By Joe Johnson
Western Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Eric Norris reportedly has denied a motion for contempt against the circuit's district attorney Deborah Gonzalez, chief prosecutor for Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties.
The contempt order had been sought by Watkinsville attorney Kevin Epps as part of a civil action he initiated in an attempt to have the court compel Gonzalez, an inexperienced criminal prosecutor, to fulfill her duties as required under Georgia law. The former entertainment lawyer's mismanagement and policies of her office has resulted in procedural errors that allowed some serious felony cases to be dismissed, Epps has claimed.
The evidence showed that following the Court's May 25 order, DA Gonzalez produced 42 documents before the 15 day deadline," The Oconee Enterprise reported that Norris wrote in his ruling. "Based on this review, the court is satisfied that DA Gonzalez complied with the May 25 Order...Finally, given that DA Gonzalez's office had been disqualified from the case as of May 19, her failure to provide Tracker notes was not willful, given her belief that she was not ethically permitted to review the case file upon withdrawal from the case."
In his order, Norris also granted a motion to vacate a dismissal of rape, incest and child molestation charges against Athens defendant Michael Lareco Daniel, meaning that Daniel can be tried on these charges.
"Jeopardy has not attached, and the case stands in the same procedure posture as before the April 17, 2023 trial week," Norris wrote. "Prosecution in this case may be renewed."