Rolfe bond hearing delayed by judge

Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

A bond hearing for a former Atlanta police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, scheduled for Tuesday, has been delayed because it coincides with the victim’s funeral.

Garrett Rolfe, 27, was to appear before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance Russell at 2 p.m. -- one hour after Brooks’ funeral is set to begin. Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard objected to the hearing, arguing that the Victim’s Rights Act gives family members the right to be heard at any hearing pertaining to a potential release.

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“Basically the Victim’s Rights Act took precedence over the defendant’s request for an expedited hearing,” said Atlanta defense attorney Esther Panitch, who is not involved in the case.

Rolfe, fired the day after Brooks’ shooting, is being held in Gwinnett County out of concerns for his safety. He surrendered to authorities last Thursday on 11 criminal charges, including felony murder.

His co-defendant, Officer Devin Brosnan, is charged with aggravated assault and violating his oath of office. He is out on a $50,000 signature bond and has been placed on administrative duty pending the GBI’s investigation of the June 12 shooting.

Brooks, 27, had fought with the officers outside a Wendy’s downtown after Rolfe attempted to place him in handcuffs for suspected DUI. Dash cam video shows Brooks briefly breaking free, with Brosnan’s Taser in hand. He was killed by two gunshot wounds to the back, fired by Rolfe.

On Monday, Rolfe’s attorneys, Noah Pines and Bill Thomas, released a statement responding to claims Howard made last week at a press conference announcing the charges.

They said while Howard said Rolfe never told Brooks he was under arrest for DUI, “it is clear from the video that officer Officer Rolfe told Mr. Brooks, ‘I think you’ve had too much to be driving. Put your hands behind your back.’”

“Clearly this statement is sufficient to inform Mr. Brooks that he is under arrest,” Rolfe’s attorneys state.

They also criticized the veteran prosecutor for basing his decision on a landmark Supreme Court case: Graham v. Connor. The ruling established there must be a threat to personal or public safety before an officer fires on a suspect.

But that’s applicable only in civil cases, Rolfe’s defense team argues.

“Any grand jury considering indictment, any judge considering immunity, and any jury considering guilt or innocence ... will be considering Georgia’s justification statutes,” the statement reads “These statutes, as well, support our claim that Officer Rolfe’s actions were justified, lawful, and within policy.”

They pointed to a recent case involving six Atlanta police officers charged following the violent arrest of two college students. In that incident, according to Pines and Thomas, Howard -- through his investigator Greg L. Thomas -- swore under oath that a Taser is a deadly weapon.

Howard claimed a Taser is not a deadly weapon when announcing the charges against Rolfe and Brosnan.

“So, either it is a deadly weapon, or someone committed perjury,” the defense team said.

Brooks, they said, can be seen pointing the Taser he had just grabbed at Brosnan.

“If you watch the video, you will have no doubt that Mr. Brooks would have fired the Taser directly at Officer Brosnan’s head had Officer Brosnan not used his arm to block the Taser,” Pines and Thomas wrote.

Panitch said the hearing is unlikely to occur before next Tuesday, the next open date for bond hearings on the calendar. Since there’s been no indictment, the case has not been assigned to presiding judge.

Rolfe could, under Georgia law, be held up to 90 days without an indictment, Panitch said.