ATLANTA - Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has denied a request by Fulton County District Attorney Fanni Willis to appoint special prosecutors in two high-profile cases against Atlanta police officers for excessive force.
Those cases involve two Atlanta police officers charged in connection to the death of Rayshard Brooks and six Atlanta police officers arrested for pulling two college students from a car after curfew during this past summer’s protests.
Last month, the newly sworn-in district attorney sent a letter Carr asking for a special prosecutor to allow for a "much cleaner prosecution" and because the actions of her predecessor, Paul Howard, "raise significant doubt that it is ethically appropriate for the Fulton County District Attorney’s office to handle these cases."
A statement from Willis’ office read in part:
"His conduct in handling these matters is subject to a criminal investigation by the GBI and may have violated the ethics rules governing prosecutors."
Willis raised the point that Howard’s use of "video evidence in campaign television advertisements, may have violated Georgia Bar Rule" in her letter to the AG. She further explained that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is also currently investigating Howard’s use of "grand jury subpoenas at a time when no Fulton County Grand Jury was empaneled."
"I believe both matters create sufficient question of the appropriateness of this office continuing to handle the investigation and possible prosecution of these cases that the public interest is served by disqualifying this office and referring the matter to specially appointed prosecutor," Willis’ letter to the AG reads.
In the letter from Carr in response to Willlis’ concerns dated Feb. 9, the Attorney General wrote that it was his opinion the matter does not directly relate to her or her office and is solely a matter of her predecessor. Carr wrote in part:
"While I understand the concerns that you have raised, those concerns relate to a potential violation of a rule of the State Bar of Georgia by your predecessor and a potential criminal investigation of your predecessor. Both appear fairly obviously to be matters that are personal to your predecessor in office and that do not pertain to you or your office. Therefore, from the concerns raised in your letter, it appears abundantly clear that your office is not disqualified from these cases by interest or relationship. This office will not be proceeding to appoint a prosecutor for these cases. In accordance with the constitutional and statutory duties of the district attorney, responsibility for these cases remain with you and your office."
The two cases in question happened early in the summer of 2020. The first happened on May 30, on the second night of protests in the city of Atlanta over the death of George Floyd.
Atlanta police officers were seen on a live television broadcast pulling a Spelman College student and Morehouse College student from a car in downtown Atlanta just after a 9 p.m. citywide curfew went into place. Former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard was quick to file charges against six officers after releasing the bodycam video of the incident.
Investigator Mark Gardner and Inv. Ivory Streeter.
Ivory Streeter and Mark Gardner were fired the day after, but were reinstated last week after the Civil Service Board found numerous violations of city policies and ordinances that led to a violation of the two officers' due process rights. Streeter was charged with aggravated assault and pointing a gun. Gardner is charged with aggravated assault. Both are on administrative leave until these charges are resolved.
Sergeant Lonnie Hood and Officer Armon Jones were also terminated. Hood was charged with aggravated assault and simple battery. Jones was charged with aggravated battery and pointing a gun.
Also indicted were Willie Sauls, charged with aggravated assault and criminal damage, and Roland Claud, charged with criminal damage.
The second case happened about two weeks later, on the night of June 12, 2020. Officers were called out to the Wendy's restaurant along University Avenue in southeast Atlanta over complaints of a car blocking the restaurant’s drive-thru lane.
Rayrshard Brooks, 27, was shot and killed following a struggle between and former Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe and Officer Devin Brosnan when they attempted to handcuff him, dashcam video showed. In the struggle, Brooks grabbed a Taser and ran, firing it at the officer, Former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said. Shots were fired at Brooks as he was running away, which were captured by a surveillance camera at the Wendy's.
An autopsy revealed Brooks was shot twice in the back.
Garrett Rolfe (Fulton County Sheriff's Office)
Rolfe faces 11 charges, including felony murder and multiple counts of assault with a deadly weapon in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks. The felony murder charge against Rolfe, 27, carries life in prison or the death penalty if prosecutors decide to seek it.
AG Carr did grant one request by the Fulton County District Attorney's Office to appoint a new prosecutor in the case of Jerry Lee. Prosecutors said Lee is responsible for the death of 28-year-old Lorrie Ann Smith. Smith’s parents discovered her in her bedroom on Stonewall Tell Road on Sunday, May 25, 1997. Police said she was shot several times in the back. Willis had previously represented Lee.
Longtime Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard was beaten by a large margin in a runoff last year against Willis. She had previously worked in Howard's office for 16 years.
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