Judge accused of faking correspondence in hate crime case

Content warning: this text consists of point out of an assault on a minor. 

A household has accused a DeKalb County choose of faking official correspondence in a case that entails a racially motivated assault on a 15-year-old woman. 

On Aug. 9, plaintiffs in the DeKalb Superior Court case Jane Smith Et al v. Bell Fund V Perimeter LLC Et al. filed a movement to recuse Judge Tangela Barrie. The plaintiffs are the household of Mary Smith (a pseudonym), an African American woman who was the sufferer of a hate crime in 2017. According to court docket paperwork, Mary, who’s utilizing a pseudonym on account of her age on the time of the incident, was 15 years previous when she was attacked and sexually assaulted at Dunwoody’s Bell Perimeter Center Apartments whereas she was taking the trash to the chute on her ground. 

Court paperwork from the plaintiffs – together with a signed affidavit from Pete Simi, an professional in extremist teams and white supremacy – state that the perpetrator repeatedly used racial slurs in the course of the assault. An assailant has not been caught. 

The plaintiffs are alleging negligence in opposition to a number of defendants in the case; Bell Fund V Perimeter LLC and Bell Partners Inc., the proprietor and administration firm for the house complicated; Steven Bell, the founder of Bell Partners; Brady Ellis, the assistant group supervisor for the house on the time; Nicole Jones, the group supervisor for the house on the time; Joshua Sanders, who’s a Dunwoody police officer and was the courtesy officer on the house complicated on the time; and safety firms Orion Access Control, Inc. dba Royal Access and Controlled Access, Inc. 

The criticism alleges that the defendants didn’t safe the house complicated successfully and allowed safety tools, comparable to locks, gates, and doorways, to fall into disrepair. The criticism additionally alleges that Jones didn’t name 911 and failed to avoid wasting any surveillance footage of the incident. 

The Dunwoody Police Department offered an preliminary incident report for the case, however wouldn’t present 911 name audio, Chatcomm dispatch audio, or any video from sprint or physique cameras, citing that the case continues to be open.  

A spokesperson for the DPD mentioned the division has had no leads since 2017. Due to pending court docket proceedings, they declined to remark additional and didn’t reply questions concerning if a detective continues to be engaged on the case. 

“The Defendants are chargeable for the horrific assault as a result of their negligence, indifference, and blatant disregard for Plaintiff’s security allowed it to occur,” reads an amended criticism submitted by the plaintiffs on Dec. 6, 2021. “These Defendants then re-victimized Plaintiff by failing to comply with their very own insurance policies and procedures in the aftermath of this egregious hate crime.” 

All defendants have filed responses to the amended criticism denying allegations of negligence or legal responsibility. No defendants legal professionals responded to requests for remark. 

The household is at the moment ready to listen to whether or not Barrie might be recused from the case following allegations that the court docket faked an electronic mail. The recusal movement entails Barrie’s former regulation clerk, Marissa Dunn who labored on the case and left the court docket in 2021 to work for Freeman Mathis & Gary (FMG). Two FMG attorneys, Sharon Horne and Sun Choy, symbolize defendant Joshua Sanders. 

Choy can be representing Gregory McMichael in a civil case from Wanda Cooper-Jones, the mom of Ahmaud Arbery, in line with PACER paperwork. McMichael is one of three white males who was convicted for killing Arbery, who was Black, whereas he was on a jog in 2020.  At the time of Arbery’s homicide and Mary’s assault, Georgia was one of just a few states to not have a hate crime statute. The Georgia Legislature passed a hate crime bill in the wake of Arbery’s homicide. 

The plaintiffs initially filed a movement on July 6 to disqualify Horne and Choy as counsel, stating that they had not been made conscious of Dunn’s employment with FMG and that FMG didn’t reply to their questions on whether or not Dunn had been screened from the case. 

The State Bar of Georgia states that legal professionals usually are not allowed to symbolize anybody linked with a case in which the lawyer labored “personally and considerably” as a regulation clerk until all events concerned in the case give their consent. A regulation clerk is allowed to use for a job with a agency concerned in a case their court docket is collaborating in, however solely after notifying the court docket. If they’re employed, all counsel of file ought to be notified. The lawyer ought to be screened from any participation in the matter shifting ahead. 

At a July 21 listening to, Barrie revealed that Dunn had purportedly despatched her an electronic mail virtually a yr earlier that addressed Dunn’s employment at FMG in addition to the screening situation. In the e-mail, which is dated Sept. 7, 2021, Dunn writes that she notified FMG she wouldn’t be capable of work on the case, and he or she didn’t suppose her work on the case was substantial sufficient for her to provide discover. 

In a signed affidavit included with the movement to recuse, the plaintiff’s lawyer Michael Simmons questions the validity of Dunn’s electronic mail.

“I used to be shocked to be taught that the Court had been in possession of an e-mail for over ten months that addressed and would have averted the primary floor set forth in the Motion to Disqualify Counsel,” Simmons wrote. “It appeared to me that the timing of the Court’s disclosure of Ms. Dunn’s electronic mail was calculated and deliberate.” 

