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Latest from Rhonda Cook

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Cash bail reforms easy to circumvent, critics contend
 A new Georgia law requires judges to determine a defendant’s finances before ordering the person to post bail. But some advocates for curtailing bail say there are ways to circumvent the new mandate, leaving indigent defendants at continued risk of being jailed because they don’t have the money to post bond. “Judges...

10:00 AM Monday, Jul. 02, 2018

A new Georgia law requires judges to determine a defendant’s finances before ordering the person to post bail. But some advocates for curtailing bail say there are ways to circumvent the new mandate, leaving indigent defendants at continued risk of being jailed because they don’t have the money to post bond. “Judges...
Man charged with multiple rapes after lost DNA evidence
 DNA evidence, newly tested after sitting for more than a decade at Grady Memorial Hospital, has led authorities to  a federal inmate they say is a serial rapist. A Fulton County grand jury on Thursday returned an indictment against Dandre Shabazz linking him to 15 rapes between December 2001 and May 2005. Shabazz has been behind bars...

10:06 PM Thursday, Jun. 28, 2018

DNA evidence, newly tested after sitting for more than a decade at Grady Memorial Hospital, has led authorities to a federal inmate they say is a serial rapist. A Fulton County grand jury on Thursday returned an indictment against Dandre Shabazz linking him to 15 rapes between December 2001 and May 2005. Shabazz has been behind bars...
Georgia sees another rash of inmate suicides
 Three state inmates have died of apparent suicides this week, the latest in what advocates say is an alarming rise in the number of Georgia prisoners taking their own lives. If the deaths are confirmed as suicides, they will bring the tally over the last 12 months to to 21. By comparison, there were just eight inmate suicides in the...

11:03 PM Wednesday, Jun. 27, 2018

Three state inmates have died of apparent suicides this week, the latest in what advocates say is an alarming rise in the number of Georgia prisoners taking their own lives. If the deaths are confirmed as suicides, they will bring the tally over the last 12 months to to 21. By comparison, there were just eight inmate suicides in the...
Feds probe GOP nominee for Georgia insurance commissioner
 A federal grand jury has subpoenaed state work records of Jim Beck, the former insurance lobbyist and state staffer who won the Republican nomination for Georgia insurance commissioner in May. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney based in Atlanta declined to comment on the investigation of Beck, who has been the subject of media reports over...

9:01 PM Tuesday, Jun. 26, 2018

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed state work records of Jim Beck, the former insurance lobbyist and state staffer who won the Republican nomination for Georgia insurance commissioner in May. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney based in Atlanta declined to comment on the investigation of Beck, who has been the subject of media reports over...
Crime lab backlog swells as opioid epidemic grows
 The ongoing opioid epidemic and a surge in police-involved shootings are fueling a growing backlog at Georgia’s crime labs, forcing some law enforcement officials to wait more than a year for forensic evidence that may make or break a case, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Division...

9:39 PM Monday, Jun. 25, 2018

The ongoing opioid epidemic and a surge in police-involved shootings are fueling a growing backlog at Georgia’s crime labs, forcing some law enforcement officials to wait more than a year for forensic evidence that may make or break a case, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Division...
Lawsuit: Georgia violating rights of deaf inmates
 Prison was a silent, isolating place for Jerry Coen despite being locked up in a facility that housed 1,150 other inmates. Deaf since birth and fluent only in American Sign Language, Coen had no way to learn the rules or to take part in programs that would help him once released. At a disciplinary hearing for refusing to change bunks, Coen&rsquo...

4:28 PM Wednesday, Jun. 20, 2018

Prison was a silent, isolating place for Jerry Coen despite being locked up in a facility that housed 1,150 other inmates. Deaf since birth and fluent only in American Sign Language, Coen had no way to learn the rules or to take part in programs that would help him once released. At a disciplinary hearing for refusing to change bunks, Coen&rsquo...
WATCHDOG: Schools slow to adopt ‘Stop the Bleed’ program
 A year after Georgia launched a $1. 5 million program to teach educators how to stem bleeding if a student is shot or suffers other trauma, only 44 percent of the state’s public schools have taken part in the potentially lifesaving training. Even fewer have received kits containing items like tourniquets, gauze and trauma dressing that...

