Federal prosecutors investigating corruption at Atlanta City Hall have issued a subpoena to the private attorney of a Cobb County motorist who in 2016 was struck by former Mayor Kasim Reed’s city-issued SUV.
The subpoena, issued in August to attorney Hil Hughes, asks for all documents related to the Sept. 9, 2016, accident, including “any settlement agreement, settlement payment or pay out records.”
» CITY HALL SUBPOENAS: A list of federal subpoenas related to the City Hall probe
Atlanta City Council approved a $3,600 property damage settlement in the case last year.
But the city’s law department said Tuesday that a personal injury claim by Michael Hogan, the Austell man who was clipped by Reed’s GMC Yukon, is still unresolved.
Jessica Cino, a law professor at Georgia State University, said the subpoena seems like an “iceberg,” because there’s probably something more to it underneath the surface.
“The property settlement was subject to Council approval, meaning there are public documents that are available,” Cino said. “(But) They’re asking for things in the attorney’s files. They’re asking for payment information.
“I think there’s another kind of settlement that they’re looking for. They want to know the source of the funds; they want to know how it was paid; they want to know settlement provisions … so it seems like there’s more.”
Hughes declined to comment on the subpoena, except to say that his office has complied with it.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine, who is the lead prosecutor in the City Hall investigation, also declined to comment Tuesday. Likewise, Reed did not respond to an email seeking comment.
At the time of the accident, Reed's city-issued vehicle was being driven by Atlanta Police Sgt. Stephen Nichols, a member of the mayor's executive protection unit.
Nichols was driving with the emergency lights and siren turned on when he hit the rear end of Hogan's 1995 Corolla at about 10 a.m., spinning it around. Hogan was transported to the hospital.
Nichols told the Cobb County police officer responding to the accident that the emergency lights and siren were engaged because Reed was late for a meeting, according to dash camera video. Reed had already left the scene by the time Cobb police arrived.
The accident happened just days after Channel 2 Action News reported on Reed's use of blue lights and siren while driving to routine events such as ribbon cuttings and speaking engagements. That story quoted a Georgia Highway Patrol officer saying the practice violated state law.
The story also quoted Gov. Nathan Deal saying his security detail rarely used emergency lights and siren to transport him to engagements.
“No police officer or public safety official has an exemption in law to use lights and siren … to make up time or just to make an appointment,” Georgia State Patrol Capt. Mark Perry told Channel 2.
Reed defended his general use of emergency lights and sirens by telling the reporter: "You don't know what I'm doing; you don't know what the emergency is."
“What I have done is use a technique that many people in my job have used to go to multiple events during a small frame of time,” Reed told Channel 2 for its original story, which recorded Reed’s SUV using emergency lights and siren 10 times within a few weeks.
Former Atlanta Police Chief George Turner told Channel 2 that use of emergency lights and sirens was justified because Reed had received thousands of threatening messages during his time as mayor. Turner declined requests by Channel 2 and the AJC to review police reports of those threats.
The Cobb County Police Department’s accident report named Reed as a passenger in the vehicle. The Atlanta Police Department report did not mention Reed at all.
After the accident, Turner could not explain the omission of Reed’s name, but said: “They’ve been protecting the mayor for seven years and one minor accident, I think, is exemplary.”
The accident happened at the corner of Paces Ferry Road and Cumberland Parkway. Nichols, the driver of the city’s SUV, was charged with driving too fast for conditions; failure to maintain lane; improperly making a U-turn; and improper use of sirens. He was reprimanded after the accident.
The subpoena is at least the 10th issued in the investigation, which covers all eight years of Reed's two terms as mayor. The previous nine subpoenas were issued to the city of Atlanta.
The AJC has the most complete and detailed archive of stories related to the federal corruption investigation of Atlanta City Hall. Go to http://ajc.com/cityhall/ for previous coverage of federal subpoenas issued in probe.
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