The former GSP soldier on charges of crime and murder appeared in the Screven County Supreme Court on Monday morning for another hearing from Judge Gates Peed.
Monday’s hearing marked the third attempt by lawyers to bail Jacob Thompson, who has been in Screven County Jail since August 14. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation charged Thompson with the murder of crimes and stepped up the attack on Julian Lewis, a motorist Thompson attempted to stop in Screven County on the evening of August 7, 2020. A chase ensued when Lewis escaped and Thompson performed a PIT maneuver to end the chase. However, when the vehicles stopped and Thompson got out of his patrol car, he says he heard the engine spin and believed Lewis was using his vehicle to harm him. Thompson shot one shot and hit Lewis in the head. The GBI contends that the use of force was not justified as Lewis’ car was disabled and turned off when agents arrived at the scene about two hours after the shooting.
During a preliminary hearing in September, a Screven County volunteer firefighter who was first on the scene a few minutes after the shooting said that the lights on Lewis’ car were safely on when he arrived because they “blinded” him. while he was there. Even so, ADA Ben Edwards has twice argued that Thompson’s “version of events is completely unsupported” and speaks of the lack of credibility of his story.
In previous hearings, defense lawyers Duff Ayers and Robert Persse said Thompson should be released so he can work and provide for his family. Thompson was fired from GSP the same day he was arrested by the GBI, creating financial hardship for his wife and young son. Lawyers filed over 50 affidavits from members of the community, some of whom confirmed that they would employ Thompson and ensure he would stay in Screven County should he be granted a loan.
Judge Peed denied previous bond requests after hearings on August 24th and September 28th, despite the fact that the court did not quote it a reason for declining a loanThe Ogeechee Judicial Circuit assistant district attorneys have complained that the defense cannot guarantee that Thompson will not commit another crime.
Thompson’s legal team argued Monday that his client, who has now been behind bars for 101 days, is the perfect candidate for a bond and poses no threat to the community. Quote OCGA 17-7-50Attorney Sam Dennis argued that the law was introduced to prevent suspected innocent individuals from languishing in prison before trial.
Despite understandable delays from the pandemic, Dennis claimed that the January tentative date for the Screven County’s grand jury trial would further delay due process as the unknown and ever-changing environment of COVID-19 that has brought this about may be Could Be Permanently Delayed About nine emergency orders have been issued by the Georgia Supreme Court in the past eight months. He cited Thompson’s right to testify during the upcoming grand jury trial and the need to seriously prepare for such testimony as reasons in addition to providing for his family.
ADA Ben Edwards denied the reconsideration request, telling the court that the circumstances of the case had not changed, so there was no need to withhold the prior warrant after the court decided not to dismiss arrest warrants and they instead, for the grand jury to tie up consideration. Even so, Peed allowed the defense to support the motion, calling for a re-examination of the previously rejected bond.
Defense again called Agent Dustin Peak to the booth to ask a series of questions about the GBI’s investigation at the scene the night of the shooting. Dennis put Peak on inventoried evidence from Lewis’ car and what the impact would be if evidence was not properly or fully inventoried, but later found relevant to the case. Dennis questioned Peak about the discovery of a “white powder substance” in Lewis’ car, but without answering directly, Peak claimed that other evidence in the car was not relevant to Thompson’s use of force because he deliberately shot Lewis.
Dennis also challenged the on-site GBI testing of Lewis’ car, particularly with regard to inspecting the vacuum sensors, if Peak was familiar with the operational differences of a carburetor versus a fuel-injected engine and how much effort it took to get the 1996 Nissan Sentra to switch in and out “drive”.
Peak closed the questions with the assertion that it was not his job to answer or act as the “finder of fact”, but a large jury that decides. Dennis responded by telling Peak that based on his own conclusions, he had decided when to apply for arrest warrants for Thompson.
The defense also called Thompson’s father, Johnny, and his wife, Madison, to testify of his character and their willingness to ensure that Thompson meets all liability conditions if he is released. At one point, attorney asked Madison Thompson if she believed her husband was at significant risk for the commission of other crimes, to which she replied, “I don’t think he committed any crime at all.” Dennis thanked her for the correction and found her claim to be correct.
