May 12, 2017 Decatur - DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey Mann (left) stands next to his attorney Noah Pines as he speaks for Sheriff Jeffrey Mann during a press conference at DeKalb County Sheriff Office on Friday, May 12, 2017. DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey Mann, speaking through his lawyer, apologized to his constituents on Friday and said he plans to continue serve in his job. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Judge allows investigation of DeKalb sheriff to continue

The attorney for DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey Mann argued unsuccessfully in court Wednesday that it’s not what his client was accused of doing but in what capacity he allegedly did it that matters. 

It may have sounded like splitting hairs to some, but for Mann -- charged on May 6 for allegedly exposing himself to a an Atlanta police officer in Piedmont Park then fleeing arrest -- it was an important distinction that could’ve saved him from a suspension much longer than the one-week suspension he recently gave himself

RELATED: DeKalb sheriff suspends himself after allegedly exposing himself

MORE: DeKalb sheriff asks judge to block group investigating alleged misconduct

But Fulton County Superior Court Judge Eric Dunaway ruled against Mann’s writ of prohibition, saying that the three-person committee appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to investigate Mann is not exceeding their jurisdiction.

“They will give a recommendation but it isn’t binding upon the governor,” Dunaway said. “They won’t be handing down any punishment.”

Pines had argued that the statute authorizing the committee’s creation only covers alleged misconduct while in his official capacity as sheriff. The governor could suspend Mann for up to 90 days, order an additional investigation by the GBI and request the DeKalb District Attorney initiate proceedings that could remove the sheriff from office.

Sheriff Jeffrey Mann is facing an indecency charged and is accused of running from police.

Noting that the statute’s language is murky, “it would make sense misconduct of office would mean something you’d done in office, in your official capacity as sheriff,” said Pines, citing a definition contained in two Georgia Supreme Court rulings involving sitting judges.

May 24, 2014 - Milton, Ga: DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey L. Mann hosts a news conference about Operation Safe DeKalb at the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office Administration Building Thursday afternoon, January 29, 2015, in Decatur, Ga.. PHOTO / JASON GETZ
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“That would be something he did in the jail or something that happened as sheriff,” Pines said. “Unless you’re given the authority you don’t have the authority to act.” 

Attorney Rebecca Dobras -- arguing on behalf of the governor’s committee, composed of Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown and Peach County Sheriff Terry Deese -- said Mann’s alleged misdeeds in Piedmont Park could foreshadow misconduct on the job.  

“If someone’s exposing themselves in public then very likely the next step is he’s going to walk around naked in the jail,” she said. 

Mann is due back in court Friday for a hearing on the indecency and obstruction charges. Pines indicated Wednesday he is likely to appeal Dunaway’s ruling. 

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