Former drug prosecutor's life goes wrong

Atlanta attorney Rand Csehy made his mark prosecuting drug dealers; somewhere along the way, police say, he joined the enemy.

Before he was arrested on drug charges Thursday, Csehy specialized in high-profile cases. Working for the county, he helped put members of the drug cartel Black Mafia Family behind bars. On the defense side he represented an Atlanta cop charged in the drug raid death of 92-year-old Atlanta resident Kathryn Johnston.

And he made a cameo in the case against convicted courthouse shooter Brian Nichols as the boyfriend and future husband of prosecutor Gayle Abramson. With Nichols on the loose following the 2005 shooting rampage that left four dead, Csehy rushed back to Atlanta from California to comfort Abramson, who had been prosecuting Nichols on rape charges and was widely believed to a target.

But last year Csehy’s life took a sharp turn for the worse as a series of unsettling incidents unfolded. First he and Abramson, who had been separated for more than a year, were divorced.

Then in August, outside his law offices, Csehy was beaten and stomped by one of his clients, suffering broken ribs and fractured facial bones. In December he called police at 4 a.m. from a Buckhead apartment to report the suicide of a woman he had been dating. According to the incident report, the weapon she used was a former Atlanta Police service pistol belonging to Csehy.

On Thursday Csehy, caught in a sting operation, was arrested and charged with drug and firearms violations, including possession with intent to distribute Ecstasy and methamphetamine.

It was rock bottom for a trajectory that started out strong.

Working for Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, Csehy once prosecuted drug dealers. Now his arrest could call into question the validity of drug cases that he brought when he was senior assistant district attorney from 2002 until 2006.

Questioned whether Fulton County plans any review of cases brought by Csehy, a spokesperson said, “We have no reason to conduct an internal review … However, should circumstances warrant a different course of action, we will respond appropriately.”

But Lester Tate, immediate past president of the State Bar of Georgia, and a trial attorney, said “there should be some kind of review.” In the past, said Tate, when prosecutors fell from grace, their crimes triggered a re-examination of several cases. Tate said the Fulton prosecutor’s office should look to see if someone was wrongfully incarcerated, if evidence was suppressed that could have led to a not-guilty verdict or might have pointed at another person.

Yet there are many admirers of Csehy’s abilities. “I have never been in a courtroom with anyone who had a better skill set than him,” said Cumming defense attorney James Hardy II.

Ash Joshi, a former Fulton County prosecutor, worked with Csehy during his years in Fulton County. As a county prosecutor, Csehy was among a handful of attorneys in the narcotics unit who handled higher level drug trafficking offenses, meaning the sale of more than an ounce of cocaine or methamphetamine.

“He was very hard-working, very committed,” Joshi said.

Joshi worked closely with Abramson during the rape prosecution of Nichols, before the defendant went on a shooting spree. He believes he and Abramson were also targets of the shooter.

He also watched Abramson and Csehy fall in love and later marry. Abramson and Joshi left the Fulton office in 2005, shortly after the shootings. Joshi is now in private practice, and he has drifted apart from Csehy.

In recent years, Joshi said he has seen signs that have worried him about Csehy. When he’s seen him in court, Csehy didn’t have the neat sharp appearance of the past.

“He acted a little erratic,” Joshi said. “He would have a 5 o’clock shadow. He had a lot of earrings. He didn’t look sharp.”

He added, “I had a suspicion that something negative was occurring in his life.”

The upheaval in Csehy’s life and career began as far back as 2004. A wiretap he was operating during an undercover investigation caught a person alleging Abramson used drugs. The accusation later disrupted the high-profile Nichols trial and was a black eye for the Fulton County prosecutor’s office. Lawyers defending Nichols in his murder case accused Abramson of criminal misconduct, and asked that certain evidence in the case against Nichols be discounted.

Nichols was convicted on every count, and sentenced to multiple life sentences.

Abramson resigned from the district attorney’s office in 2005 to take a job in private practice. Csehy left the following year.

Csehy has also experienced money problems. Fulton County filed a $1,938 lien against Csehy and his then-wife Abramson for taxes unpaid in the 2007 calendar year, a lien that was still outstanding as of last September, records show.

On Friday Csehy was granted a $5,000 signature bond on each of five charges, including two firearms charges, and two charges of possession with intent to distribute.

Attempts to reach Csehy on Friday were unsuccessful.