GA Supremes overturn ex-cop’s double-dipping conviction
Former Unadilla Police Chief Leonard Smith was never told when a grand jury would consider indicting him for billing two different police agencies for work during the same hours. That oversight was enough to throw out his conviction and five-year prison sentence, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled today.
Smith held jobs with the Unadilla and Fort Valley police forces at the same time, sometimes submitting time cards for the same time periods to both jurisdictions, evidence showed. The GBI documented seven instances of Smith’s alleged double-dipping.
Smith was indicted in January 2007 and later convicted of three counts of making false statements. A judge sentenced him to five years in prison followed by 10 years on probation.
The Georgia Court of Appeals overturned that conviction last year. Georgia law gives law enforcement officers the right to testify when a grand jury hears evidence against them, and the appellate court ruled Smith was not told when that would occur.
Smith was given a copy of the proposed indictment and told the January-February term of the grand jury would consider it. But prosecutors never told him precisely when the proposed charges would be presented to the Dooly County grand jury.
The Supreme Court unanimously upheld that decision today, observing that Georgia law allows certain public officials to attend grand jury proceedings so they can protect themselves against frivolous charges.
“Common sense requires that the right to notice also include the location of the presentment,” the court’s opinion said. “These valuable rights conferred by the General Assembly would be eviscerated if the accused is not apprised of the date, time and place of the State’s presentation to the grand jury.”
(Photo courtesy of the Americus Sumter Observer)