Judge orders bail in case delayed indefinitely by state appeal against witnesses • Georgia Virtue


The accused’s full name is displayed as initials to protect the identity of the accuser, who is a minor, as well as the accused, who has not yet faced a jury of his peers.

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After 975 days, bail was ordered last week for a man awaiting trial in Effingham County Superior Court, but he remains behind bars, having yet to post bail.

JJS’s jury trial was scheduled to begin in mid-August 2022, but when Judge Gates Peed refused to grant a state motion to preemptively exclude nearly all defense witnesses before the trial even began. court case, the bidding process came to an abrupt halt.

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Background to the case

According to court documents, JJS, a resident of Effingham County, found himself in the crosshairs of an investigation during a separation from his wife at the time. He served his then-wife of six years with divorce papers in January 2020. Three days later, JJS’ stepdaughter revealed to a school counselor that she had been sexually assaulted by her step- father five years ago.

In late February, the Springfield Police Department sought warrants from JJS for acts that allegedly occurred between 2015 and 2019. He was arrested shortly after and remanded to the Effingham County Jail.

A grand jury indicted JJS in December 2020 on seven counts, including:

  • Aggravated Sexual Battery
  • Molestation of children (2 counts)
  • Cruelty to children 1st degree (2 counts)
  • Terrorist threats (2 counts)
Court case

JJS is represented by Savannah defense attorney Bobby Phillips.

The 2020 case, initially handled by Brian Deal, formerly ADA chief of the Effingham office of the district attorney’s office, was recently passed to the senior ADA, Christy Barker. Barker spent decades in Chatham County and only recently joined the Ogeechee Circuit Court.

Some criminal history

The District Attorney’s Office has announced its intention to introduce prior acts and seek sanctions against repeat offenders during the sentencing phase, which means that in the event of guilty convictions on any or all of the counts of indictment, JJS’ prior acts would be entered to secure the maximum sentence. without the possibility of parole. In 1994, JJS pleaded guilty to statutory rape. At the time of the plea, JJS was 19 and the female victim in the case was 14. Court records indicate that there was an ongoing relationship between the parties. JJS was sentenced to probation only with 90 to 120 days in a boot camp.

JJS has also had a handful of other charges over the years, most of which were either dismissed or paroled after completing pretrial diversion programs. However, none included an offense of a sexual nature. Even still, the state announced more than a year ago that it intended to suggest that the 1994 case and the 2020 case were similar.

Judge Peed disagreed with the state’s argument and later issued an order denying any mention by the state of the statutory rape plea from 27 years ago.

“Based on the nature of the plea, it appears that this sexual contact between the accused and the victim did not involve force*. The Court further notes that this conviction dates back 27 years and 21 years before the first crime alleged in the indictment. As such, the Court finds that the 1994 conviction is different from the allegations in the present case.”
*Author’s Note [to the extent that it is comparable to what is alleged in the current indictment. No one under the age of 16 can consent under Georgia law]

Peed also wrote that the state’s evidentiary need at trial was low since the accuser in the 2020 case is expected to testify at trial. He said the standard of probative value far exceeding the danger of unfair prejudice had not been met.

Witness exclusion

In June 2022, ADA Christy Barker filed a motion to exclude nineteen of the defense team’s possible twenty-five witnesses based on her preliminary interviews with each of them. In her motion, Barker noted that she contacted eighteen of them to ask what they intended to testify. She later filed the motion on the grounds that their alleged testimony would be irrelevant.

Defense attorney Bobby Phillips filed a response brief, in which he lambasted the state’s attempt to preemptively exclude witnesses. He said the list was “prospective” and, in some cases, for rebuttal purposes, particularly in response to evidence presented by the state.

“The defense attorney has been admitted to the Georgia State Bar since 1971 and has tried hundreds of jury trials in the years since. He has never personally seen a case in which the trial court excluded (16) witnesses five weeks before the trial date; he has not even heard of such proceedings in any court… Since the defense attorney did not disclose the exact nature of his defence, it is impossible for the prosecutor to know the reason why a witness might be called on behalf of the defendant. His recitations are based mostly on speculation.

Peed again agreed with the defense.

In its order, Peed was blunt in rejecting the state’s argument, writing, “The Court notes that criminal trials can often be unpredictable, and that the relevance and admissibility of particular evidence often changes over the course of the trial. and that testimony opens and closes various doors. The Court finds that it would be inappropriate to limit the Respondent’s ability to attack the State’s submission at this stage. He then noted that the state is free to object during the trial, witness by witness, if the question arises.

The day after Peed’s orders were filed, Barker filed a Notice of Intent to Appeal the decision with the Georgia Court of Appeals, which may take more than a year. In the meantime, JJS has remained behind bars.

Bond ordered on October 31

After the state’s decision to appeal to the Court of Appeals, indefinitely delaying the case, JJS’ attorney filed a petition for bail review. In that motion, Phillips cited OCGA 5-7-5, which states that “In the event the State files an appeal as permitted by this chapter, the accused must be released on reasonable bail pending the decision of the appeal, except in cases punishable by death.

A hearing was held on October 31, 2022 and Judge Peed said he would issue an order within five days, however, that was the same day bail was set.

As a result, Judge Peed ordered release if bail in the amount of $100,000 was posted. As part of its bond, JJS must:

  • Not violate any federal, state, or local laws;
  • Avoid all alcohol and drugs, except those prescribed by a doctor;
  • Avoid interfering with the investigation or legal proceedings in any way;
  • Avoid contact with witnesses or alleged victims in the case;
  • To be confined to his home in Effingham County unless he meets his attorney or appears in court.

Effingham County Jail records as of November 6 show JJS has not posted bond, however, and remains behind bars.

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