Law firm to review Cobb County jail conditions

Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren has asked Wade, Bradley & Campbell to look into complaints over the use of force, racial biases and discrimination and allegations of neglect at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.
Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren has asked Wade, Bradley & Campbell to look into complaints over the use of force, racial biases and discrimination and allegations of neglect at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.

A Marietta law firm has been selected by Sheriff Neil Warren to perform a review of operations at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center, where seven detainees have died since December 2018.

Warren has asked Wade, Bradley & Campbell to look into complaints over the use of force, racial biases and discrimination and allegations of neglect dating back five years, said Nathan Wade, a partner at the firm.

Wade said he was approached last weekend by Warren during a prayer rally organized by Zion Baptist Church of Marietta and asked to conduct the review. Wade told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution his firm is not charging for the review, which he said will begin next week.

No timeline has been provided on when the report will be complete. Wade said the report will outline what the Sheriff’s Office is doing well at the jail and what areas need to be improved.

“If we find it, we’ll report it,” he said of any wrongdoing. “It’ll be written up.”

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Seven men have died at the jail since December 2018: Reginald WilsonJessie MylesBradley EmoryWilliam Kocour, Steven DavisKevil Wingo and Christopher Hart.

Five of the men died of natural causes, autopsies concluded, but Davis’s death was classified as undetermined and Hart’s remains under investigation. The deaths have sparked criticism from residents and families, local activists and civil rights organizations, which are calling on Warren to address their concerns about medical care for inmates and jail staffing levels.

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One of those organizations is the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, which said any investigation into the facility’s operations “should be overseen by a separate constitutional office with an independent examiner.”

“We stand steadfast in our original call for transparency and accountability into the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office,” Christopher Bruce, political director for the ACLU of Georgia, said Friday.

Wade and Warren have met before. Wade represented the sheriff in March during a hearing before the Cobb County Board of Elections on allegations made by former Democratic challenger Jimmy Herndon that Warren didn’t notarize his original qualifying documents. Those charges were tossed when it was determined the original documents had been notarized.

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Wade said he was asked by Chief Deputy Sonya Allen, a former classmate, to represent her boss at the hearing because the county attorney’s office was unable to do so.

“There is no apparent conflict of interest,” Wade said. “The only thing I can say is that we are an ethical firm. We have a reputation for being zealous advocates for this community and our clients. We are fair, we are honest and I challenge anyone to bring up an instance where we’ve not been.”

Wade also told the AJC that he took two tours of the jail last year and said he found nothing out of the ordinary.

Attorney Timothy Gardner, who was hired by the family of Kevil Wingo to look into his death, said he sees Warren’s actions as a political move “so the sheriff can make the claim of transparency while hiding behind a stone wall.”

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“I find it hard to believe that Mr. Wade’s firm can take on the task to investigate the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office’s conduct over the last five years without compensation,” Gardner said. “There is no way that a substantive and reliable report can come from this cursory review at best.”

Gardner said he expects the report will exonerate Warren and will find “much of nothing from the nothing that will be investigated.”

“I hope Mr. Wade proves me wrong and unveils the systemic racism that transfers from our police departments to the jails where citizens wrongfully die,” he said.

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