of the cocaine to pick up the drugs from a warehouse, counted the kilograms the seller received, and stood outside the purchaser’s vehicle during the actual transaction. He further discussed with the seller whether they should agree upon a signal for the seller to indicate that the sale had gone awry, requiring McLaurin to shoot the drug buyer. For their services, McLaurin and Harvey were paid $12,000 in cash. McLaurin and Harvey are each charged with attempted possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and with possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Later in January 2013, McLaurin and Harvey introduced a second former DeKalb County Sheriff’s Jail Officer, Chase Valentine, to help provide security for future drug deals. Like McLaurin, Valentine falsely represented himself to be a DeKalb County Sheriff’s Deputy, even though his position as a jail officer ended in 2010. Together with Harvey, Valentine provided security for one undercover drug transaction on January 17, 2013, during which he wore a DeKalb Sheriff’s Office uniform and a pistol in a holster on his belt. During the transaction, Valentine escorted the seller to pick up the sham cocaine, counted the number of kilograms delivered, and stood outside the purchaser’s car during the actual transaction. For these services, Valentine received $6,000 in cash. Valentine is charged with attempted possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Federal Protective Services

In November 2012, Sharon Peters, who was a contract officer for the Federal Protective Services, worked together with Mannery to provide protection for what they believed were two separate transactions in the Atlanta area that involved multiple kilograms of cocaine. For these services, Peters and Mannery accepted cash payments totaling $14,000. For both transactions, Peters parked her vehicle nearby the cars where the sham drugs and money were exchanged, and watched the transactions. Before both transactions, Peters told others that she had her pistol with her in the car. Peters is charged with attempted possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Imposter Clayton County Police Officer

Between December 2012 and January 2013, Alexander B. Hill falsely represented himself to be an officer with the Clayton County Police Department while providing security for what he believed were three separate drug transactions in the Atlanta area that involved multiple kilograms of cocaine. During an initial meeting, Hill wore a uniform that appeared to be from Clayton Police, but during the transactions he wore plain clothes and, for at least the first deal, a badge displayed on his belt. For these services, Hill received payments totaling $9,000 in cash. Hill charged with attempted possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

DeKalb County Strikes Again!!!

http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/interspire/news/2012/05/09/3am-home-eviction-in-dekalb-sparks-outrage.html

3am Home Eviction in DeKalb Sparks Outrage

Written By: APN STAFF

5-9-2012

By Scott Brown, Special to the Atlanta Progressive News

(APN) DEKALB COUNTY — In the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 02, 2012, over twenty deputies from the Dekalb County Sheriff’s Department, under orders from Sheriff Thomas Brown, drilled the locks and kicked in the doors of the Christine Frazer’s home with guns drawn in order to evict four generations of family members.

Frazer, the homeowner, had fallen behind on her mortgage payments and was foreclosed upon in October 2011.

According to Frazer, her family members, including her 85-year-old mother and 3-year-old grandson, were told by officers to "act like it was a fire drill" and grab what they could and get out.

Frazer said they were not even allowed a shower before being escorted from her home of eighteen years at three in the morning.

She described the event as "literally a nightmare."

Her three dogs were taken to the pound and all of her belongings were put out on the street, which police had completely closed off.

At a press conference in front of her belongings hours after the eviction, Frazer lamented, "I’ve been in this home eighteen years. My daughter was raised here. My husband died here. My grandson came home here. This is my home."

"They came in as if they were executing a warrant to find drugs. It makes no sense,” Frazer’s lawyer, Joshua Davis, said of the eviction.

Sheriff Thomas Brown told Fox 5 television news that he attributed the unusual timing and the large number of officers used in the eviction to the presence of Occupy Atlanta protesters who had been camping in the yard for the past four months in an attempt to prevent what they described as an illegal eviction based on an illegal foreclosure.

Frazer has filed a lawsuit, which is currently pending in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, against the company that foreclosed on her home last October, Investors One Corporation.

Ownership of the mortgage has changed three times in the past six months and, according to Frazer’s lawyer, the chain of title was broken when the previous owner of the mortgage, a bank based in Indiana, failed to uphold their legal obligation to transfer the title, rendering the foreclosure by Investors One Corporation fraudulent.

