Two Marsy’s Law complaints filed against Western Circuit District Attorney

The Western Circuit District Attorney’s Office is facing more complaints from crime victims who claim their rights under state law were violated in the prosecution of defendants.

The latest complaints were filed by Watkinsville attorney Kevin Epps, who represents a woman involved in a hit-and-run wreck in Oconee County and the wife of a man who was killed while riding a bicycle in Athens. In both cases, the suspects were originally charged with drunk driving, but the charges were later dismissed.

The civil complaints are filed under a state law known as Marsy’s Law.

Earlier this year, Western Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez admitted guilt to a Marsy’s Law violation in a rape and child molestation case. She issued an apology, which included a statement that her office was taking measures to improve protocols to address communications with victims.

Gonzalez did not immediately respond to a request made last week for comment on the complaints.

In the hit and run case which happened in Oconee County, all charges were dismissed by the district attorney, according to the complaint.

In the homicide case in Clarke County, the original DUI and felony first-degree homicide by vehicle charge were dismissed. The defendant then pleaded guilty to misdemeanor vehicular homicide and improper passing. The 26-year-old South Carolina man received a probationary sentence.

The Marsy’s Law complaints filed by Epps contend the homicide victim’s wife and the victim of the hit and run were not properly informed about the cases as they proceeded through the judicial system.

Epps is seeking a hearing for both cases, but a judge has not yet set a date in Superior Court.

“It is apparent to me that Deborah Gonzalez has either an inability to represent victims as the DA of this circuit or simply does not care about the victims. Either option is not acceptable in any form for a district attorney,” Epps said.

Court: DA Deborah Gonzalez offers apology; Athens police seek warrants in Marsy’s Law case

Court: Judge denies effort by district attorney in Athens to stop subpoena of documents

The homicide case involves the death of James V. Jones, who was hit and killed while riding his bicycle home from work in March 2022 on Tallassee Road.

Jones’ wife, Susan Wilson, sought the complaint against Gonzalez. Attorney Claire Kimbrell, who works in Epps office, said Wilson requested in writing her desire to be kept abreast of court proceedings.

The guilty plea occurred on Sept. 21 at which time the defendant received 24 months on probation.

Wilson had wanted to be in court when the plea occurred, according to Kimbrell.

The DA’s office sent Wilson an e-mail after the sentencing saying it did attempt to notify her of the sentencing on the day of the plea, according to the suit.

“Victims have the right to be heard; which did happen because we informed the court on the record of the victim’s wishes for jail time,” the DA’s office wrote in the email to Wilson, according to the complaint.

Epps also said that Gonzalez agreed to the plea “before she had the hospital records back on the blood-alcohol content on the guy or what was in his system. You can’t do that – not in a homicide case.”

In the Oconee case, the victim, Ansley M. Pierce, a 24-year-old woman from Dacula, also complained she was uniformed about the disposition of her case until after it happened.

She was involved in a crash in August 2022 at the Oconee Connector that caused major damage to her car and the defendant’s vehicle. Deputies located the suspect, who had a strong odor of alcohol and slurred speech, after he had fled the scene on foot, according to the Oconee County sheriff’s incident report.

The 42-year-old Athens man was charged with DUI and taken to a hospital for tests on his blood.

Epps said a representative of the DA spoke to Pierce a week before the court hearing and was told the defendant would either plead guilty to the charges or accusations would be filed against him, meaning the case could proceed to a trial.

“They didn’t’ do that. They just dismissed it,” Epps said. “This is another example of yet again her total disregard of victims and telling them disinformation.”

Sometime after the Oconee wreck, the same man was arrested in Athens for DUI, Epps said.

This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Crime victims file lawsuits against District Attorney Gonzalez

Check Also

Navigating the Complex World of Regulatory Law: A Guide for Businesses

Navigating the Complex World of Regulatory Law: A Guide for Businesses Regulatory law is a …