Athens DA comes under fire from State Attorney General

Jul 20, 2021

Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez was accused of "dereliction of duty" by Georgia's Attorney General.
Credit Deborah Gonzalez

Georgia’s Attorney General had harsh words for District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez yesterday in Atlanta. Speaking at a hearing on crime before the Georgia House’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, Attorney General Chris Carr sharply criticized some prosecutors for what he characterized as “dereliction of duty.” Carr alleged that some prosecutors were deciding which cases to pursue and which to let go.

When asked for specifics about which prosecutors were, in his opinion, being negligent, Carr specifically singled out Western Judicial Circuit DA Deborah Gonzalez, whose circuit includes Athens-Clarke and Oconee Counties.

"In Athens in particular, the DA has written a memo saying what particular misdemeanors she will or she won't enfore," Carr told lawmakers. "There have been those who campaigned on the same issue, saying they'll only enfore misdemeanors such as DUI or domestic violence, and that's a dereliction of duty."

Gonzalez has said that she won’t prosecute some low-level drug cases. In a response to Carr, Gonzalez accused the Attorney General of “playing politics.”

Carr wasn’t the only elected official who targeted local officials in his testimony. Governor Brian Kemp singled out Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who in recent weeks has proposed a $70 million plan to address crime, including hiring 250 new Atlanta police officers, saying that, "local elected leadership in our capital city has created an anti-police, soft on crime environment."

While Kemp and Carr spoke at length about gang crime, Atlanta police officials pushed back against Carr’s assertion that street gangs were behind an increase in violent crime. APD Assistant Chief Todd Coyt told lawmakers that the APD could only definitively link two homicides this year to gang activity, and added that a lack of conflict resolution is a major driver of murders and aggravated assault, saying that law enforcement can’t “arrest ourselves out of this problem.”