"There are judges that are in place that could have done a little research, if they’d done a little title search they’d have seen that something in the milk wasn’t clean,” Frazer said.

Frazer, 63, began to fall behind on her mortgage payments after losing her husband and her job in 2009. She has been unable to find a job ever since and is currently on early retirement social security.

Sheriff Brown told Fox 5 he gave the homeowner ample time to reach a settlement with the mortgage holder before serving the eviction notice.

Frazer said she tried to restructure the mortgage, but Investors One Corporation was uncooperative and intent on foreclosure, only offering to reinstate the loan if she was able to pay 20,000 dollars in cash. Currently she has paid over 240,000 dollars on the mortgage on a house currently appraised at only 40,000 dollars.

On Monday, May 07, 2012, in response to the early morning eviction ordered by Sheriff Thomas Brown, Occupy Atlanta held a protest in front of the Dekalb County Sheriff’s office.

At one point, more protesters pulled up in a van full of Frazer’s belongings, and Occupy Atlanta unloaded mattresses, furniture, and bags of other items that deputies had left on the curb nearly one week prior and piled them in front of the doors to the Sheriff’s Office, along with signs reading “Fraudclosure” and “Wall St. criminals are not convicted. The people are evicted.”

Standing before a pile of her belongings in front of the Sheriff’s Office during a press conference, Frazer said, "This is not just about me and my family, this is about families across America."

Frazer is certainly not alone in her struggle to keep her home. According to Corelogic, Inc., a company specializing in financial analysis, over 1.4 million homes in the US are currently in the foreclosure process, and states like Georgia have been ground zero in the housing crisis.

A recent Case-Shiller Home Price Indices report shows Metro Atlanta home prices fell 17.3 percent between February 2011 and February 2012, a fact that is fueling the continuing foreclosure crisis in the state.

Occupy Atlanta has taken up home defense as a tactic for combating what protesters view as unfair and illegal practices by banks and the financial industry as a whole.

Leila Abadir, one of the Occupy Atlanta protesters who had been camping on the lawn at the Frazer household, says the fight is not over. Occupy Atlanta will continue to assist the Frazer family in finding proper housing, she said.

They will also keep working to shed light on what she believes to be unethical and potentially criminal activity on the part of Investors One Corporation.

According to Fox 5, after most of the protesters left the sheriff’s office, police surrounded a remaining protester’s vehicle, which they impounded for possible evidence. They issued two citations to two people for littering and arrested one of them because he did not have identification on him.

Daily Report: Public shut out of Georgia courts

http://www.dailyreportonline.com/PubArticleFriendlyDRO.jsp?id=1202561653020

Public shut out of Georgia courts

R. Robin McDonald

Daily Report

07-03-2012

Judges across Georgia are closing courtrooms to the general public, citing as reasons a lack of space and security concerns.

They are doing so even though the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2010 vacated a Georgia Supreme Court ruling that had upheld the closure of a DeKalb County courtroom and the removal of members of the public during jury voir dire. The U.S. justices said at the time that courtrooms should remain open to the public except in rare circumstances.

Since then, courtroom closures have been challenged in DeKalb, Fulton, Cobb and Towns counties in Georgia’s appellate courts. Two weeks ago, the Southern Center for Human Rights sued the Cordele Judicial Circuit, claiming that its superior court judges are continuing to bar public access to court hearings despite a consent agreement in 2004 that they would stop the practice.

The appellate challenges to closed courtrooms across the state have garnered mixed success, but Judicial Qualifications Commission officials are concerned.
Closing courtrooms, said JQC Chairman John Allen, “could be a violation” of state judicial canons “depending on the set of facts surrounding the closing.”

JQC director Jeffrey Davis told the Daily Report that in his work observing judges in action around the state, he is often met at the courtroom doors by local deputies who ask for his credentials and question why he is there.

“I’ve personally experienced the chill that members of the public would feel,” he said. “I’m a lawyer. It’s not that I’m under-dressed for court.”
Once a member of the public has passed through courthouse metal detectors or security at a courthouse entrance, Davis said, “No citizens should be questioned about the reason they are in a public courtroom.”

But, he continued, “It seems to be the modus operandi around the state for courts to have deputies who question those who are simply in the court without business before the court. People ought to be able to watch their government in action. And justice which is done in secret—or a feeling by those who are coming to the courthouse that somehow they don’t have a right to be there—chills the public’s ability not only to access the courts but also to have confidence in the judicial system.”

