Updated: Jun 1
By Joe Johnson
A prosecutor on Tuesday abruptly quit during a detention hearing in Athens-Clarke County Juvenile Court, telling the judge that his court was “a joke.”
Deborah Nogueira-Yates on Wednesday explained that after Judge A. Kamau Hull repeatedly ruled against her at the hearing, she lost her temper that she had tried keeping in check in the four months since she was hired as the Western Judicial Circuit’s Juvenile Court prosecutor.
The way in which the judge conducted the hearing, including not allowing Nogueira-Yates to question a Department of Juvenile Justice officer about the defendant's previous arrests, led the prosecutor to believe the judge was not going to order the youth to be detained.
“The part that was too much for me was that Judge Hull was sustaining objections against the law,” Nogueira-Yates said, “The State was allowed to have the officer testify, and the State was also allowed to ask questions from the DJJ officer regarding how many times that particular juvenile was arrested in the last month
“But Judge Hull’s knowledge of the law and rules of evidence is lacking,” Nogueira-Yates said. “How am I supposed to do my job? I told (the judge), ’OK, let the juvenile go so we can be back here next week doing the same thing,’ because I have sat for a detention hearing with the same juvenile at least four to five times since March.”
That is when she announced she quit and stormed out of the courtroom.
Court sources said that after the prosecutor left, the judge summoned to his court District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez before granting the State’s request to detain the juvenile at the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center.
Nogueira-Yates said that she regretted calling Hull’s court a joke, but her frustration got the best of her, thinking that Hull was leaning toward denying the request to detain the young defendant.
“I should have kept quiet,” she said. “But the Juvenile Court needs a lot of investment and attention. I’m tired of seeing kids committing serious crimes only to be put back into the community.“
Nogueira-Yates' resignation further decimated a short-staffed office that is still trying to replace some of the personnel who resigned after Gonzalez was elected in December as the judicial circuit’s first new DA in 20 years.
David Lyle, director of External Relations for Gonzalez, said, “We don’t have any comment on this matter.”
Judge Hull was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.