YSL Trial: Attorney decries defendants’ treatment, sheriff says safety is focus

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

‘We are not going to have another Brian Nichols situation in Fulton County as long as I’m sheriff,’ Pat Labat said

An attorney representing one of the 14 defendants in the YSL gang case is calling for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office to change the way defendants are being transported to and from the courthouse.

Suri Chadha Jimenez, who represents Cordarius Dorsey, said the practice of handcuffing defendants with their hands behind their backs for hours is “uncomfortable and painful” and amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment.”

In a motion filed Tuesday, Jimenez said defendants used to be handcuffed in front of their bodies while being brought to court but that recently changed.

Transport between the jail and courthouse may take between up to two hours depending on traffic, he wrote.

“Mr. Dorsey respectfully requests that when transported that the handcuffs be placed in front of his body, and not in the back,” Jimenez wrote.

Once defendants are seated inside the courtroom, the handcuffs are removed but the deputies can still be seen around the courtroom. Some defendants are also required to wear restraints underneath their pants that immobilize one knee.

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Deputies have had several issues bringing the defendants to and from court each day. In January, defendant Rodalius Ryan got into a scuffle with a Fulton County deputy after allegedly spitting on him inside a patrol car.

A complaint filed by Ryan’s attorney alleges her client was the victim of “an unwarranted attack”and that Ryan suffered multiple injuries as a result of the scuffle.

The deputy’s body camera was not activated during the incident and he was placed on administrative duties pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.

ExploreYSL trial: Deputy on desk duty after scuffle with defendant

In addition, at least three contraband incidents involving different defendants and a stabbing at the Fulton County jail last week resulted in additional charges filed against multiple defendants in this case.

“We are doing everything we can to keep all of our entire population safe, whether it’s YSL or otherwise,” Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Our goal is to keep everyone safe.”

ExploreYSL Trial: 3 defendants involved in stabbing at Fulton jail, sheriff says

Christian Eppinger, Damone Blalock and Ryan are accused of stabbing a fellow inmate at the county jail last week, leaving him hospitalized. Some defendants, including Eppinger, are serving sentences in state prisons but are being kept at local jails to allow for easier transport during the trial.

“Most of them came from our jail,” Labat said, noting some of the defendants were held there before their convictions. “We have some new protocols in place to keep people safe and that is our goal.”

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Since the case was moved from Judge Ural Glanville’s eighth floor courtroom to a more spacious venue on the first floor, there has been increased security and a limited number of people allowed inside.

“Our goal is to be safe. We are not going to have another Brian Nichols situation in Fulton County as long as I’m sheriff,” Labat said.

Nichols, who was on trial for rape on March 11, 2005, overpowered a Fulton deputy and took her gun before he shot and killed four other people, including the judge presiding over his case. He was sentenced to life in prison.

ExploreA decade after Brian Nichols: Fulton Court still moving toward safety

Deputies from different metro Atlanta agencies have been spotted helping out with security. Labat didn’t specify who is footing the bill to pay for the extra deputies and long hours. He simply said it was a thorough collaboration of different agencies.

“It’s a collaborative agreement across several sheriff’s offices, several different departments,” Labat said. “This is the cost of trying to keep people safe.”