Saturday, June 28, 2008


I like Greg Edwards. I’ve known Greg since his law school days when he did legal research for me, then later when he was a Georgia Legal Services Staff Attorney. I’ve enjoyed our friendship over the last 25 years, and if he is elected District Attorney, I know that he has the potential of doing a better job than his predecessor. But that being said, I don’t plan on voting for him. And I don’t know any trial lawyer in Albany- including former prosecutors who worked with Greg- who intends to vote for him. That isn’t because Greg is a bad person, because he’s not. But he has exhibited bad judgment on too many occasions over the years, many times costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars, and virtually every lawyer who has litigated with him or against him is aware of it.

The newspaper won’t give me enough space to list all of the examples, but here’s a few: during the trial of State v. Matel Stevens, 1993-R-1058 (appeal reported at 215 Ga. App. 718 (1994)) Greg introduced a videotape into evidence to show a breathalyzer test of a person charged with DUI and felony obstruction of an officer. During closing arguments, the defense lawyer played a portion of the tape to the jury. Inexplicably, Greg objected and moved for a mistrial, which was granted by the trial judge. The Court of Appeals ruled (correctly) that since Greg had put the tape in evidence, it could not possibly have been objectionable to show it to the jury, because lawyers are allowed to review any of the evidence during closing arguments. Because of Double Jeopardy, the defendant could not be retried and the case was dismissed.

A few years later, in the case of State v. Michael Williams, 2002-R-1340, who was charged with felony obstruction of Jerry Folmar, a Sheriff’s Deputy detached to the Albany Dougherty Drug Unit (ADDU), Greg was informed by the defense attorney that witnesses at the scene had given sworn affidavits that the situation was the direct opposite of what Mr. Folmar had sworn to in the arrest warrant. They stated that Mr. Folmar had physically attacked Mr. Williams, and not vice versa. Since Mr. Williams’ orthopedic surgeon was prepared to testify that after his back surgery his condition would have prevented him from lifting Mr. Folmar off the ground, as Mr. Folmar alleged, and since Mr. Williams was not arrested or charged with any other offense (he was a mere witness to an arrest by the ADDU at an intersection near his home), Greg would have not had a reasonable opportunity to get a conviction. However, Greg’s response was to threaten to indict the defense lawyer for suborning perjury for obtaining affidavits of eyewitnesses who did not corroborate Mr. Folmar’s story. When the defense lawyer didn’t back down under this threat, Greg dismissed the criminal prosecution against Mr. Williams on the eve of trial- but only after obtaining a covenant not to sue Jerry Folmar from Mr. Williams as the price of the dismissal. (Two years later Greg repeated his unethical threat to indict a defense lawyer for suborning perjury when the defense lawyer used an audiotape of a witness to impeach his testimony- the threat didn’t work then, either.)

There are three problems, all involving lack of good judgment, with how Greg handled Mr. Williams’ case. First, it is inappropriate to threaten a defense lawyer who is only doing his job by interviewing eyewitnesses at the scene and getting affidavits from them. Second, Mr. Edwards does not represent Mr. Folmar or the Sheriff’s Department- he represents the people of the State of Georgia. If he has information, including sworn affidavits from eyewitnesses, that Mr. Folmar has committed a crime by attacking an innocent citizen, he should investigate that rather than trying to insulate Mr. Folmar from a civil lawsuit by obtaining a covenant not to sue as the price of dismissing an unfounded criminal prosecution. Third, Greg’s handling of that case and his closing his eyes to Mr. Folmar’s transgression cost Dougherty County taxpayers over $100,000 in litigation costs and settlements in at least two subsequent civil lawsuits brought against him in later years for similar misconduct on his part. In one of those lawsuits, other members of the ADDU, and Mr. Folmar himself, admitted under oath at depositions that he had used ethnic slurs and racial epithets (including use of the “N” word). Every one of Mr. Folmar’s victims, including Mr. Williams, is black.

In the case of State v. Donna Wilson, 2005-R-929, Greg wasted two weeks in an unsuccessful but massive RICO/drug trial (over 70 counts on the indictment) costing Dougherty County thousands of dollars because Greg had not properly evaluated his evidence- which was virtually non-existent against Ms. Wilson.

Because of a policy for which Greg is responsible, Dougherty County taxpayers have footed the bill for millions of dollars a year incarcerating prisoners in the County Jail before they can get a bond hearing. The local Superior Court rule is that if the defense attorney and prosecutor can agree on a bond, the judge will set it, but if the prosecutor insists on a hearing, no bond will be set until the date of the hearing, which is often weeks later. Greg routinely refuses to agree to a bond amount, and many of his subordinates have followed his lead. In the great majority of those cases, the judge does set a bond, and the cost to the County, which I got from the Sheriff’s Department, is almost $5,000,000 a year to incarcerate prisoners from the date of arrest until the date they are bonded out. If Greg had acted with proper judgment, the bonds would have been set almost immediately and the County would have saved a large portion of that $5,000,000.

