Criminal defense attorney: Charges against ‘Cop City’ protesters ‘will likely stick’

Arrest documents for three ‘Stop Cop City’ protesters obtained by FOX 5 revealed new details about what they stand accused of just hours after GBI officials and Atlanta police raided a home they were staying in early Wednesday. 

Marlon Scott Kautz, of Atlanta, Savannah D. Patterson, 30, of Savannah, Georgia and Adele Maclean, 40, of Atlanta, were charged with charities fraud and money laundering.

The three are accused of using money collected through the state registered 501(c)(3) organization ‘Network for Stronger Communities’ or NFSC to fund the group ‘Defend the Atlanta Forest’.

The group has been linked to incidents of vandalism, arson and intimidation of government and private company employees involved with the project in the last year. 

"In this situation, they’ve classified one of the organizations as a terroristic organization, I guess, in line with Al-Qaeda and some of the other ones you’d normally think of," said Criminal Defense Attorney Manny Arora.

The raid Wednesday morning leading to those three arrests is the latest spark for protest for those opposed to the $90 million planned public safety training facility. 

"We just see this as another form of state repression, and we’re gathering in solidarity with those folks who are inside right now," activist Jasmine Burnett told FOX 5. 

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Marlon Scott Kautz, 39 (DeKalb County Sheriff's Office)

The warrants said the suspects reimbursed themselves using funds from NFSC for purchases like gasoline, forest clean-up, rapid COVID tests and new phone lines. The reimbursements spanning more than two years range from as little as several dozen dollars to more than $6,000.

"The charges are false charges—charges which are based on the criminalization of a movement against Cop City," Community Movement Builders Founder Kamau Franklin said addressing demonstrators Wednesday evening.

"Their only charge is about supporting those who’ve been arrested…providing them with resources for bail," Burnett added.

Arora, whose firm is representing supporters of the same cause who were arrested during a different protest last year, told FOX 5 he believes this round of arrests may be more about politics but that the charges will likely stick.

"They should hold up because the standard is incredibly low as far as what’s required to meet probable cause to get you to trial." 

He said from where he stands, it’s a waste of county resources in both Fulton and DeKalb Counties. 

"Nobody wants vandalism and some of the shenanigans that have gone on as far as that goes, but those people should be prosecuted for the crimes that they actually committed," Arora stated.

FOX 5 reached out to the Department of Homeland Security to confirm whether the group Defend the Atlanta Forest has been classified as a domestic violent extremist group. We’re still waiting to hear back. The three protesters will have their first appearance in court "soon".