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.
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.
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.
“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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