Fulton prosecutor wants judge to hold sheriff in contempt of court

Claud “Tex” McIver listens to proceedings in court where he was reindicted on murder charges in the shooting death of his wife.

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Claud “Tex” McIver listens to proceedings in court where he was reindicted on murder charges in the shooting death of his wife.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard on Monday asked a judge to find Sheriff Ted Jackson in contempt of court for not restoring his access to a system that allows prosecutors to monitor inmate phone calls and in-person meetings.

The court filing is the latest salvo in a months-long dispute between the county's top law enforcement officers that began with a disagreement over where to house 74-year-old attorney Claud "Tex" McIver, who is charged with killing his wife a year ago.

Howard wrote in the filing that Jackson had deliberately ignored Chief Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan’s order that he restore prosecutors’ access to the jail phone system, Securus Technology Portfolio, which was terminated on Aug. 15.

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Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson.

Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson.

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Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson.

Instead of returning access to the district attorney’s office, however, Jackson notified all law enforcement agencies in Fulton County, along with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, that they no longer had immediate access.

Chief Jailer Mark Adger didn’t comment on the court filing, but said Howard was simply trying to interfere with how the sheriff operates the jail.

>> RELATED: Fulton sheriff and DA spar after clash over Tex McIver

“The inmate phone system is not a county property. It’s not paid for by the county. It does not utilize county equipment. It does not utilized county phone lines. The phone system is a jail security system,” Adger said. “The county attorney has determined the judge cannot order us to give anyone access to our security system. It’s like the judge ordering the DA’s office to give us access to their records, unfettered.”

Adger said the sheriff’s office did not know Howard had gone to the judge until the order was issued on Aug. 23. “We did not have the ability to argue it in court. We believe once we are heard in court, the sheriff will prevail in this matter,” he said.

The Securus system allows officials to monitor inmate calls and in-person meetings in real time. That is also where prosecutors keep notes in regards to calls they are monitoring. It was during those calls that prosecutors learned that McIver allegedly was trying to influence his case.

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Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard 

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard 

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Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard 

Denying his office and other law enforcement agencies access to the system “raises serious security concerns,” and the access is needed to prevent criminal enterprises in the jail, prevent witnesses and victims from being intimated and to stay in compliance with court orders, Howard wrote in the filing.

The Securus system records all inmate calls. It also includes a voice recognition feature that sends an alert if an inmate uses another’s person’s account. Securus can set up a “geo fence” that alerts if a call is placed to a certain geographic area, where witnesses and victims live.

“Additionally, it is common that calls involving plans of harm to third parties, violation of court orders and other criminal behavior are placed via the use of another inmate’s account or through a three way call,” Howard said.

Adger said prosecutors could have whatever they needed if they first filed a written request. He complained that prosecutors monitoring calls had learned details important to jail security but didn’t pass on that information in a timely manner or at all.

The bad blood between the two elected officials began in June after a courtroom dispute over where McIver was housed. The sheriff not only cut off access to the phone system, he also did away with reserved jail parking spots for the district attorney’s office, and even briefly limited prosecutors’ access to inmates, Howard said.

>> RELATED: Is Tex McIver influencing his murder case from behind bars? You decide

The sheriff’s office said there was no agenda behind moving McIver. In court, the sheriff’s office said McIver had been assigned to the medical section at the main jail to keep him safe. They moved him to the lower-security jail in Alpharetta because they needed the infirmary bed for sick inmates.

But Fulton prosecutors suggested Jackson was giving McIver “preferential treatment” by housing him at the Alpharetta annex which is quieter and less restrictive. At the annex, McIver was allowed to use phones that bypassed the recording system.

That was a problem, Howard said.

He said prosecutors monitoring calls were listening when McIver allegedly tried to influence witnesses and tried to get a friend, who is a judge, to push the judge in his case to grant him a bond.

“We didn’t care where the sheriff housed him,” Howard said previously. “We just wanted the ability to monitor him.”

McIver is charged with malice murder and felony murder for shooting his wife, Diane, as they drove near Piedmont Park on Sept, 25, 2016; he says it was accidental. McIver also is charged with possession of a weapon and three counts of attempting to influence witnesses.