Reckless conduct charge against Georgia legislator dismissed

02/09/2021 —Atlanta, Georgia — Rep. Trey Kelley, Chairman of the special committee on access to the civil justice system, speaks on behalf of HB 112 in the House Chambers on day 14 of the Georgia Legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Tuesday, February 9, 2021. HB 112 passed in the House. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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02/09/2021 —Atlanta, Georgia — Rep. Trey Kelley, Chairman of the special committee on access to the civil justice system, speaks on behalf of HB 112 in the House Chambers on day 14 of the Georgia Legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Tuesday, February 9, 2021. HB 112 passed in the House. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

State Rep. Trey Kelley called police chief instead of 911

A judge threw out a misdemeanor charge against state Rep. Trey Kelley on Tuesday, ruling that his failure to call 911 in response to a fatal crash wasn’t reckless conduct.

Senior Superior Court Judge Stephen Schuster dismissed the indictment against Kelley, a Republican from Cedartown, that stemmed from his friend’s collision with a bicyclist in Polk County two years ago.

The driver, Ralph Dover III, called Kelley, a lawyer, after the crash rather than calling 911. Then Kelley went to the scene and called the Cedartown police chief.

The chief dispatched an officer, who found the bicyclist, Eric Keais, alive on the side of the road. An ambulance arrived within minutes, but Keais later died.

Because Kelley wasn’t the driver, he had no obligation to call 911 after he learned about the accident, Schuster wrote in his order.

“To follow the state’s position in this case, every driver passing by a collision on the roadway must now ‘immediately’ contact 911 or they have committed a crime,” Schuster wrote. “There is simply no such crime.”

Kelley’s attorney, Lester Tate, said the lawmaker did nothing wrong. Kelley has said he didn’t know a person had been injured when he arrived at the scene of the crash.

“Trey Kelley is still very saddened by the death of Mr. Keais but is thrilled to have been exonerated on this charge,” Tate said. “We’re hopeful that this is the end of it.”

An appeal of the judge’s order is possible. Tallapoosa Circuit District Attorney Oliver Jackson Browning Jr. said Tuesday that he will review the judge’s order and then decide how to proceed.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed against Kelley in September is pending. That case alleges that Kelley used his political office and influence to protect his friend rather than try to help the bicyclist.

Dover is still facing hit-and-run and reckless conduct charges.