Defense attorney: Charges never should have been brought in Jewell's death

The attorney for a man accused of killing the former fiancé of one of the stars of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" is not surprised the case has been dropped.

But the charges never should have been brought at all, attorney Dennis Sheib said Tuesday.

Late Monday, Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard announced that his office would not proceed with criminal charges against Frederick Richardson. Since October, Richardson had been charged with voluntary manslaughter in the death of Ashley “A.J.” Jewell, the former fiancé of Kandi Burruss, a member of the "Real Housewives" cast.

Jewell, 36, died Oct. 2 several hours after he fought with Richardson outside a north Atlanta strip club, the Body Tap. The medical examiner said the primary cause of Jewell's death was a rare sickle cell trait.

The disorder, which strikes mostly African-Americans, decreases the red blood cells' flexibility and carries a risk of various medical complications. The average life expectancy of males with the disease is 42.

But Jewell’s family rejected that explanation and demanded a second autopsy.

In November, Howard said he had agreed to have the body exhumed.

“The family of the deceased expressed grave concern regarding the accuracy of the autopsy findings,” Howard said in a statement Monday evening. “For that reason, our office enlisted the service of two additional medical experts who specialize in the area of sickle cell diagnosis and treatment.”

The body was not exhumed, however.

“The experts ultimately concluded such an exhumation would serve no meaningful purpose,” Howard said. “After conducting their own analyses of the autopsy findings, the medical experts have indicated their concurrence with the initial autopsy findings concluding that Ashley Jewell died as a result of a sickle cell crisis.”

Jewell’s parents could not be reached for comment. Markel Hutchins, who was the spokesman for the family, did not return voicemail or e-mail messages seeking comment.

Howard said investigators from his office also re-interviewed witnesses – those questioned by police as well as people the Jewell family suggested.

“These recent interviews produced no evidence that Mr. Richardson was at fault in the death of Ashley Jewell. Accordingly, there will be no further action taken against Mr. Richardson at this time,” Howard said.

Jewell, trying to buy an interest in the club, had been having an ongoing struggle with Richardson, a club manager, police said. Investigators said they suspected Jewell didn’t think Richardson showed him enough respect.

Scheib, Richardson’s lawyer, said the two exchanged words in a club office and then Jewell pulled a gun. Scheib said Jewell followed Richardson to the parking lot and that is where he hit Jewell twice and Richardson hit Jewell once.

Witnesses said Jewell was conscious after the fight was over but winded when the ambulance came. The medical examiner’s office said Jewell might not have been able to replenish oxygen after overexerting himself in the fight.

Scheib said he had insisted since October that the case should have been thoroughly investigated before Richardson was charged.

“But Paul Howard said, ‘No. Make an arrest.’ For six months, this has been going back and forth,” Scheib said.

He said Howard agreed to spend money “to go back over everything and come back with the same results.”