Police training center: Bond granted for three arrested in home raid

Credit: John Spink/AJC

Credit: John Spink/AJC

A magistrate court judge granted bond for three people arrested Wednesday during a raid at a home on Mayson Avenue in DeKalb County.

Marlon Scott Kautz, 39, Adele Maclean, 42 and Savannah D. Patterson, 30, were charged with money laundering and charity fraud for alleged actions taken as executives with the nonprofit Network for Strong Communities, which supported the nonprofit Defend the Atlanta Forest, “a group classified by the United States Department of Homeland Security as Domestic Violent Extremists,” according to arrest warrants.

Judge James Altman granted bonds of $15,000 each during a Friday hearing. The three are required to report to pre-trial services by noon on Monday.

Conditions of the bond include: complying with all pre-trial services requirements; surrender passports to their defense attorney Don Samuel; no social media related to the case or the public safety training center; not allowed to operate the Forest Defense Fund/Siskiyou Mutual Aid fund or any successor organization; no support in any form of any illegal activities in the forest or cop city location; not allowed to leave Georgia.

Arrest warrants allege the group is responsible for violence surrounding the training center site, including vandalism, throwing Molotov cocktails at police and arson of public buildings and equipment.

According to Georgia Secretary of State records, Maclean serves as the CEO, Kautz as the CFO and Patterson as the secretary for Network for Strong Communities. It was formed in August 2020 and the principal office address is the Mayson Avenue home, records show. They were booked at the DeKalb County Jail on Wednesday.

Arrest warrants show the alleged money laundering involved $48,000 transferred from Network for Strong Communities to an organization identified as Siskiyou Mutual Aid “the day after NFSC was mentioned as a funding source (for protesters) during a court hearing.”

Siskiyou Mutual Aid then returned the money “appearing to launder the funds,” according to the affidavit.

The fraud allegations involve Kautz, Maclean and Patterson reimbursing themselves from contributions made to the nonprofit for expenses including $29 for a safe, $37 for building materials, $115 in camping gear $228 for “jail support” phone lines, $436 for expenses related to a town hall meeting and $6,657 for gasoline, cleaning materials, totes, COVID tests and yard signs.

During Friday’s hearing, Deputy Attorney General of the Prosecution Division John Fowler said the defendants “harbor extremist anti-government and anti-establishment views.”

Unbeknownst to people donating funds for bail or food, he said, defendants redirected monies to pay for “numerous violent acts against people and property around the city of Atlanta and the country.”

Defense attorney Don Samuel represents the three people who were granted bond on Friday.

“Not one of these three individuals, at any time, engaged in any violent behavior that we know of or that we have been told about or that there is any evidence of that,” Samuel said.

Instead, he said, his clients have raised money to feed homeless people or those who have been jailed for protesting. Samuel said none of the three have prior felony convictions.

Prosecutors opposed bond; Altman said the state’s evidence didn’t have “a lot of meat on the bones.”

The Legal Defense Found, a civil rights law organization, expressed concerned over the arrests based on Altman’s assessment of the evidence presented by prosecutors during the hearing and called on the Department of Justice to investigate the arrests.

“We echo the demand reverberating across Georgia, and the nation, that Cop City must not be constructed and we call on the Department of Justice to conduct an immediate investigation into the arrest and apparent targeting of Atlanta Solidarity Fund members,” LDF President and Director-Counsel Janai S. Nelson said in a statement.

Supporters decry the arrests.

“We knew from the time of the arrest that these charges were baseless and part of a political prosecution against Stop Cop City organizers. After today’s bond hearing it’s obvious that the judge was also skeptical of the weak evidence put before him,” said Kamau Franklin, director of Community Movement Builders.

The Atlanta City Council is scheduled to vote next week on legislation to fund $30 million of the training center construction, plus an additional $1.2 million over 30 years to lease the center. Construction on the property is ongoing and Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum has said he expects to move into the facility by December 2024.