Georgia calls on Department of Justice re: Arbery

Some new documentation avaiable, including a press release by an information officer for Glynn County who has no first-hand information.

“Carr Requests DOJ to Conduct Investigation into Handling of Ahmaud Arbery Case
May 10, 2020
ATLANTA, GA – Attorney General Chris Carr today formally requested the U.S. Department of Justice, led by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia Bobby Christine, to conduct an investigation into the handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case. This case involves the deadly shooting Mr. Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia on February 23, 2020 within the Brunswick Judicial Circuit. At the time of Mr. Arbery’s death and up until May 7, 2020, no arrests were made in the case.

“We are committed to a complete and transparent review of how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the outset,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “The family, the community and the state of Georgia deserve answers, and we will work with others in law enforcement at the state and federal level to find those answers.”

The request to the U.S. Department of Justice includes, but is not limited to, investigation of the communications and discussions by and between the Office of the District Attorney of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit and the Office of the District Attorney of the Waycross Judicial Circuit related to this case.

On February 27, 2020, the Office of the Attorney General received a request from the Office of the District Attorney of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit to appoint another prosecutor for this case. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 15-18-5, this Office appointed the District Attorney for the Waycross Judicial Circuit to prosecute the case on that same date. At the time of the request by the Brunswick Circuit District Attorney and acceptance by the Waycross Circuit District Attorney, neither revealed to the Office of the Attorney General that the Waycross Circuit District Attorney had already taken a role in the case in reviewing evidence and advising the Glynn County Police Department regarding whether to make arrests in the case.

On April 7, 2020, the Office of the Attorney General received a request from the Office of the District Attorney for the Waycross Judicial Circuit to appoint another prosecutor for this case. In that request, the Waycross Circuit District Attorney again did not inform the Office of the Attorney General of his prior involvement in the case before his appointment and specifically described to the Office of the Attorney General the actions that he took “upon taking the case.” In the request of April 7, 2020, the Waycross Circuit District Attorney indicated that he and the Brunswick Circuit District Attorney learned as of “about 3-4 weeks ago,” that his son who is employed as a prosecutor in the Office of the Brunswick Circuit District Attorney had handled a prior prosecution of Mr. Arbery and that one of the defendants in this case had also served as an investigator on the same prosecution. The request of April 7, 2020 did not provide any reason for the delay in contacting the Office of the Attorney General to request appointment of a new prosecutor since the discovery of those facts. Nor did the request of April 7, 2020, reveal that, on April 2, 2020, the Waycross Circuit District Attorney had provided the Glynn County Police Department with a written opinion that no arrests should be made in the case. In that letter, the Waycross District Attorney also confirmed “an initial opinion the day after the shooting” which would have been February 24, 2020. At that time, he had not requested, nor was he appointed by the Office of the Attorney General to this case.

On April 13, 2020, the Office of the Attorney General appointed the District Attorney for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit to this case. On May 5, 2020, the Atlantic Circuit District Attorney requested that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) conduct an investigation into the death of Ahmaud Arbery. The GBI commenced its investigation on May 6, 2020 and made two arrests on May 7, 2020.

The Office of the Attorney General will provide its entire file regarding the appointment process for the prosecutors in this case and provide any assistance requested by the U.S. Department of Justice.”

GLYNN COUNTY PRESS RELEASE (with no indication as to author or authorization)
Glynn County released the following statement Saturday on the Glynn County Police Department’s investigation into the death of Ahmaud Arbery:

“On Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, two calls were received at the Glynn-Brunswick 911 Center between 1:08 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. involving activity that was reported as suspicious in the Satilla Shores neighborhood located off (U.S. Hwy. 17) in Glynn County. The Glynn County Police Department responded to the calls. Gunshots were heard by the responding officer upon arrival to the Satilla Shores neighborhood. Shortly thereafter, the location of the gunshots was identified, and an ambulance was called. The Glynn County Police Department immediately began investigative activities.

“Detectives arrived on the scene at approximately 1:45 p.m. Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael were brought to Glynn County Police Headquarters for questioning at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 23. Glynn County Police Officers sought the legal advice of the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office in reference to possible charges. At that point, the DA’s office became involved in the investigation. The DA’s office advised that there needed to be further follow up and the detectives would be contacted the following day by the DA from the Waycross Judicial Circuit. The McMichaels were deemed not to be flight risks and officers were advised by the DA’s office that no arrests were necessary at the time. Detectives met with DA George Barnhill, Sr. of the Waycross Judicial Circuit the following day and reviewed their findings with him. DA Barnhill, Sr. advised detectives before noon on Feb. 24, that the act was justifiable homicide and for detectives to continue their investigation and provide him with lab reports and any additional pertinent information. The autopsy results were received by the Glynn County Police Department on April 1 and immediately forwarded to DA Barnhill, Sr.

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“Given the familial relationship of DA George Barnhill, Sr. and an assistant district attorney in the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office, the family of Ahmaud Arbery requested that DA Barnhill, Sr. be removed from the case. At this point, DA Barnhill, Sr. recused himself from the case and contacted the Georgia Attorney General’s office to seek assistance in finding another DA to handle the further ‘evaluation for prosecution,’ as he stated in his April 3 letter to Glynn County Police Captain Tom Jump. In this letter, DA Barnhill, Sr. notes, ‘I appreciate there is immediate pressure on your department as to the issue of arrest.’ DA Barnhill, Sr.’s letter makes five points regarding the case and concludes that there was insufficient probable cause to issue arrest warrants at that time. In consultation with the Georgia Attorney General’s office, the case was transferred to DA Tom Durden’s Office of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit.

“When the Glynn County Police Department had jurisdiction over the case, it was ultimately decided not to seek out the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to review the case given that none of the officers involved in the case were employed with the Police Department, from 1982 to 1989, when Greg McMichael was employed by the department and the officers involved in the case had little to no contact with Mr. McMichael when he was employed by the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office.

“From the beginning, the Glynn County Police Department has sought justice in this case. Glynn County followed the direction of DA Barnhill, Sr., and officers were advised not to publicly release information in reference to the case that could impact future prosecution.

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“In the press conference held by the GBI following the arrest of the McMichaels, it was stated that the Glynn County Police Department had conducted a thorough and good investigation into the case. The Police Department stands ready to further assist the GBI and DA Tom Durden into the investigation and court proceedings that will follow. The police department has continued to be advised not to release any information regarding the case other than to law enforcement and judicial agencies as we await the answers that many in the community and the nation are seeking in this case.

“For additional questions regarding the Arbery case, please contact the GBI at (404) 244-2600. If anyone has pertinent information to this case, please contact the GBI Tip Line at 1-800-597-TIPS (8477) or online at www.gbi.ga.gov/submit-tips-online.”

The press release also included a statement from Glynn County Commission Chairman Mike Browning, which was read during the commission’s meeting Thursday.

“Our hearts go out to the family of Ahmaud Arbery for the tragic loss they have experienced. This has impacted them more than we can ever comprehend. This heavy issue has touched so many of us both locally and nationally and caused us to pause and think deeply about this family and our own families. We have to believe that the justice system will do what it is designed to do and provide answers to the many unanswered questions. It is in the hands of the proper authorities and we stand by ready to support Tom Durden, the District Attorney for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as they conduct investigations into this case.

“Until we get answers to the many unanswered questions, I am hopeful that we can come together as a community to deal with this situation with peace and brotherhood, rather than hate and violence which can only make a terrible situation worse. Again, we ask prayers for this family and this community as a whole as this case moves its way through the justice system.”