By Joe Johnson
A veteran prosecutor was recently hired by Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez to handle major crimes and reduce a large backlog of cases that resulted from a 15-month moratorium on trials and grand jury proceedings caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gerald Henderson joined the staff of the DA’s office that prosecutes cases in Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties on July 26.
“He is an experienced Georgia prosecutor, most recently in DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties,” said David Lyle, the DA’s director of external relations.
“He is a former assistant United States attorney and has participated in over 100 state felony jury trials,” Lyle said.
Henderson worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands from 2008 to 2010.
In over two decades as a prosecutor, he has been a supervising attorney with responsibility for cases involving homicide, narcotics and crimes against children, according to Lyle, who said Henderson was named prosecutor of the year by the Georgia Arson Control Board in 2016.
The new addition to the DA’s office that prosecutes cases in Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties also has conducted training for the Georgia State Patrol for Methamphetamine Lab ID and Investigation.
“His focus is on serious felonies, including murders and Special Victims cases, and helping reduce the backlog of cases caused by the COVID pandemic,” according to Lyle, who said that Gonzalez inherited over 2,400 open cases when she became DA in January.
“Reducing this backlog as quickly as resources permit is one of her top priorities,” he said.
Among other things, Henderson has become lead prosecutor in the case of a man who murdered 26-yesar-old University of Georgia grad student Benjamin Lloyd Cloer while the defendant was a Madison County sheriff’s deputy.
In an introductory email Thursday to Steve Cloer, the victim’s father, Henderson explained he was taking over lead chair in the case from ADA Robert Schollmeyer and told Cloer that he had 25 years of experience as a felony trial attorney, with the last 10 spent almost exclusively tying homicide cases.
The ADA ended the email by saying, “May I express my sorrow for your loss. We will give Benjamin’s case the attention and work it deserves.”