School chief’s role in ex-student’s indictment questioned

The forewoman of the Meriwether County grand jury that recently indicted a 20-year-old man on rape and kidnapping charges knew the case too well, the defendant’s attorney says.

Two years before indicting Tava Reese, Carol L. Lane, superintendent of the Meriwether County School System, had signed off on a tribunal’s recommendation that the Greenville High senior be expelled for the same alleged offenses, which could land him in prison for life.

Lane told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she exerted no undue influence in the indictment or the expulsion.

“I do not sit on the tribunal. I have nothing to do with the outcome,” Lane said. As for the indictment, “There was never any discussion about the charges,” she said. “Not one person asked me, ‘Do you know this kid?’ or ‘Do you know this case?’ All I did was call for a vote. Had the other jurors wanted to discuss it, I would’ve recused myself.”

Though grand jurors are not made aware of the cases they’ll be hearing until they arrive in court, Pete Skandalakis, district attorney of the Coweta Judicial Circuit, knew Reese’s case would be presented.

Attorney Jackie Patterson has filed a motion to dismiss the indictment based on “the obvious conflict of interest.”s He said Skandalakis “should have never allowed (Lane) to serve on the grand jury. This is a sham indictment. I’ve never heard of anything like this in the 21 years I’ve been practicing law.”

Skandalakis declined comment due to the pending motion.

Lane said the alleged conflict is merely a coincidence, noting that Meriwether County — about 65 miles southwest of Atlanta — is a “small town.” The 2009 U.S. Census estimated the county’s population at 22,783.

“I don’t like what’s being insinuated,” Lane said. “I would never take advantage of my position or try to obstruct justice in any way.”

Reese was expelled in October 2010, when he was 17, after being accused of pushing a female student into a closet and sexually assaulting her. Patterson told the AJC the sex was consensual.

The trial is scheduled to begin April 16, when Patterson’s motion to dismiss the indictment will be heard. Reese is charged with rape, kidnapping and false imprisonment.

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