The Georgia Department of Corrections today said it was no mistake that a man convicted of shooting a police officer in the head with a shotgun was released from prison after serving only 1 year of a 15-year prison sentence.
Jermarcus Jordan, 28, is back in custody facing assault charges this week after Atlanta police said he drew a gun on a woman who was in her home with her three children during a domestic dispute on Aug. 13.
But for over two years, Jordan was out of prison after a “problem with his paperwork” led to his release in 2016, the state Department of Corrections said.
The Department of Corrections said Jordan’s case is not the only instance where paperwork problems have resulted in the release of an inmate, but that the department has taken steps to put an additional safeguard in place. No details were offered on how often inmates have been released early.
A judge sentenced Jordan to prison in January 2015 after he shot Atlanta police officer Chris Smith in the head with a shotgun. Smith was sitting in his car working an extra job at an apartment complex when Jordan opened fire on his pickup truck. Smith survived the shooting, but is no longer a police officer.
Jordan entered a guilty plea to aggravated assault, among other charges, and was sentenced to 25 years with 15 years to be served in prison.
But the Georgia Department of Corrections released Jordan from custody in May of 2016, “for reasons that are unclear to this Office,” DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston said in a statement. He had only served a little over a year of his time.
“Last week, the Office of the DeKalb County District Attorney was advised by the Department of Community Supervision (formerly Probation) that Defendant Jordan was no longer in State custody, and, in fact was being sought on new charges for which warrants were issued,” Boston said in the statement.
Jordan’s May 2016 release marked the completion of a different sentence for a different crime, according to documents from the state Department of Corrections. Jordan was convicted of robbery in 2009, and was sentenced to five years. He was serving probation for that sentence when he shot Smith. But when he was sentenced for Smith’s attack, his probation was revoked.
His release wasn’t an error, nor was it the only one of its kind, said Department of Corrections’ director of public affairs Joan Heath.
“The GDC released (inmate) Jordan at the expiration of his probation revocation sentence,” Heath said. “Jordan’s new sentence … was sent to GDC on Jan. 22, 2015, but could not be processed and was returned to the Clerk of Superior Court.”
Heath said Jordan’s sentence initially states he is supposed to serve 25 years with the first 10 in confinement, followed by 5 consecutive years in confinement.
“While the GDC realizes that this probably was not what the Court intended, the literal text of these sentences means that Jordan was to serve 10 years in prison, spend 15 years on probation, then return to prison for 5 years,” Heath said. “This is not permissible legally.”
Heath said the GDC called the clerk’s office and sent an electronic rejection of the sentence, and the clerk’s office acknowledged the return on Feb. 5, 2015. But the clerk’s office did not re-submit the updated paperwork until after Jordan’s arrest this week.
“Without the statutorily required paperwork, the GDC could not lawfully keep (inmate) Jordan in custody after May 13, 2016, and it turned him over to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office due to another case in that jurisdiction,” Heath said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reached out to the clerk’s office, but did not receive an immediate response. DeKalb County Superior Court Clerk Debra DeBerry told Channel 2 Action News that her office sent everything it was supposed to send.
Because of other, similar paperwork issues with clerk’s offices, the Georgia Department of Corrections now also follows up with local probation offices as an additional safeguard. She said the problems don’t occur frequently and so her office does not track how many paperwork problems have resulted in early releases.
The DeKalb district attorney said Jordan will continue serving his sentence for shooting the officer. The case against him involving new charges is still open and being investigated.
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