Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

The Political Vine is the home of political news, satire, rants, and rumors.


Something is starting to stink in Cherokee County

by Bill Simon

Two weeks ago, arrest warrants were issued by the Canton Police Department against three individuals that accused them of “making false statements” to the police in relation to an incident back in mid-June 2013.  (For catchup purposes you can read this story here in the Marietta Daily Journal) 

Since that time period, there has been no release of a supposed “video” that, according to the Canton Police Chief, clearly shows the three accused to have “fabricated the whole thing.”

According to sources I’ve spoken to on condition of anonymity…as of two days ago, the Cherokee County DA’s office has NOT been given a copy of the supposed video proof, nor any other evidence on this case that would, presumably, prove these three individuals lied about an incident dealing with a car “buzzing” by them as one (or more of them) were crossing a street…at around 9:30 PM on a thunderstorm/tornado-occurring night…with the streets presumably still wet from the rainstorms earlier that evening.


You know, if it’s such a slam-dunk case, and a video shows everything in stark clarity that three people lied to police about an incident…one would think that the city police (especially a police chief SO certain that he has uncovered some grand conspiracy of 3 people supposedly making false accusations against a school superintendent) would so eagerly tie-up their supposed “beyond a reasonable doubt” evidence package and deliver that puppy straight to DA Shannon Wallace’s office.  And, yet, they haven’t done so.  Hm.  Why not?

In fact, with regards to current events surrounding the Cherokee County School Board and such, all has been very quiet in Cherokee County…until now.

Most recently, School Board Chairperson Janet Read (complete with the cough-cough! ‘drama’ of a “heavy heart”) has now issued a statement that appears on  an unofficial draft of the CCSD board’s agenda of a meeting scheduled to occur on July 24th…and that School Board Member Kelly Marlow should be censured for Marlow’s letter to SACS suggesting financial improprieties are occurring in the $550+ million-dollar district’s budget, and SACS should investigate those improprieties.

Now, according to an anonymous source, as a result of this “censure” directive by Read, two school board members, Michael Geist and Rob Usher, have been threatened by certain folks that if they do not vote to support the censure of Marlow in this upcoming meeting, that they will be ousted from their positions in their next election.  

Golly
, that sounds akin to a threat made by people who declared that if the verdict in the George Zimmerman case was not “guilty”, then folks who disagreed with that verdict would riot to express their displeasure with how people vote.  (Is SCRAM comprised of nothing but a bunch of school thugs who think they own the school district and control everyone on the board?)


While there will be those who will claim “Yes, yes, Marlow should be censured because she did this, that, and the other!”…I, on the other hand, find it..fascinating that IF it was disclosed that Marlow did something that was soooo horrible back in early June, why has Janet Read waited so long to employ this kind of action now?

Could it possibly be that it is because a “force” of people (i.e., school board members like Read, members of SCRAM, and others who are going to the mat so hard to defend a school superintendent who, according to several stories on the Web (see below), has quite the ill-reputation for how he manages a school district?

“[C]reating an environment of fear” –  October 1994

“Senator Wants Superintendent Frank Petruzielo To Be Fired” – May 6, 1997 

And, as a current story relating to the CCSD, there’s this story regarding an investigation initiated back in 2011 by the Georgia AG’s office into an outlandish claim by CCSD that it would cost someone who filed an open records request to obtain email communications well within the Open Records Act statutes of Georgia a total of $324,608, and require 463 days to satisfy the request.  (How’s that investigation going, Mr. Attorney General?)

AND…since there appears to be no further action from the Canton PD regarding the big “felonies” three people (one of whom is Marlow) are publicly accused of committing, well…golly, you gotta be pretty naive not to begin to smell a rat with the CCSD Board Chairperson Read now promoting this “censure” to try to force Marlow out of her position.   (Yeah, if the prosecution cannot go forward to prosecute an accusation of what was claimed to be a clear case of felonies, then pull-out ye ‘ole “censure playing card” to shut down your political opponent, eh, Ms. Read and your fellow CCSD Rats?)

So, for just hypothetical, “funsy” purposes, let’s play a little game of “If I was a defense attorney” (note: I am neither an attorney, nor do I work for one). AND you readers are the jury.  And let’s examine what we know about the Canton PD’s “crime of the century” case against Kelly Marlow, Robert Trim, and Barbara Knowles.

