Ful­ton courts are just re­volv­ing doors

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - METRO - Bill Torpy

If this sounds like déjà vu all over again, you’re not mis­taken.

Re­cently, a frus­trated At­lanta po­lice com­man­der sent out an email to Buck­head res­i­dents with a “good news/bad news up­date” con­cern­ing a wave of bur­glar­ies, car thefts and gen­eral may­hem be­set­ting that area.

The good news? The cops keep catch­ing the bad guys. The bad news? The courts keep let­ting them out.

Zone 2 Com­man­der Maj. Barry Shaw was writ­ing about a rash of bur­glar­ies and car thefts the night of Jan. 30. Some brazen and en­ter­pris­ing young men broke into sev­eral cars and garages, steal­ing what they could.

Now, these weren’t the peace­ful, sneaky type of crooks; these were the just-don’t-give-a-damn va­ri­ety.

Af­ter break­ing into garages, “They crashed ve­hi­cles through the garage doors at two dif­fer­ent homes,” Shaw wrote.

And this is Buck­head, so you’re not see­ing Chevys and Buicks crash­ing through doors. Ac­cord­ing to po­lice re­ports, these were Acuras, Land Rovers and Mercedes-Ben­zes. Buck­head res­i­dents have nice stuff, and the thieves want it. And folks in Buck­head of­ten make it eas­ier for crim­i­nals by leav­ing keys in ve­hi­cles parked in their garages.

I don’t want to start vic­tim-blam­ing here. You just don’t ex­pect to have some­one break into your garage and then crash


In The AJC

the fam­ily cruiser through your bay doors.

Un­til now.

Shaw wrote that Michael Hill and Jaquan­tay Camp­bell were ar­rested and charged with bur­glary, en­ter­ing au­tos, theft by re­ceiv­ing, etc. In fact, po­lice ended up load­ing more charges on Hill, only to dis­cover that “MICHAEL HILL WAS GIVEN A SIG­NA­TURE BOND.” (Those are Shaw’s cap­i­tal let­ters. He was irked.)

That means Hill got out of jail with­out hav­ing to pay one red cent.

“This is a per­fect ex­am­ple of what is bro­ken in Ful­ton County,” Shaw wrote. “Hope­fully, uni­fied voices de­mand­ing an­swers for things like this will even­tu­ally make a dif­fer­ence. Our of­fi­cers con­tinue to make great ar­rests of crim­i­nals ter­ror­iz­ing At­lanta neigh­bor­hoods re­peat­edly and this is the re­sult. They don’t fear be­ing ar­rested in Ful­ton County the way they do in other ju­ris­dic­tions and this needs to change.” Like I said, déjà vu. I typed the terms “Ful­ton courts”and “re­volv­ing door” into the AJC’s com­put­er­ized story morgue and found dozens of hits through the years go­ing back to the early 1980s, which is as far back as it goes.

“We need to put the judges in the spot­light,” Deputy Chief Jeff Glazier told me. “We’re the ones on the front lines. Peo­ple think we have the so­lu­tions. But we’re just one piece of the puzzle. They have con­tin­ued to fail at what they need to do.”

And, he added, “They are not held ac­count­able.”

Glazier noted that cops have cam­eras show­ing them in gritty de­tail con­cern­ing all they do. Some­times it’s not pretty, like when of­fi­cers go ex­tracur­ric­u­lar on a sus­pect. But that’s how it is these days. There’s in­creased ac­count­abil­ity for law en­force­ment, and that’s a good thing.

But cops grum­ble that judges get to hide be­hind their robes.

“They never make state­ments on the low bonds,” Glazier said.

In fact, judges rarely talk on the record. They have eth­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions that re­strict dis­cus­sion of pend­ing cases, but they seem to use that pro­hi­bi­tion as a blan­ket to halt dis­cus­sion.

I called both Ful­ton County’s Mag­is­trate Court (whose judges is­sue bonds) and Su­pe­rior Court (whose judges later ad­ju­di­cate the cases), and nei­ther called back.

I went to the court­house to look up the two sus­pects who caught Maj. Shaw’s ire.

First, Michael Hill: Aside from the Jan. 30 spree, Shaw noted that Hill had been charged pre­vi­ously with a cou­ple of bur­glary/ car thefts, in­clud­ing one where the home­owner was struck by the ve­hi­cle as the thieves fled the scene.

Other than that, I can’t find any­thing on him. You see, Hill turned 17 just two months ago. So if he did any­thing else, those records are largely hid­den in the ju­ve­nile sys­tem. We, as a so­ci­ety, like to give youths sec­ond chances. I sup­pose the mag­is­trate gazed down at Hill’s youth­ful vis­age and said, “We ought not give up on him just yet.”

And then let him out. A decade ago, Jaquan­tay Camp­bell was like Michael Hill, a teen at a cross­road.

In Novem­ber 2009, 17-year-old Camp­bell stood be­fore Judge Wal­ter Lovett on charges of fight­ing with cops who were in­ves­ti­gat­ing a break-in. He had at least three prior bur­glary ar­rests, and the judge gave him three years’ pro­ba­tion, warn­ing him that if he should re-of­fend, he could go away for up to 10 years.

Judges have com­plained there are few pro­grams to help way­wards such as Camp­bell, so some­times they fig­ure a stern warn­ing might work.

In March 2010, Camp­bell blew out 18 can­dles on his birth­day cake and then broke into the south­west At­lanta home owned by a woman who toils to keep a hair salon in busi­ness. The pros­e­cu­tor told that same judge, Wal­ter Lovett, a mag­is­trate then filling in at Su­pe­rior Court, that he wanted to send Camp­bell to prison for six years and give him 20 years’ pro­ba­tion.

“It sounds ex­tremely lengthy for a de­fen­dant the age of Mr. Camp­bell,” the pros­e­cu­tor ac­knowl­edged. But he ar­gued that the young mis­ter was al­ready prov­ing him­self to be a men­ace.

Camp­bell got 10 years, but only 18 months to serve in prison, with the bal­ance on pro­ba­tion.

Well, you can guess the rest.

In 2011, he got caught bur­glar­iz­ing a nearby apart­ment. He served five months.

In 2013, he was a felon in pos­ses­sion of a gun and got six months’ in­car­cer­a­tion.

In 2014, he had his pro­ba­tion yanked and served three months.

In 2015, he was caught with stolen goods from a bur­glary and got 12 months’ pro­ba­tion. (It ap­pears sen­tences of pro­ba­tion are lay­ered upon more sen­tences of pro­ba­tion.) The de­fense at­tor­ney sug­gested he be banned from “south Ful­ton County,” which was ex­plained as “south of I-20.”

Camp­bell was not wor­ried. He knew there’s bet­ter stuff to steal north of I-20.

In 2016, he was pinched for try­ing to break into a car and spent nine months in jail, ex­it­ing the fol­low­ing March.

Now, he’s back again for ju­di­cial con­sid­er­a­tion.

Surely, by now, this fel­low has learned his les­son. ... Right?


A se­cu­rity cam cap­tured a stolen SUV as it rolled out of a garage at a Buck­head home late last month.

Jaquan­tay Camp­bell (left), 26, and Michael Hill, 17, have been charged in a string of Buck­head bur­glar­ies and car thefts.

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