Murder charges against Sneiderman dropped

Murder charges against Andrea Sneiderman were formally dropped Friday amid a frenzied succession of developments that included a plea offer the Dunwoody widow declined to accept, two people with direct knowledge of the high-profile case told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Jury selection will commence as scheduled Monday morning, with Sneiderman still facing four perjury counts, seven counts of making false statements, and one count each of hindering the apprehension of a criminal and concealment of material fact in connection with the death of her husband, Rusty.

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She has denied any involvement in the shooting that took place in the parking lot of a Dunwoody day care in November 2010, and a friend said Friday that she was looking forward to the trial and seeing her name cleared.

The announcement by DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James that he was dropping the three most serious criminal charges against the 37-year-old mother of two came as no surprise, but the reaction from presiding Judge Gregory A. Adams was something of a shocker.

Adams said he was not legally required to grant the prosecution’s motion to withdraw two murder counts and one aggravated assault charge. He eventually relented, but not until after signaling his displeasure with the last-minute decision.

James said he had concerns about the two murder counts and aggravated assault charge after reviewing the defense’s discovery evidence.

“I think it would be unjust and unethical for the District Attorney’s Office to move forward on a charge I’m not 100 percent sure of,” he told Adams. “My ethical obligation is not to seek conviction but to seek justice.”

But defense attorney Tom Clegg challenged the rationale behind James’ last-minute change of heart, saying there was “no smoking gun” in the discovery evidence turned over to the state.

“I believe they’ve known all along they don’t have a murder case,” Clegg said.

James accused opposing counsel of leveling a “cheap shot” against him.

“It seems absurd to me that the allegation would be thrown out there,” he said. “I’m struggling to see how that lacks ethics.”

Following Friday’s hearing, a close friend of Sneiderman’s doubled down on James, saying he knew she was innocent all along.

“He’s been twisting things for the media and trying to make Andrea look as bad as possible,” said Ryan Stansbury, whose children attend the same day care as Sneiderman’s son and daughter.

Stansbury said Sneiderman was eager to go to trial, confident her name would be cleared.

Most of the charges Sneiderman still faces revolve around what she allegedly said — or withheld — regarding her relationship with former boss Hemy Neuman. Neuman was found guilty but mentally ill and sentenced to life in prison in Rusty Sneiderman’s death.

Each of the remaining charges carries a maximum sentence ranging from five to 10 years in prison.

Andrea Sneiderman was initially indicted as Neuman’s co-conspirator following her arrest in August. She was reindicted twice this year, charged as a “party to the crime” of murder rather than a conspirator. Georgia law defines that, in part, as intentionally advising, encouraging, hiring, counseling or procuring another to commit a crime.

Prosecutors scored one victory Friday, as Adams agreed to admit testimony from Neuman’s friend Melanie White regarding conversations they had about his relationship with Sneiderman. Neuman has already announced through his attorneys that he will not testify for the state.

“There was a romantic and physical relationship between the two of them,” prosecutor Anna Cross said. “The state expects there will be a lot of information about the relationship presented from witnesses other than Mrs. White.”

The defense argued that White and Neuman were not particularly close and that his word could not be trusted.

“There’s a lot of questions to his character and mental stability,” defense attorney J. Tom Morgan said. “He is a certifiable, judicially determined lunatic.”

Jury selection is expected to take up most if not all of next week, with roughly three to four weeks of testimony to follow.