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Blindly Supporting Gonzalez Makes Us No Better Than Trumpers


District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez speaks in Superior Court earlier this year

By Ian Slack

I voted for Deborah Gonzalez in 2020 despite, what I thought at the time, legitimate concerns about her qualifications. I felt that attacks on her were just part of the general hatred that red-state Georgia feels about anything progressive going on in Athens.

In the years since, I've honestly not paid a lot of attention to the noise around her. Like a lot of Americans, I'm turned off by the extreme polarization of our current political environment, and I tend to focus on the only thing I can do about it, and that's vote.

That ended recently when I learned of the plea deal Gonzalez made in the violent death of a former colleague and friend of mine.

Here's what police say happened. Investigators allege Luke Harrison Waldrop hit 67-year-old Jim Jones from behind on Tallassee Road near Westchester Drive around 11 p.m. on March 3, 2022, as Jones was cycling home from his job as a security guard. The speed limit where the crash occurred is just 35 mph, and it's a section of road just outside the perimeter sitting between two traffic lights spaced a little over a thousand feet apart.

Two months later, an Athens grand jury indicted Waldrop on charges of first-degree homicide by vehicle (punishable by 3-15 years in jail), driving under the influence, and reckless driving. The charges seemed appropriate as Jones was known to ride at night with extremely bright LED taillights, and given the low speed limit, there was no reason for Waldrop to fail to see him.

So it was a deep shock for those following the case when Gonzalez dismissed the original charges and let Waldrop plead to the lesser misdemeanor charges of second-degree homicide by vehicle and "improper passing of a bicycle." Even then, Waldrop could have served up to 12 months in jail under Georgia sentencing guidelines, but Judge Lawton Stephens instead gave him two years of probation and a small fine. Because Waldrop was bailed out just hours after his arrest, he's literally never served a day in jail for taking the life of a long-time member of the Athens cycling community and a man known for his intellect and contributions to groups like the Society for Creative Anachronism.

As I tried to wrap my head around what happened, I read more and more about Gonzalez, including coverage of the extreme turmoil in her office because of her inability to keep a large enough staff of assistant DAs combined with procedural missteps and other failures. She's also had to apologize to an alleged rape victim for the way her case was handled.

All the while, Gonzalez has wrapped herself in the progressive cloak and loudly proclaimed that criticism of the job she's doing is just right-wing politics as usual—recent editorials in support of her echo that sentiment.

So, in my opinion, here we have an individual who's profoundly failing in the basic duty of the position she was elected to—seeking justice for the victims of crime—yet there's still a large number of people willing to defend her.

Does that sound familiar at all? Someone who was a disaster in office and yet still enjoys wide support because people like his politics? We're better than this. Judge politicians based on their competence and performance, not just a party label.

Originally from Athens, Ian Slack spent 25 years as a journalist working for television stations around the Southeast before returning to The Classic City to be closer to family and friends in 2020.

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7 Comments


She and her ilk is what's wrong with the USA now. The downfall of a once great nation.

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Jeff Bishop
Jeff Bishop
Oct 02, 2023

If I were in her shoes, I would have never run for district attorney based on my lack of experience, knowledge or desire to do much in the way of prosecuting crimes. I would have read the job description and seeked employment elsewhere.


Ian, thank you for writing about your friend and your thoughts on the situation. As a fellow cyclist in a town that claims to want more of them, it is disappointing to see how poorly this loss of life was prosecuted. I obviously don't know much about the situation but it is tragic and I can't imagine the impact on his family. It's not too much to ask for competency in our justice system...in all areas o…

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It’s very sad what happened to your friend and that he won’t get the justice he deserve, but let’s place the blame where it truly belongs in this case. The police that failed to collect the proper evidence to convict him. His lawyer had a hand in setting him free too if you want to go there…

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Samson Tiger
Samson Tiger
Oct 02, 2023

Thank you for the article, Ian. I agree that the polarization in America and Athens is overwhelming and, regardless of party, blindly following a candidate, despite gross incompetence, is absurd. It doesn’t matter if it is our DA or our president (or some of our feckless commissioners).


I did not vote for her, I voted for the person who actually had prosecutorial experience and was, at the time, acting DA, Brian Patterson.


However, because of her complete ineptitude, Athens is now wide open to criminals who have no fear of real justice. Her immaturity and political one sidedness will continue to be manifested in her never accepting responsibility.

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ThatGirl
ThatGirl
Oct 02, 2023

It's always amazing to me how people can tie ANYTHING TO Trump. For yall to hate him so much, you can't seem to keep his name out of your mouth and out of your stories. But I'll bite. Gonzalez is probably the biggest example of a failure in office that I've ever seen. Next to Doretha Bailey Butts from Newton County. The only thing about her was that she finally resigned. Gonzalez isn't going to do that. She'd rather play that woe is me role and make herself out to be the hero that everyone dislikes for no reason. Except there are 100 reasons. To anyone who still supports this failure, can you please tell us why!? What has she…

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Samson Tiger
Samson Tiger
Oct 02, 2023
Replying to

If I were in her shoes, I would resign. But this would have to be preceded by a statement of responsibility and an admission of failing to fulfill that responsibility. Her biggest area of incompetence is not realizing that she is incompetent (thus she blames everything from salaries to stern speaking judges on the attrition in her office).


Upon the resignation of a DA—-this is what that the GA Code says:


“GA Code § 15-18-16 (2022)

Upon the death or resignation of a district attorney, the chief assistant district attorney or, if there is no chief assistant district attorney, the assistant district attorney senior in time of service shall perform the duties of the deceased or resigned district attorney in…

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