And, please note that I am severely handicapped in my role as a play-defense attorney since I have not spoken to any of the three accused, nor have I spoken to anyone in the Canton PD, nor have I read the arrest warrants, nor have I read the original police incident report, nor have I seen a copy of any evidence, video or otherwise, of any form (though, I have heard through various sources that a video was discovered of the traffic scene and that video is in the possession of the Canton PD currently).  All the evidence I have as “defense attorney” is what has been reported by other media outlets.  Ready? Let’s begin…

Ladies & Gentlemen of the jury, before we discuss this current matter of the accused being charged with supposedly fabricating a story to Canton police investigators, I think it wise that you become aware of just what kind of reputation the Canton PD has with regards to the behavior of some of its officers in the past, as well as issues with the investigative procedures of their police personnel.

In 2008, two police officers, Sgt. Lamar Jones and Detective Rodney Campbell, were both investigated for an incident involving their acts in relationship to the owner of a Shell convenience store.  (You can read the entire story here.)

According to that story, “Jones was found guilty of violating the code of ethics, unsatisfactory performance and conduct unbecoming of an officer. Campbell was found guilty of conduct unbecoming of an officer.”

But, why was this a story published in 2010?  Because the convenience store owner had sued the City of Canton for the acts he claims these two officers (and others) perpetrated against him and his property back in 2008.  I do not know the outcome of that lawsuit, Ladies & Gentlemen, but it appears to be one directly generated by what was (if the story is accurate) illegal and unconstitutional acts perpetrated by police officers while on duty.

The story goes on to say that Jones has since left the Canton PD as of 2010.  As of a check of the Web, I find that there is still a “Rodney Campbell” still employed as a detective with the Canton PD.

So, while we do not know if Detective Campbell is currently involved in this investigation of Marlow, Knowles, and Trim, we do know that at least at one time in the past, a current police detective with the Canton PD was reprimanded for being caught on video helping himself to a soft drink in the store without paying for it, and his actions, and the actions of his fellow police officers at that time, directly caused a lawsuit to be filed against the City of Canton for their alleged acts against someone while on duty.

The 2nd story I’d like to point you to is this story from the Orlando Sentinel, published in May of 2012.   This story tells us that the current Canton PD police chief (Robert Merchant, Jr.) was hired in order to replace the departed police chief named ‘Jeff Lance.’  Chief Lance had resigned due to the results of “…an independent report said he and his department mishandled the initial investigation of the December 2011 disappearance and murder of 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera.”

So, Ladies & Gentlemen of the jury, some of the police officers in the Canton PD do not actually appear to know how to do their jobs properly.  And, these are just two stories…who knows how many other incidents of malfeasance have occurred within this department that no one may know about and are being covered-up?

Despite Chief Merchant not being in charge of the Canton PD while the incidents involved in these two stories occurred, it does not matter who is in charge of an organization when it appears there are personnel in that organization determined to engage in behavior and procedures that are more akin to a cluster-f*ck of police behavior than what the public expects their police to act like.

However, in some cases, the behavior of underlings can be a reflection of their leadership…and, if one were to examine specific statements attributed to Chief Merchant in this current-day matter, I am not exactly sure these statements could be considered as “conduct becoming of a police chief.”  Especially when sworn law enforcement officers are expressly prohibited from using their official position to intercede into any political dispute.

According to quotes attributed to Canton Police Chief Robert Merchant in the MDJ article, Chief Merchant stated the following:

Statement 1: “They lied,” he said. “The bottom line is based on the evidence we have, this was just totally fabricated.”

Statement 2: “I understand that (Marlow) believes she’s the saving grace for this county,” Merchant said. “But as far I’m concerned, I’m going to do everything I can possibly do to make sure she gets prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, along with Knowles and Trim.”

As I stated at the outset, I have not seen any evidence…but, because this is just a funsy, hypothetical exercise, Ladies & Gentlemen, we can discuss hypothetical evidence, whether it exists in the “real case” or not.

So, let’s assume that there IS a video recording of the incident back in June in which Barbara Knowles felt her life was threatened by an automobile passing in some proximity to where she was walking across a street within the city limits of Canton, Georgia.  And, she was so affected by this incident that she called the police to put it on the record as to what she personally felt at the time of the incident.

When/If we all get to see this hypothetical video that the Canton PD may or may not have to actually refute the statements made by Marlow, Trim, & Knowles (and, thus, back-up Chief Merchant’s claim that “this [story] was just totally fabricated”), there will be at least one key element missing from the video: the perspective of someone like Knowles walking across the street and personally seeing and personally hearing an oncoming car.

Because unless that hypothetical video camera was located directly on Knowles’ person, no observer can put themselves in the shoes of the person who is experiencing and “feeling” a perceived immediate threat of a potential car slamming into their body.  And, a video camera parked on a light pole, a cell tower, or hanging outside of a restaurant cannot come close to giving anyone the precise perspective of actually seeing and hearing an oncoming vehicle when they are on the street looking right at an oncoming vehicle.

