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Athens DA faces new efforts to oust her

By Joe Johnson

District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez was a top target of Republicans long before the slaying of Laken Riley brought new scrutiny of her criminal justice approach. Now she’s facing a well-financed initiative to oust her from her job, according to reports from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A group called Safer Georgia said Wednesday it plans to spend more than $100,000 to unseat the Democratic prosecutor. It launched a minute-long ad painting her as more concerned about “partisan politics than she is about protecting families.”

The ad features Oconee County Sheriff James Hale Jr. saying the victims are “not seeing justice because of the lack of prosecution.”

And it includes an emotional interview with the father of Ariana Zarse, a University of Georgia student who was killed in a hit-and-run in 2021.

"I had to trust the DA to get justice, and had they been prosecuted in a timely fashion, he wouldn’t have been behind the wheel,” said Jeff Zarse, who blamed Gonzalez’s office for the suspect’s acquittal.

The ad doesn’t mention Gonzalez’s opponent Kalki Yalamanchili, a former prosecutor who is running as an independent. But officials say the initiative is backed by Athens-area conservative voters who have warmed to his campaign.

“Safer Georgia Inc.’s campaign is focused on holding Deborah Gonzalez accountable for her horrible prosecutorial record and ensuring citizens of Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties finally have a district attorney who will keep our community safe,” said Eric Eberhardt, a local attorney who is the group’s spokesman.

The criticism is not new for Gonzalez, who has for years faced questions over her handling of high-profile charges, her decision not to prosecute certain low-level offenses and her approach to immigration cases.

And when Gov. Brian Kemp pushed for a new state commission to punish “rogue” prosecutors, it was Gonzalez he invoked as an example of a district attorney in need of reprimand. A revamped version of that law is now waiting for Kemp’s signature.

Gonzalez is responsible for bringing justice to the killer of Laken Riley, the nursing student slain on the University of Georgia’s campus. Jose Antonio Ibarra, who authorities say entered the country illegally in 2022, is charged with her killing.

Days after Ibarra was charged, Gonzalez tapped veteran prosecutor Sheila Ross to handle the case, drawing muted praise even from some of her skeptics.

Kemp, though, made his frustration clear when asked in Athens if he was confident in her office’s ability to try the case.

“She’d best do that, I can tell you,” he said, “because the whole country and the world is watching this case.”

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5 commentaires

In addition to previous comments, she seems incapable of accepting blame or responsibility. Her first instinct is to blame others for her shortcomings, incompetence, and poor judgement.

She will throw the Chief of Police, the police department, the citizens, and even her own staff (what’s left of them) under the bus to try and save face.

Then claims she is a victim because citizens are working to get her ousted.

En réponse à

When being held accountable, THE number-one liberal response is always BLAME!


Even the Democrats should realize how bad she is and vote her out.


If you all hate Athens and the community here so much, why don’t you just leave? We’d be better off without you.


She is a narcissist & self absorbed. She cannot comprehend the damage she has caused to countless families, police, judges, & the people of Athens. She is what is known as a menace to society & our governor is just as guilty if he cannot remove her from office immediately on the grounds of endangerment to the community.

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