8:06 PM Thursday, Jun. 14, 2018

A year after Georgia launched a $1. 5 million program to teach educators how to stem bleeding if a student is shot or suffers other trauma, only 44 percent of the state’s public schools have taken part in the potentially lifesaving training. Even fewer have received kits containing items like tourniquets, gauze and trauma dressing that...
Escaped convict: Death of 2 officers and escape wasn’t planned
 Ricky Dubose said he shot two correctional officers so he and a fellow convict could escape from a prison transport bus last year, but he said the attack wasn’t planned and that the other escapee didn’t want to kill anyone. The confession was part of a recorded interview between Dubose and investigators that was played Wednesday...

7:31 PM Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2018

Ricky Dubose said he shot two correctional officers so he and a fellow convict could escape from a prison transport bus last year, but he said the attack wasn’t planned and that the other escapee didn’t want to kill anyone. The confession was part of a recorded interview between Dubose and investigators that was played Wednesday...
Georgia fugitive confesses to gunning down prison guards
 Ricky Dubose said he shot two correctional officers so he and another inmate could escape from a prison transport bus but he said the deadly attack wasn’t planned, according to an interview with law enforcement officials played in court today. Dubose told agents from the FBI and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation that he seized an...

4:21 PM Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2018

Ricky Dubose said he shot two correctional officers so he and another inmate could escape from a prison transport bus but he said the deadly attack wasn’t planned, according to an interview with law enforcement officials played in court today. Dubose told agents from the FBI and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation that he seized an...
After hacking, Atlanta Municipal Court could soon be back in order
 The Atlanta Municipal Court, considered the busiest court in the Southeast, remains crippled by a ransomware attack on the city of Atlanta’s computer system first revealed more than 11 weeks ago. The bustling court that handles thousands of cases each day has relied on paper records and postponed an unknown number of cases since...

10:16 PM Thursday, Jun. 07, 2018

The Atlanta Municipal Court, considered the busiest court in the Southeast, remains crippled by a ransomware attack on the city of Atlanta’s computer system first revealed more than 11 weeks ago. The bustling court that handles thousands of cases each day has relied on paper records and postponed an unknown number of cases since...
Reports of misspending and nepotism confirmed by investigation
 The former director of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center near Brunswick has been sharply criticized for her “poor judgment” that included excessive spending on travel and hiring her husband, according to an investigation. The Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the training...

7:13 PM Tuesday, May. 29, 2018

The former director of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center near Brunswick has been sharply criticized for her “poor judgment” that included excessive spending on travel and hiring her husband, according to an investigation. The Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the training...
Ga. sex offender registry problems cost the state federal funds
 Shortcomings in Georgia’s sex offender registration program are going to cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant money, according to a letter the U.S. Department of Justice sent to the governor. The state receives from $4.9 million to almost $5.9 million annually from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance...

4:00 AM Monday, May. 28, 2018

Shortcomings in Georgia’s sex offender registration program are going to cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant money, according to a letter the U.S. Department of Justice sent to the governor. The state receives from $4.9 million to almost $5.9 million annually from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance...
Two families — two sides to a parole request
 Almost 23 years have passed since Patricia Dowell’s father was beaten to death, and she thought his killer would die in prison. Robert Carey Seymour, 55, was sentenced to life in prison and has already been denied parole three times. But now he has advanced cancer. Recently, Dowell received a letter from the State Board of Pardons and...

6:35 PM Thursday, May. 24, 2018

Almost 23 years have passed since Patricia Dowell’s father was beaten to death, and she thought his killer would die in prison. Robert Carey Seymour, 55, was sentenced to life in prison and has already been denied parole three times. But now he has advanced cancer. Recently, Dowell received a letter from the State Board of Pardons and...
No parole for woman who raped, tortured, murdered Georgia girl in 1982
 Judith Neelley, the youngest woman ever sentenced to be executed in the United States, will remain in prison for the 1982 murder of a 13-year-old Georgia girl, a decision reached by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles 18 years after the then-governor commuted her death sentence to life in prison. Neelley was 18 and a mother of three...