SCSO Sergeant Steve Singleton, Trooper Anotonio Curry, Sgt 1st Class, and Sylvania Post Commander Christ Wright, and GSP Troop F Capt. Chris Lacienski testified Thompson’s character, responsibility, and strong community bond while acknowledging that they did not believe Thompson posing would pose a threat to any person while they are in custody. Wright and Lacienski, who both spend significant amounts of time in Sylvania, said they had confidence that the community would respond appropriately to any decision by the court and that local law enforcement agencies could adequately address any issues that might arise.
“I have a lot of faith in the community,” said Captain Lacienski. “We had an organized response to a previous protest that never really went as expected. It was peaceful, very respectful. ”
The state did not object to the testimony of defense witnesses, but Edwards closed the hearing by repeating the testimony of Agent Peak and Julian Lewis’ widow, Betty Lewis. “The best evidence is past behavior,” said Edwards. “He shot an unarmed man in an inoperable car. Betty Lewis told this dish [in August] that she believes Thompson poses a flight risk and that intimidation has already occurred. The court should take that into account. “
However, when Lewis testified in August, she told the court that she felt intimidated in the community because of the “power players” and fundraising for Thompson’s family and legal fees. Lewis did not testify to any specific threat or intimidation against her from Jacob Thompson or any other person, but she asked the judge to refuse the bond “to send a signal to the community that justice is real in SEGA”.
Defense attorney assured Judge Peed that if Thompson issued a bond, he would not object to liability terms such as an ankle monitor.
“He doesn’t need this line, but we have no objection.” Said Dennis. “I have repeatedly tried to understand the denial of the loan and I do not know how else to satisfy the court’s concerns. He’s more worthy of a candidate than I’ve seen before. ”
Lewis Family holds press conference in Savannah
Julian Lewis’ family, represented by Davis Bozeman Johnson Law Firm, held a press conference in front of the federal court in Savannah on Monday afternoon.
Attorney Mawuli Davis announced that the Lewis family has filed a letter of intent to file a lawsuit against the state of Georgia over the death of Julian Lewis. He said if the case is not resolved before the claim expires, attorneys will be ready to file a federal lawsuit in Savannah.
“Julian Lewis was murdered and killed by a police officer on August 7th,” Davis told reporters. “What happened to Mr. Lewis in Screven County happened to all of us in this state of Georgia and in this country.”
Statesboro attorney Francys Johnson stood alongside Lewis’ wife, mother, aunt, and other family members behind Davis, many of whom wore Justice for Julian shirts, before addressing reporters briefly. Johnson told reporters that Lewis would be alive today if Thompson hadn’t “murdered” him when he committed the act of serious assault during the traffic obstruction. He noted that he expected Judge Peed to reject the bond review motion and that an upcoming jury in Screven County “will ultimately show the world where it can’t be shown in New York with Eric Garner where it can’t Major cities like Atlanta could be shown with Anthony Hill’s death, but a small place like Sylvania, Ga., shows that nobody, not even a Georgia state trooper, is above the law. “
Johnson also noted that the GBI took a different approach to the Thompson case, arresting him “in record time”, unlike previous cases where the agency acted as an investigative arm to gather evidence and bring it before a grand jury.
Decision on the application to review the bond
Judge Peed said in open court on Monday that he expected to issue an order on the motion within 24 to 48 hours. He also stated that the Screven County Grand Jury trial is expected to be convened in January 2021.
To date, the GBI has investigated more than 70 shootings of officers in 2020. Officials in more prominent cases, such as former APD official Garret Rolfe, who was charged with the death of Rayshard Brooks, have been given bail on the same charges as Jacob Thompson. Thompson is the only law enforcement officer currently charged in a shooting involving an officer with remaining behind bars while awaiting the grand jury trial.
Jessica Szilagyi is a statewide contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com. She mainly focuses on state and local politics, as well as law enforcement issues. She has a political science background with a concentration in local government and a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica writes “Like It Or Not” for Fox5 in Atlanta and has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and “Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers”.