In a separate affidavit, a cyber forensics professional additionally questions the authenticity of the e-mail. 

“…it’s my professional conclusion there may be alteration, manipulation and/or omission of knowledge in or associated to the emails,” mentioned Konstantinos “Gus” Dimitrelos, a former secret service agent, in his affidavit. “Therefore, the emails offered can’t be offered as real emails and are most certainly fraudulent. In order to verify this conclusion, I might require entry to the e-mail account and host such because the Outlook consumer or the internet hosting electronic mail server.”

In a response to the plaintiff’s movement to disqualify, FMG counsel mentioned that Dunn has not had any involvement with FMG’s work on the case and that she can not entry the agency’s supplies on the case. 

Dunn didn’t reply to questions in regards to the electronic mail, and General Counsel for FMG wouldn’t conform to go on file for this story.

After the July listening to and the looks of the e-mail, Simmons despatched letters to Dunn and different court docket employees requesting they not delete, destroy, or lose any communication with related info to the case, together with info on private units. On July 25, Barrie voluntarily recused herself from the case, saying she thought-about Simmons’ preservation letters to be “harassing and unprofessional” and that the recusal was meant to “stop any additional harassment.” 

Despite this correspondence, a later electronic mail between Simmons and court docket employees revealed that Barrie had not decided on whether or not she would recuse. On Aug. 11, the court docket held a listening to which referred to as into query Simmons’ professional hac vice standing, which permits him to apply exterior of his licensed state. At that listening to, Barrie mentioned she took so lengthy to indicate Dunn’s electronic mail as a result of she forgot about it. 

On Sept. 12, the plaintiffs filed a movement to nominate a particular grasp to examine FMG’s electronic mail system to find out if the e-mail was genuine. Defendant Sanders filed a response in opposition to that movement on Oct. 11, calling it “frivolous and dilatory.” 

Barrie didn’t reply to questions on whether or not the e-mail was despatched by Dunn or not. In response as to if Chief Judge Asha Jackson wish to touch upon the matter, a judicial assistant for Jackson mentioned she forwarded the request to Jackson, but in addition mentioned it’s the coverage of the court docket to not touch upon energetic circumstances. 

In addition to the e-mail, paperwork offered in assist of the plaintiff’s movement to recuse cited Barrie’s delayed response to ruling on issues like permitting the household to make use of fictitious names in addition to a protecting order. The household filed a movement to proceed utilizing fictitious names on Oct. 9, 2020, however Barrie didn’t rule on that movement till over a yr in a while Nov. 11, 2021. The court docket has nonetheless not but dominated on a protecting order. 

The National Crime Victim Law Institute states that whereas there’s a presumption in favor of naming events in a lawsuit, that presumption isn’t absolute. The use of pseudonyms in circumstances that contain crime victims can shield them from emotional hurt and revictimization.

“Refusing victims the chance to entry justice with out sacrificing privateness is one kind of re-victimization by the hands of the justice course of,” reads a bulletin from 2011

In his signed affidavit, professional Pete Simi – who additionally testified as an expert witness in the trial of those that organized the white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017 – mentioned he believed that if private details about the Smith household was made public, they’d fall sufferer to “on-line trolling, harassment, and dying threats and offline terrorism.”

“It is my opinion the court docket ought to use any and all assets out there in phrases of protecting measures to make sure the bodily security and safety of private info for Mary Smith and her household,” Simi mentioned. 

Barrie didn’t reply to requests for remark concerning the pseudonym ruling or the protecting order. 

Simmons didn’t reply to direct questions concerning the professional hac vice standing listening to or the size of time it took the court docket to rule on pseudonyms or the protecting order, however did present a basic assertion on the case.

“What occurred to my consumer is tragic past phrases. An attractive, clever, vibrant 15-year previous woman whose innocence was destroyed as a result of of hate,” Simmons mentioned in an electronic mail. “Clients come to legal professionals to hunt justice, and in flip the justice system owes a accountability to those that have been wronged.  In my 28-years of apply and in the tons of of circumstances in which I’ve been concerned, what I’ve seen happen in this case is unprecedented.  The braveness of my consumer and her household to remain the course in in search of the reality and justice ought to be an inspiration to victims in every single place.”

Due to the movement to recuse, a ruling on Simmons’ professional hac vice won’t be made till that matter is solved. At the time of this publication, no date has been set. 

Originally, Judge Stacey Hydrick was set to rule on Barrie’s recusal. But on Sept. 14, she voluntarily recused herself from the case. According to the Due Process clauses of the United States Constitution, judges are required to recuse themselves after they have a monetary curiosity in the case’s final result or there’s a sturdy risk the choose’s choice might be biased. 

Hydrick declined to remark, citing Rule 2.10 of the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct, which prohibits judges from making public feedback on pending proceedings or impending issues. 

According to court docket paperwork, Judge Yolanda Parker-Smith will now rule on the movement to recuse. 

This is an ongoing case that might be adopted by Reporter Newspapers


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