Another element that may be missing from this hypothetical video is the capture of the actual audio of the street scene the video captured.  Most traffic cams, as far as I know, only record the “visual” aspects of a scene in which they are fixed in one direction to capture.  There is no audio that is captured.

This is an important point to consider, Ladies & Gentlemen of the jury, in your review of all evidence (real or imagined) because sound is very critical to the perception of, say, a car traveling at some rate of speed in a direction that may intersect your direction of travel.

Also, as stated at the outset of this story, it had been raining earlier that evening, and wet roads have a tendency to amplify the sound of cars speeding down most roads (when an object such as a set of tires passes through it…the water being displaced on the road adds to the noise level produced by the car itself…an observable, scientific fact).

So, if the car coming down the road on a wet-road “guns” its engine to speed-up, regardless of the distance from the person walking to the car as the car is on an intercept path, on a quiet night, with hardly any other traffic on the road…one car revving its engine can transmit that sound in such a way as to make the person who hears the sound feel threatened by the sound of the oncoming car…and…feel their life is in danger.

Whereas a non-participant, who is just watching a video from some other perspective, without any audio recording of what was happening on the street at the time of the incident, that person will have a completely different interpretation of what the person “in the scene” was perceiving what was happening to her at that moment.

Putting aside this hypothetical video capture, there is this very peculiar, very unprofessional, very…suspicious statement by Chief Merchant where it is reported that he personally stated on the record “I understand that (Marlow) believes she’s the saving grace for this county.”  

Perhaps in the trial that happens regarding this case, Chief Merchant will be taking the witness stand to explain to the jury exactly how he is so perceptive as to be able to read Kelly Marlow’s mind that she “believes” herself to be a “saving grace for [Cherokee County]?”  This kind of event could put Canton, Georgia on the world map as being, potentially, the Ninth Wonder of the World in that it has a police chief who is, literally, able to read people’s minds.

Because, unless he is able to prove that he can read Kelly Marlow’s mind, and know exactly what she believes about herself, then his statement appears to smack more of being a statement of some personal derision he feels for Marlow, rather than him acting as a neutral, non-political combatant in the political battle between Marlow and Dr. Petruzielo.

Ladies & Gentlemen of the jury, let’s re-cap:  

1) A record of Canton PD having officers engaging in “conduct unbecoming an officer” in 2008…one of whom is still on the Canton PD payroll,

2)  A lawsuit filed against the City of Canton as a result of the actions of those officers in 2008,

3) A record of personnel with the Canton PD not understanding proper investigation procedures in a crime,

4) Charges being made against 3 individuals who originally went to the police to give them statements about something they all witnessed regarding a moving vehicle, only to have the police turn those statements around to claim the individuals lied to them and “totally fabricated” the entire incident, and have yet to produce evidence of any kind to bolster their claim [side note: who wants to go report ANY crime in Canton, Georgia now if the police are going to start assuming YOU are the one who has committed a crime rather than the person you are accusing of committing a crime?],

5) To date, no evidence appearing to be delivered to the county DA’s office by the Canton PD who charged these three people with lying to them,

6) No announced investigation by the county DA’s office that they are investigating this matter,

7) An act by the publicly elected county school board chairperson to get her political adversary censured by the rest of the county school district board…and this happening coincidentally with no further action in the case of three people being accused, but not yet tried, for “lying to police,”

8) Two school board members being threatened that if they do not vote for the censure of Kelly Marlow, then they will lose their positions as school board district members,

9) Unusual and very personal-vendetta sounding statements uttered by a police chief who was supposed to have just walked onto the job nearly a year prior, and supposedly who has no allegiance to either side in a political battle. And, yet, his public statements suggest something entirely different to anyone with an objective viewpoint on this matter.

That’s a re-cap.  Here’s a forward-thinking concept to ponder:   If an elected official such as Janet Read, along with a police chief, and investigators within a police department that already has a track record of “conduct unbecoming officers and failure to follow police procedures in the investigation of a crime,” were all conspiring against you, and using their government positions for political retribution against you, how would you feel about that?

Take your petty political feelings you may have about these three individuals being charged as they are by the police and put them aside and think in an objective fashion if this….this….what’s the way I could capture this kind of crap in just the right manner…ahhh.this Roscoe P. Coltrane and Boss Hogg type of “justice” is something you really want to continue to happen in your community?

If you do, then one day, you will likely find yourself on the receiving end of a blunt-force political hammer wielded by some new person in power who saw the previous regime getting away with it, so why shouldn’t they do it against you and also get away with it?

If not, do something about it.

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Today's Deep Thought

For mad scientists who keep brains in jars, here's a tip: why not add a slice of lemon to each jar, for freshness?



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