DeKalb DA: Bolton’s luxury car story ‘absurd,’ but not criminal
Fired DeKalb police chief Terrell Bolton‘s explanation for keeping two seized luxury cars at home in his garage is “absurd,” the county’s district attorney says.
Police handling of the two cars might also have violated state law, DA Gwen Keyes Fleming wrote in a March 24 letter. But she said it would not warrant criminal prosecution.
The prosecutor’s letter, entered into evidence in a civil hearing over Bolton’s dismissal, was obtained Wednesday through a request under the Georgia Open Records Act. A decision on Bolton’s appeal is expected next month.
DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis cited several issues when he fired Bolton (left) in February. Among them, Ellis said, Bolton kept at his home two luxury cars that the county had seized under drug forfeiture laws. They were a 2004 Land Rover valued at $30,000 and a 2006 Mercedes Benz valued at $75,000.
Bolton has said he moved the cars there to keep them out of sight because he was concerned the DeKalb district attorney’s office would claim them.
“The fact that a Chief of Police believes he must remove vehicles ‘to his residence as a security [measure],’ to protect them from a District Attorney is absurd,” Keyes Fleming wrote. The two agencies have a good working relationship, she said, “and at no point did anyone in the District Attorney’s Office provide a basis for suspicion or mistrust that would warrant this type of covert action.”
In fact, Keyes Fleming said, her office was offered the vehicles but would not accept them. “Given the vehicles’ flashy nature,” she wrote, the cars would be unsuitable for her office’s work and a potential safety risk.
The district attorney also noted that DeKalb police, under court order, were required to keep the cars in the county. “If the vehicles were removed to a location outside of the county, such removal constitutes [a] violation of the statute,” she wrote.
Officers have told investigators they removed the cars from Bolton’s garage late last year and moved them to a deputy chief’s home in Rockdale County. They were returned to the department’s fleet shortly after that.
“Given the procedural nature of the Georgia Forfeiture Statute, these violations, if established by the facts, would only be technical in nature and not give rise to any criminal prosecution,” Keyes Fleming wrote.