DeKalb County
Last year, DeKalb State Court Judge Barbara Mobley resigned her post to end a JQC ethics investigation that included allegations she had interfered with the public’s access to a public courtroom. Mobley posted signs that restricted access to court hearings and directed court personnel to ask court observers to identify themselves and state their business, “thereby chilling the public’s right to observe matters before the court,” according to the JQC’s report to the Georgia Supreme Court.

The Daily Report reported last year that Mobley was one of a number of DeKalb judges who had posted signs on their courtroom doors limiting courtroom access to criminal defendants, their lawyers and alleged victims. The sign on Mobley’s door said, “We do not have space for extra people.”

Allen told the Daily Report last week that after Mobley resigned, he asked the DeKalb judges “to please meet and reconsider their policy of automatically closing their courtrooms as opposed to making a case-by-case decision.”

“Openness of course is such a basic principle of the law in Georgia jurisprudence and U.S. constitutional jurisprudence,” Allen continued. “You erode the confidence in the integrity and fairness of the courts by closing the courts as a matter of course.”

“Ours was just a courtesy call,” he said, “so that the conduct of the court didn’t rise to the level of being egregious.”

Allen said he also reminded the DeKalb bench of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Presley v. Georgia, 130 S. Ct. 721, which slapped the Georgia Supreme Court for upholding a decision by DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Linda Hunter to close her courtroom during jury selection in a criminal case.

In its ruling vacating the Georgia decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial extends to the voir dire of prospective jurors and that, “Trial courts are obligated to take every reasonable measure to accommodate public attendance at criminal trials.”

The decision did allow for exceptions, holding that, “The right to an open trial may give way in certain cases to other rights or interests, such as the accused’s right to a fair trial or the government’s interest in inhibiting disclosure of sensitive information.”

But, it stated, “Such circumstances are rare, however, and the balance of interests must be struck with special care. The party seeking to close a hearing must advance an overriding interest that is likely to be prejudiced, the closure must be no broader than necessary to protect that interest, the trial court must consider reasonable alternatives to closing the proceeding, and it must make findings adequate to support the closure.”

Last year, DeKalb Chief State Court Chief Judge Wayne Purdom told the Daily Report that he posted signs limiting access to his courtroom on days when he heard jail pleas, when numerous prisoners were in court or on arraignment days when as many as 100 people might need seats. On those days, he said, members of the public were only admitted “by request.”

While acknowledging that courtroom access “is a public right,” Purdom told the Daily Report that “regulation of entrance to the courtroom is a case-by-case situation.”
Purdom also agreed that signs barring entry might have “a little bit of a chilling effect.” But, he continued, “I think there are limited situations where control of access is appropriate, although keeping the public out is not.”

Fulton challenges
Last month Atlanta attorney Brian Steel argued before the Georgia Court of Appeals that a judge’s decision to close a Fulton County courtroom had violated a criminal defendant’s constitutional rights.

Steel appealed the decision of then-Fulton County Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington, who in the 2009 rape trial of Corsen Stewart apparently barred the public, including the defendant’s mother, from the courtroom during jury voir dire in a situation nearly identical to the DeKalb closure that led to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Steel, who was not Stewart’s lawyer during the trial, said he took the case on appeal after Stewart’s mother came to see him, told him she had been locked out of the courtroom when attorneys were questioning potential jurors for her son’s case and burst into tears in his office.

In 2010, Steel asked the Georgia Supreme Court to overturn the 2006 Fulton County murder conviction of Travion Reed, basing one argument  on Judge Craig Schwall Sr.’s decision to close the courtroom during the testimony of two witnesses. Prosecutors countered that the courtroom’s closure was warranted because the two witnesses in question feared for their safety. A third witness in the case had been shot a short time after the murder, and a fourth witness had been threatened with a screwdriver in an attack that prosecutors claimed was likely linked to the defendant.

At the time, neither Reid nor his attorney objected. That omission proved critical to the Georgia Supreme Court which—three weeks after its decision in Presley was vacated—affirmed Schwall’s decision to bar public access to his courtroom during the testimony.

Steel did not represent Reed at his trial.

