By Joe Johnson
Deborah Gonzalez, district attorney for Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties on Friday denied allegations that she had violated Marsy's Law, which gives victims the right to be consulted during the prosecution of offenders.
The violations were alleged last month in Superior Court filings that claim Gonzalez, who heads the Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office, agreed to plea bargains that dismissed felony charges against defendants without input from victims and their families.
The Marsy's Law allegations were filed by Watkinsville attorney Kevin Epps, who represents a woman involved in a hit-and-run wreck in Oconee County and the wife of a man who was killed while riding a bicycle in Athens. In both cases, the defendants were originally charged with drunk driving, but the charges were later dismissed.
On Friday Gonzalez released a statement that referred to the allegations as "erroneous claims" aimed at her office.
"As a team, our oﬃce has prioritized working in collaboration with our law enforcement partners to keep the residents of Clarke and Oconee counties safe, ensuring that justice is served with due process and that victims of crimes are aﬀorded certain basic rights. Victim advocacy is paramount to the work we do.
"Attorney Kevin Epps has once again chosen to divert attention from the notable work of the DA’s office and instead focus on unfounded allegations. We will not be distracted by political partisanship that does not reﬂect our commitment to creating a safer, more just, and equitable community.
"We advise that Attorney Epps spend more time investigating the facts in the cases of the people he claims to represent. In the case of one victim, our oﬃce did its due diligence in contacting the victim's family multiple times and keeping them informed as case details were available. In response to the second case, we cannot comment as the case has been true-billed by a grand jury. It is an active case and cannot be discussed.
"This oﬃce continues prioritizing professionalism in prosecuting violent oﬀenders, protecting our community, and upholding justice. The Western Judicial Circuit will always ensure that every victim is treated with respect and dignity."