The suit, filed by attorneys John Cicala and Craig Jones, has taken several twists and turns during its journey through the judicial system. The latest came Friday, when U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones denied the sheriff's office's request to delay proceedings.
Jones’ ruling resulted in several previous filings being unsealed and made public. And in those filings, the sheriff’s office itself confirmed for the first time the existence of the federal criminal investigation.
The sheriff’s office’s legal team also tried to use that investigation as the basis for halting proceedings in the lawsuit. It argued that the former would prevent subpoenaed officials from testifying in the latter.
The agency’s attorneys argued as well that the public shouldn’t know about the generally secretive grand jury proceedings.
“But for [the civil lawsuit], no investigation would be pending,” one filing said. “Even if an investigation had been initiated, the RRT members could have enjoyed the normal confidentiality typically afforded grand jury investigations. Defendants need to request the stay but the public need not be alerted through this case about the investigation, especially to the detriment of the reputation of the non-party RRT members.”
Jones, the judge, ruled against the sheriff’s office. He said, in part, that the public was already aware of the grand jury investigation through previous media reports.
The grand jury has subpoenaed several years worth of videos showing the actions of the rapid response team. Dozens of such videos — which show helmeted deputies storming into jail cells to restrain or subdue inmates, sometimes by using pepper spray or pepper balls — have been made public over the years, either through litigation or open records requests.
Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Shannon Volkodav declined to comment Monday on the ongoing litigation and on the federal grand jury. The potential time frame for the latter’s investigation was unclear.