The “Investigators” of the Ahmaud Arbery Case: Glynn County Police Department

One of the ironic things about the Ahmaud Arbery case is that because of the shoddy, good-ole-boy “investigation” of his killing, the defense is busily planting doubt in the minds of the jurors.

This “investigation” was carried out by the Glynn County Police Department which has a history of corruption and questionable police tactics.  The investigation of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery is just the most recent in a long list of corrupt practices.

In April 2019, Action News Jax (Jacksonville, Florida) reported that an internal investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) had uncovered misconduct within the Glynn-Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team. This investigation led to the unit being disbanded.

Narcotics Enforcement Teams are not disbanded without good reason, and not without an enormous amount of pressure being exerted on the law enforcement agency.

As with the Arbery case, the GBI had to be called in to “investigate after Chief of Staff Brian Scott was notified of reported inappropriate behavior involving an officer assigned to the GBNET” (the drug squad).

A report on the internal investigation included findings that Investigator James Cassada was involved in sexual relationships with two confidential informants (CIs) and had been conducting these sexual relationships since 2017.  Cassandra resigned in February (2019) at the initial phase of the investigation.

Not only was Cassada having sex with his informants, he told another investigator not to pursue drug charges against his CI.  One of Cassandra’s CIs told investigators that Cassada had asked her how much it would cost him to have sex with her. The CI said she and Cassandra had had sex twice in his department issued vehicle.

There were also allegations in the report that Cassada had used cocaine and methamphetamine and supplied the drugs to CIs, but there was insufficient evidence to support the claims.

The Police Department, according to the JAX reporting, announced the commander of GBNET was facing disciplinary action for his conduct.  We do not know at this time whether this disciplinary action was ever carried out.

According to the JAX report:

  • Three officers from the GCPD came to Capt. Davis Hassler, who was commander between 2016 and 208, with information about the misconduct, but he never opened an investigation.
  • During the interview, Hassler denied having any knowledge of the allegations. He said if an employee had come to him with the allegations, he would have investigated them.
  • Hassler announced he now plans to resign and retire.
  • A joint investigative unit will be established in the future identified as the Brunswick-Glynn Special Investigative Unit. The unit will conduct investigations concerning narcotic crimes, prostitution, human trafficking, illegal gambling, criminal street gangs and alcoholic violations.

At the end of the JAX article about the report on the Drug Unit, this sentence appeared:

Action News Jax reached out to the District Attorney’s Office to find out how many cases could be affected. We’re still waiting on a response.

This is the DA’s office lead by Jackie Johnson who has herself now been indicted for her handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case.

Resources:

https://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/local/drug-enforcement-unit-disbanded-in-brunswick-for-misconduct/941464356/

FOR ALMOST THREE MONTHS THERE WERE NO ARRESTS AFTER THE KILLING OF AHMAUD ARBERY IN GLYNN COUNTY, GEORGIA

Cars line up along Highway 17 in Glynn County, Georgia to protest the County handling of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.

AHMAUD ARBERY

#2 PROSECUTORS

The date for the trial of the three men who hunted down Ahmaud Arbery and shot him in the street is October 18, 2021 in the Glynn County Courthouse, Brunswick, Georgia.

For almost three months after Arbery, 25, was shot and killed, there were no arrests, no charges brought and almost no local press coverage.  But one of the men who joined the chase of Arbery as Arbery jogged through a Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood filmed the chase and the shooting.  When the video went viral, media attention was attracted to the case.  At that point, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) took the investigation out of the hands of local officials.  Charges were brought in days.

The local prosecutor in Brunswick, Georgia, Jackie Johnson, where the shooting occurred recused herself almost immediately.  Gregory McMichaels, 64, had been a police investigator in her office.  After making a decision to recuse herself, Johnson contacted another local prosecutor, George E. Barnhill, Sr., and asked him to advise the county police department about the case. 

Barnhill then advised the Glynn County Police Department that the three men who armed themselves and pursued Ahmaud Arbery in a suburban neighborhood and then shot him in the street, appeared to have been acting in self-defense. 

At much the same time as she was contacting Barnhill Sr. and asking him to consult with the Glynn County Police Department, Johnson, contacted the state Attorney General and requested a new prosecutor.  The state Attorney General assigned the case to Barnhill Sr., the same Barnhill who had been asked by Johnson to give advice to the Glynn County Police Department.   It is unclear whether Johnson recommended Barnhill to the state Attorney General.  It seems likely that she did.  It was later revealed that Johnson did not tell the state Attorney General that she had requested Barnhill, Sr. to give advice on prosecution to the Glynn County Police Department.

After Barnhill, Sr. was given the case, the family of Ahmaud Arbery found out that Barnhill Sr.’s son worked in Johnson’s office.  They then objected to the elder Barnhill’s appointment.  As far as can be determined, the family was not aware at the time that Johnson had asked and Barnhill,Sr. had already advised the Glynn County Police Department on prosecuting the case.  They were, however, aware that Barnhill Sr.’s son, George F. Barnhill, not only worked as an attorney in the Brunswick DA’s office, but that the younger Barnhill had worked with Gregory McMichaels, on a case against Ahmaud Arbery years before.