The upshot is that the DA’s office will continue to function if Greg is elected, but taxpayers will shell out millions of dollars unnecessarily, and prosecutorial mistakes will continue to be made, causing innocent people to go to trial while guilty people go free.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


There’s a scene in the 1985 movie, Back to the Future, when Michael J. Fox, stranded in 1955, holds up a picture of his family, and members start to fade away, one by one, as events make it more unlikely that his parents will marry. That’s the same feeling I get as the freedoms articulated in the United States Constitution are eroded, one by one. The Fourth Amendment was enacted as part of the Bill of Rights in 1791 to protect us from government invasions of our privacy and from arbitrary arrests and imprisonment. It is the epitome of what freedom means in our country- the right to be left alone.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The warrantless wiretapping of American citizens at the behest of President Bush from 2001 through 2006 was a violation of this Constitutional protection. It was also a violation of statutory law, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which required the President to show probable cause and to seek judicial warrants before wiretapping conversations and intercepting e-mails. And it was a violation of President Bush’s oath of office, when he swore, pursuant to Article II, Section I of the Constitution:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

On June 19th the House of Representatives voted to give immunity to the telecommunications companies which broke the law by spying on American citizens without warrants. This bill will result in the immediate dismissal of several lawsuits by innocent Americans whose privacy rights were violated by their government and these companies. The Senate will shortly follow suit, and the best chance Americans will have to see how their freedom was casually trashed by the Bush Administration will be lost. The politicians who are stealing your heritage have no shortage of outright lies to justify their actions. They claim that they need this legislation to get telecom companies to cooperate with the government in the future. The truth is that those companies have always been required to cooperate with a lawful order- a judicial warrant authorizing a wiretap. They claim that the companies should not be penalized for following the president’s orders- as Republican Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, put it:

“When the government tells you to do something, I’m sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do.”

Senator Bond, not recognizing irony when he utters it, has repeated the rationale used by high Nazi officials on trial for war crimes in Nuremburg following World War II: “I was just following orders.” It didn’t work for them, and it shouldn’t work in 2008. One telecom, Qwest Communications of Denver, defied the President because they, unlike President Bush, realized that we are a country of laws and not of unbridled executive authority.

They claim that we need these tools to fight terrorism, and had these surveillance powers been in effect in 2001, we could have avoided being attacked. The truth is that the illegal surveillance preceded the 9-11 attacks- the President of Qwest testified that his company was requested to violate the law as early as February of 2001. The truth is that the FISA law already gave the government all of the tools it needed to protect Americans against foreign attacks- FISA allowed the government a safe harbor of requesting a warrant 72 hours after the surveillance began if a United States citizen was involved. And out of the thousands of warrants the government requested in the 30 years since the law was enacted, only a handful were ever denied.

So as Americans celebrate July 4th and American independence this year, and for years to come, they should remember two quotes, the first from one of the authors of the Declaration, the 2nd President of these United States, John Adams, in a 1777 letter to his wife Abigail:

“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”

The second, attributed to Nobel Prize winning author Sinclair Lewis:

“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Let's see now: endless war in Iraq, over 4,000 dead, a trillion dollars wasted- yup, Mission Accomplished! Not to mention running the national debt up $3.7 trillion in seven short years, letting our infrastructure be decimated, our military stop-lossed and in shambles as recruiters scrape the gutters for new recruits, every governmental agency put in charge of incompetent political hacks, gasoline at $4.00 a gallon, oil at $137 a barrel...

On June 3, 2008, in a Louisiana speech, Arizona Senator and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain said:

“You will hear from my opponent's campaign in every speech, every interview, every press release that I'm running for President Bush's third term. You will hear every policy of the President described as the Bush-McCain policy. Why does Senator Obama believe it's so important to repeat that idea over and over again? Because he knows it's very difficult to get Americans to believe something they know is false. So he tries to drum it into your minds by constantly repeating it rather than debate honestly the very different directions he and I would take the country.”

On June 15, 2005, Senator McCain appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, and gave this response to host Tim Russert:

“MR. RUSSERT: And what people point to -- and this is an article in your hometown paper, the Arizona Republic, "At Odds With Bush. John McCain repeatedly has taken maverick positions that have put him at odds with President Bush's administration" . . . . The fact is you are different than George Bush.

SEN. McCAIN: No. No. I -- the fact is that I'm different but the fact is that I have agreed with President Bush far more than I have disagreed. And on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I've been totally in agreement and support of President Bush. So have we had some disagreements on some issues, the bulk -- particularly domestic issues? Yes. But I will argue my conservative record voting with anyone's, and I will also submit that my support for President Bush has been active and very impassioned on issues that are important to the American people.”

