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FULTON COUNTY, GA – In a move that goes well beyond pandering, District Attorney Paul Howard is so determined to win re-election (and no doubt has his eye on a more “federal” prize), that he has completely disregarded his professional obligations and the rule of law.

Howard brought 11 felony charges against police officer Garret Rolfe, one of which can carry a death penalty, before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation even had time to start, much less complete, their investigation into the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks.

Additionally, he is riling the potential jury pool by making inflammatory extrajudicial comments which is a clear violation of Georgia’s rule of Professional Conduct.

Mr. Howard should be charged with inciting violence if this happens because this is just what his careless rhetoric will have done.

Should the GBI come back and say charges are warranted, it is highly unlikely that one of those charges will be felony murder.  According to Georgia law, felony murder is only an applicable charge if death occurs during the commission of certain violent felonies such as arson, burglary, kidnapping, rape and robbery.

Officer Rolfe was certainly not committing arson or trying to rob Mr. Brooks.  This statute appears entirely inapplicable and as such a huge overreach by the pandering Mr. Howard.

Maybe a more dispassionate way to look at this would be to take the race of the men and the occupations of the men out of the situation and see what the law might do.

An inebriated woman is passed out in her car at the end of another woman’s driveway.  The sober woman has to go to work so she comes out of the house, carrying a legal firearm and a taser, because she works nights and wants to be safe.

She knocks on the window of the drunk woman’s car to try and get her to wake up and move.  Drunk woman wakes up and gets out of the car but she won’t move her car. She seems fine until sober woman says she’s going to go get her roommate to help move the car.

Drunk woman grabs for sober woman and gets her taser and tries to figure out how to discharge it at sober woman. While drunk woman is trying to work the taser she is stumbling away from sober woman, then she reaches into her belt for something and looks back.  Sober woman, having already been attacked once, thinks she sees a weapon and in a flash, draws her weapon and fires at drunk woman.

Drunk woman dies.

That’s not murder in Georgia because there was no malice aforethought.  That’s not felony murder because sober woman was not committing a felony.  That’s not even voluntary manslaughter because it wasn’t committed as the result of a sudden violent and irresistible passion.  That is, at the very most, involuntary manslaughter.

In the case of Officer Rolfe, though, there was no investigation, no presumption of innocence (a direct constitutional violation according to the 11th amendment).

Sadly, this will not end well in either case.  Right now scores of officers in Atlanta are calling in sick as they mayor actually has the nerve to say:

“But it is just my hope again that our officers will remember the commitment that they made when they held up their hand and they were sworn in as police officers.”

Mayor Bottoms should remember the contract that the city made to their police as well.

Noah H. Pines is the criminal defense attorney for former Officer Rolfe. He released a statement which said, in part:

“I’ve been prosecuting or defending Georgians in the criminal justice system for 25 years. But never in my career have I seen a District Attorney act so unethically without regard for his professional obligations in pursuit of reelection. Twice in the past few weeks Paul Howard has put his own ambitions ahead of the good of his constituents as he seeks to capitalize on a series of national tragedies.

“Under Georgia’s Rule of Professional Conduct 3.8, Paul Howard is prohibited from making ‘extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.’ In fact, he is only permitted to inform the ‘pubic of the nature and extent’ of his actions ‘that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose.’ He has violated that rule today and also made blatant false statements.

“He has also acted rashly, before the official investigation has been completed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). Had Paul Howard waited for the GBI to complete its investigation he would have learned that while Rayshard Brooks’ death was tragic, Officer Garrett Rolfe’s actions were justified under Georgia law and that there is no legal basis to charge him with 11 felonies.”

When Mr. Brooks chose to attack two officers, to disarm one of them, and to point and fire a deadly weapon at Officer Rolfe, he took their lives, and his own, into his hands. He took the risk that their justified response might be a deadly one. 

“Nobody is here to applaud the death of Mr. Brooks. He was a father, he was a member of his community, and his death was a tragedy. But not every tragedy is a crime.

“Time and again in this country, we have used tragic deaths to push for new and harsher prosecutions and for less empathy for the accused. But following every sad event with yet another prosecution isn’t an end to this cycle— it is simply another aspect of its continuation. 

“Although we can all understand the grief of Mr. Brooks’ family, Officer Rolfe’s actions were justified by the law. But Paul Howard’s choice to charge him is justified only by his hopes to improve his performance against Fani Willis in the upcoming runoff election.”
Notice the cycle here? Every time an election year is present, those running go above and beyond to appease their constituents- even when it means no laws were broken….
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