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State Supreme Court to decide if Athens teen charged with drive-by shootings can be tried as adult

By Joe Johnson

The Georgia Supreme Court will be deciding whether a former Cedar Shoals High School student who was 15 when arrested in possession of a loaded gun that allegedly had been used in a pair of drive-by shootings should be tried as an adult.

Athens-Clarke County police said they arrested Joseph Hunter in December 2018 at the high school after school district officials notified them that they had reason to believe a student was in possession of a gun.

Working with school district police, the Cedar Shoals resource officer located a loaded gun in Hunter's backpack, authorities said. The student then was taken into custody on a charge of possession of a firearm on school grounds.

Subsequent investigation determined that the firearm had recently been stolen from a vehicle and used earlier in the week of the Hunter's arrest in two drive-by shootings that targeted a home on Martin Court in east Athens, according to police reports.

No one was injured in either incident.

In March 2019, Juvenile Court Judge Robin Shearer ruled in favor of a motion by the Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office to transfer Hunter’s case to Superior Court.

A grand jury subsequently indicted Hunter, who had since turned 16, on two counts each of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, entering an automobile with the intent to commit theft,theft by taking, and single counts of theft by receiving stolen property, criminal trespass, possession of a weapon on school grounds and possession of a handgun by a person under the age of 18.

One month after the indictment, Hunter’s attorney appealed the transfer of his client’s case to Superior Court, and on Jan. 14 of this year the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the transfer.

A week later, Hunter’s attorney filed an appeal of that ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court, which docketed the case on Monday.

Arguments in the case have yet to be scheduled.

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