There is a clear choice in the 2008 Presidential election. If you are happy with the way things are right now, if your vision for our future includes an endless war in Iraq, draining America’s blood, its treasury, fracturing its military, and destroying its world wide standing, then vote Republican. If you like the energy policies pursued by the Bush Administration the last 8 years and you like gas at $4.00+ per gallon, well, here’s the telling quote from a 2001 White House press conference:

“Q Is one of the problems with this, and the entire energy field, American lifestyles? Does the President believe that, given the amount of energy Americans consume per capita, how much it exceeds any other citizen in any other country in the world, does the President believe we need to correct our lifestyles to address the energy problem?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's a big no. The President believes that it's an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one. And we have a bounty of resources in this country....”

If you are more concerned with two gays getting married in California than with the loss of your privacy from government wiretaps, then vote Republican. If you care more about what Michelle Obama, Reverend Wright, Barack Obama’s barber, mailman, or paper boy have to say than the fact that your job has just been outsourced to Singapore and your insurance company won’t cover your wife because she had cancer 5 years ago, then vote Republican. If you want countries like China and Saudi Arabia to hold the mortgage on America, able to pull the plug on our economy at a moment’s whim, then vote Republican. If you like the additional 3.7 trillion (that’s $3,700,000,000,000) in debt run up during President Bush’s stewardship of the nation’s treasury, on which we taxpayers are paying an additional $200 billion a year in interest alone, then vote Republican.

But would you please do the rest of us a favor and follow the advice the Republican dirty tricksters put out on fliers circulated in poor neighborhoods back in 2000 and 2004, and wait until the first Wednesday in November to go to the polls?

June 13, 2008: bonus feature from "History News Network" By Robert S. McElvaine
comments from professional historians who rated Bush the worst president in history:


No individual president can compare to the second Bush,” wrote one. “Glib, contemptuous, ignorant, incurious, a dupe of anyone who humors his deluded belief in his heroic self, he has bankrupted the country with his disastrous war and his tax breaks for the rich, trampled on the Bill of Rights, appointed foxes in every henhouse, compounded the terrorist threat, turned a blind eye to torture and corruption and a looming ecological disaster, and squandered the rest of the world’s goodwill. In short, no other president’s faults have had so deleterious an effect on not only the country but the world at large.”


“With his unprovoked and disastrous war of aggression in Iraq and his monstrous deficits, Bush has set this country on a course that will take decades to correct,” said another historian. “When future historians look back to identify the moment at which the United States began to lose its position of world leadership, they will point—rightly—to the Bush presidency. Thanks to his policies, it is now easy to see America losing out to its competitors in any number of area: China is rapidly becoming the manufacturing powerhouse of the next century, India the high tech and services leader, and Europe the region with the best quality of life.”


One historian indicated that his reason for rating Bush as worst is that the current president combines traits of some of his failed predecessors: “the paranoia of Nixon, the ethics of Harding and the good sense of Herbert Hoover. . . . . God willing, this will go down as the nadir of American politics.” Another classified Bush as “an ideologue who got the nation into a totally unnecessary war, and has broken the Constitution more often than even Nixon. He is not a conservative, nor a Christian, just an immoral man . . . .” Still another remarked that Bush’s “denial of any personal responsibility can only be described as silly.”


“It would be difficult to identify a President who, facing major international and domestic crises, has failed in both as clearly as President Bush,” concluded one respondent. “His domestic policies,” another noted, “have had the cumulative effect of shoring up a semi-permanent aristocracy of capital that dwarfs the aristocracy of land against which the founding fathers rebelled; of encouraging a mindless retreat from science and rationalism; and of crippling the nation’s economic base.”


“George Bush has combined mediocrity with malevolent policies and has thus seriously damaged the welfare and standing of the United States,” wrote one of the historians, echoing the assessments of many of his professional colleagues. “Bush does only two things well,” said one of the most distinguished historians. “He knows how to make the very rich very much richer, and he has an amazing talent for f**king up everything else he even approaches. His administration has been the most reckless, dangerous, irresponsible, mendacious, arrogant, self-righteous, incompetent, and deeply corrupt one in all of American history.”


Four years ago I rated George W. Bush’s presidency as the second worst, a bit above that of James Buchanan. Now, however, like so many other professional historians, I see the administration of the second Bush as clearly the worst in our history. My reasons are similar to those cited by other historians: In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States enjoyed enormous support around the world. President Bush squandered that goodwill by taking the country into an unnecessary war of choice and misleading the American people to gain support for that war. And he failed utterly to have a plan to deal with Iraq after the invasion. He further undermined the international reputation of the United States by justifying torture.

Mr. Bush inherited a sizable budget surplus and a thriving economy. By pushing through huge tax cuts for the rich while increasing federal spending at a rapid rate, Bush transformed the surplus into a massive deficit. The tax cuts and other policies accelerated the concentration of wealth and income among the very richest Americans. These policies combined with unwavering opposition to necessary government regulations have produced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Then there is the incredible shrinking dollar, the appointment of incompetent cronies, the totally inexcusable failure to react properly to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, the blatant disregard for the Constitution—and on and on.

Like a majority of other historians who participated in this poll, my conclusion is that the preponderance of the evidence now indicates that, while this nation has had at least its share of failed presidencies, no previous presidency was as large a failure in so many areas as the current one.