12:49 AM Thursday, May. 24, 2018

Judith Neelley, the youngest woman ever sentenced to be executed in the United States, will remain in prison for the 1982 murder of a 13-year-old Georgia girl, a decision reached by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles 18 years after the then-governor commuted her death sentence to life in prison. Neelley was 18 and a mother of three...
Expert calls prison isolation unit ‘draconian’
 Conditions in the state prison system’s isolation unit are the “harshest and most draconian” of any in the country and it puts inmates at risk of “irreversible and even fatal harm,” according to an expert hired to appraise the special unit at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison. The report, written...

7:22 PM Wednesday, May. 16, 2018

Conditions in the state prison system’s isolation unit are the “harshest and most draconian” of any in the country and it puts inmates at risk of “irreversible and even fatal harm,” according to an expert hired to appraise the special unit at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison. The report, written...
Candidate for Georgia Court of Appeals gets judicial warning
 The commission that oversees Georgia judges has issued a warning that candidates for judgeships must remain non-partisan after an Atlanta lawyer running for the Georgia Court of Appeals said publicly that he is a Republican and his opponent is not. Georgia policy is that judicial races are non-partisan because judges are supposed to preside...

7:51 PM Monday, May. 14, 2018

The commission that oversees Georgia judges has issued a warning that candidates for judgeships must remain non-partisan after an Atlanta lawyer running for the Georgia Court of Appeals said publicly that he is a Republican and his opponent is not. Georgia policy is that judicial races are non-partisan because judges are supposed to preside...
18 Georgia children have killed themselves this year
 So far this year, 18 Georgia children and teenagers have taken their own lives, a pace that is comparable to last year, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. “What it tells me is I don’t know if we’re making any progress in preventing teen suicides,” GBI Director Vernon Keenan said Thursday. According to...

11:14 PM Thursday, May. 10, 2018

So far this year, 18 Georgia children and teenagers have taken their own lives, a pace that is comparable to last year, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. “What it tells me is I don’t know if we’re making any progress in preventing teen suicides,” GBI Director Vernon Keenan said Thursday. According to...
Former GBI official faces federal charges for use of state credit card
 A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted a former top-ranking Georgia Bureau of Investigation official for allegedly charging more than $60,000 to state-issued purchasing cards. Putnam pleaded guilty in December to state charges similar to the federal crimes she is now accused of committing. The state’s case was closed when federal...

10:02 PM Tuesday, May. 08, 2018

A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted a former top-ranking Georgia Bureau of Investigation official for allegedly charging more than $60,000 to state-issued purchasing cards. Putnam pleaded guilty in December to state charges similar to the federal crimes she is now accused of committing. The state’s case was closed when federal...
Feds charge GBI inspector with theft, fraud
 A former inspector with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is facing federal charges for racking up tens of thousands of dollars in personal charges on her state-issued credit card. Sandra Putnam was indicted on four counts of mail fraud and three counts of federal program theft, according to an indictment handed down Tuesday. Putnam pleaded...

8:28 PM Tuesday, May. 08, 2018

A former inspector with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is facing federal charges for racking up tens of thousands of dollars in personal charges on her state-issued credit card. Sandra Putnam was indicted on four counts of mail fraud and three counts of federal program theft, according to an indictment handed down Tuesday. Putnam pleaded...
Robert Butts executed for 1996 murder. Final words: ‘It burns, man’
 Robert Earl Butts Jr. was put to death by lethal injection Friday at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison. He was pronounced dead at 9:58 p.m.  When asked for a final statement, Butts replied, “I’ve been drinking caffeine all day.” Then he declined an offer for a prayer.  Butts kept his eyes closed...

10:25 PM Friday, May. 04, 2018

Robert Earl Butts Jr. was put to death by lethal injection Friday at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison. He was pronounced dead at 9:58 p.m.  When asked for a final statement, Butts replied, “I’ve been drinking caffeine all day.” Then he declined an offer for a prayer.  Butts kept his eyes closed...
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