After being notified by the family of their objections, Georgia Attorney General, Chris Carr took the Sr. Barnhill off the case and assigned the case to Tom Durden from the Atlantic Judicial Circuit in Hinesville.  Durden announced plans in early May of (2020?) to ask a grand jury to consider criminal charges.

Carr later made a statement that the elder Barnhill never mentioned potential conflicts when he was initially asked to take over the case, nor did Barnhill Sr. mention that he had already offered the Glynn County police department an “initial opinion.”  This opinion was that the three men had most likely acted in self defense, i.e., that they should not be prosecuted.

The case was later transferred to the DA in Cobb County, Georgia.  It is unclear why Durden was taken off the case.  

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported in June of 2021 that a grand jury had been convened to investigate the actions of DA Jackie Johnson in the Ahmaud Arbery case.

Glynn County, Georgia: Site of the Aubery Killings

browning Michael Browning, Glynn County Commission

 

It was in Glynn County, Georgia that three men stalked and killed Ahmaud Arbery.  One of the men documented the killing on video.  But, when police from the Glynn County Police Department arrived at the scene of the murder, they made no arrests.  One of the three men, Gregory McMichaels, is a former police officer and investigator for the Glynn County DA’s office.  Gregory McMichaels, his son Travis, and a neighbor who filmed the murder were allowed to go home after pretty much dictating the police report.

Later, another officer from the Glynnn County Police Department phoned the mother of jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, and told her that her son had been killed in a burglary.  This was untrue.

The DA in the county promptly recused herself from the case giving as the reason that Gregory McMichael had worked as a police officer in the 1980s and in the district attorney’s office until 2019.  She passed the case on to another DA who maintained that the two men were acting in self defense and should not be charged.

The case was later shifted to another DA.

Meanwhile, the Aubery family’s lawyer released the videotape of the killing and there was a public outcry as citizens watched these three men shoot and kill another man in broad daylight.

After bringing in investigators from the state, the three men were eventually charged, but only after a public outcry and national coverage of the murder.

Much of the attention in the case has been on the District Attorneys involved and their unwillingness to bring charges against the three men.  What should also have been brought out was the history of the Glynn County Police Department which not only failed to make an arrest in the case, but for whom one of the assailants (Gregory McMichael) used to work as a police officer and investigator.

The Glynn County Police Department has a history and it is not a proud one.  As Page Page, a criminal defense attorney in Glynn County stated in an interview, “There is not just one prior case.  There are many prior cases.  And each one is a separate Netflix episode.”

In 2018, Glynn County Police Lt. Robert Sasser killed his estranged wife and a man she had been seeing.  He then took his own life.  This final act followed a history of problematic behavior, much of it witnessed by members of the very police department he worked for.  But, that police department failed to act.

The family of Sasser’s wife is now suing the police department arguing that the department’s failure to act led to their daughter’s death.

In 2010, Sasser and another officer were involved in a brutal police shooting of a woman who led them on a low-speed chase.  The officers opened fire on her.  Nevertheless, Sasser avoided any punishment for the act and remained on the force.  The family of this woman is also taking legal action.

In 2018, the police department saw its certification with the state taken away because it did not meet basic police standards.  Part of the report that led to the de-certification noted that even though African Americans make up 26% of the population in the county, they make up only %12 of the police force.

In 2019, the county’s drug task force was disbanded after a state-led investigation.  This investigation found misconduct by Glynn County police officers, one of whom was having sex with an informant.

Then, Glynn County Police Chief John Powell, was indicted for perjury and witness tampering.  This was four days after the Arbery shooting.  This police chief remains on administrative leave.

County Commissioners have defended the police department handling of the Arbery case.  They blamed the DA for the decision not to arrest the three.  Commissioner Peter Murphy said that the police were told by the DA’s office not to make an arrest.

The DA, Jackie Johnson, says her office didn’t tell the police whether to make an arrest.  Johnson maintained that the police and the county commission wanted to smear her.

“I think it’s retaliation for me being the whistleblower on their police department multiple times over the last year.”

We have no idea what this means.

In June of 2020, the Glynn County Commissioners (some of whom are lame ducks leaving office) met to approve creating a new job for the Police Chief, John Powell.  Approximately $150,000 of county “reserve” funds were to be used to make a job for the indicted Police Chief.

But, the local newspaper, the Brunswick News, reported that the vote was to occur.  When the County Commissioners met at a scheduled meeting all had agreed to, two of the members were missing.   One of the Commissioners gave a statement to the local newspaper that it would be “unfair” for the Commission to go ahead without the missing two members.

I suspect that what he meant was that they didn’t want to go ahead unless all the Commissioners were implicated in the decision.

The members present voted to “defer” the decision about using county funds during a pandemic to create a job for the indicted police chief.  The Commissioners failed to reveal when they planned on meeting again.

The outrage about the history of the Glynn County Police Department had led to a bill passed by the Georgia legislature allowing the citizens of Glynn County to vote on whether they wanted to dissolve the Police Department entirely.

The Glynn County Commissioners announced through one Michael Browning (one of the lame ducks) that the County Commission would hire lawyers and pay them with county funds to sue the state of Georgia if they went ahead with plans to allow the citizens of Glynn County to vote on dissolving the police department.