In an opinion written by Justice George Carley, the high court held 6-1 that in order to prevail, Reid “must show that he was prejudiced by counsel’s decision not to object to the brief closing of the courtroom. … Indeed, to hold otherwise would encourage defense counsel to manipulate the justice system by intentionally failing to object in order to ensure an automatic reversal on appeal.”

But Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, the lone dissenting vote, countered that, “No reason was articulated to support closing the courtroom” for the two witnesses when “closure was not sought for others who not only might have been, but actually were, placed in peril because of their testimony.”

“The trial court’s findings were clearly inadequate to support closure of the courtroom,” her dissent stated. “Moreover, the trial court failed to consider any alternatives to closure,” she said.

“Although the majority concludes that Reid has not shown prejudice,” Hunstein concluded, “Reid is not required to do so in order to obtain relief for a structural error which was a violation of the public-trial right.”

Steel said last week that “Prejudice is pretty hard to show when you’re closing a courtroom. It’s an almost unobtainable bar that the Supreme Court set.”
Steel said that in the Stewart appeal he argued before the state appellate court on June 13, “I’m challenging the Reid decision. … It’s primed to have a new discussion about it.”

Fulton County is not the only place where Steel has challenged closed courtrooms. In 2010, Steel also asked the Court of Appeals to overturn a Towns County defendant’s conviction because the judge moved jury selection to a nearby church and barred the public, including the defendant’s wife and daughter, from attending. The Court of Appeals reversed the conviction last March on other grounds without addressing the courtroom closure.

Cordele claims
Last month the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta filed suit against the Cordele Judicial Circuit’s three superior court judges and the sheriffs of Ben Hill and Crisp counties in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Georgia in Albany, claiming that county court officials are systemically barring the public from criminal court hearings that they say should be open to the public.

Stephen Bright, the center’s president and senior counsel, noted that in 2003, as part of a larger civil rights suit on behalf of the county’s indigent defendants, the Southern Center accused circuit officials of restricting public access to the courts. But Bright said the 2003 suit was dismissed in 2004 after circuit officials promised that courtrooms would remain open.

John Pridgen, chief superior court judge of the Cordele Circuit and a defendant in both suits, has called the 2003 allegations “complete fabrications” claiming, “There was never anything inappropriate about what we did then and what we do now.”

Another Cordele Circuit judge noted in a letter filed with the Southern Center’s complaint that the courtroom in the Crisp County Law Enforcement Center is particularly small, with limited seating.

Southern Center attorney Gerry Weber told the Daily Report last month that the center also has received anecdotal evidence that other courtrooms are being closed “in a lot of different places” across the state and is launching an investigation to determine the extent of the problem.

‘Keeps us free’
Courtroom public access issue came to the fore in Cobb County last year, when former Governor Roy Barnes secured the dismissal of an indictment against the CEO of the Cobb EMC because the grand jury presentments were made inside the new courthouse while its doors were locked and deputies barred access via a separate catwalk entrance.

The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the indictment’s dismissal in March, ruling that, “The Georgia Supreme Court has held that any failure to return the indictment in open court is per se injurious to the defendant.”

Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, who dissented in the state Supreme Court’s Presley decision, said in an interview with the Daily Report that the U.S. Supreme Court opinion vacating Georgia’s Presley decision “made it pretty clear … that you cannot, as a matter of policy, close courtrooms.”
In her dissent in Presley, Sears specifically addressed arguments based on lack of space.

“A room that is so small that it cannot accommodate the public,” she wrote, “is a room that is too small to accommodate a constitutional criminal trial.”
But the former chief justice, now a partner at Schiff Hardin, told the Daily Report that judges still may close a courtroom “in very narrow circumstances.” But their reasons  for doing so, “have to be well articulated,” she said. “It has to be on a case-by-case basis … It also has to be a last resort.”

Sears said she doesn’t belittle judges who struggle with issues of space and security.

“That’s what created the majority in the Presley case,” she said. “It wasn’t that the judges felt you should keep people out. They saw what a problem it was in these tiny courtrooms trying to manage things. You get very sympathetic when a trial judge is trying to … keep things secure.”

The issue, she explained, is one of competing values. But to trump the value of open courtrooms, she said, “would take some effort. … Public access is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. It’s what keeps us free.” 

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Daily Report: Public shut out of Georgia courts