MARIETTA – Sixteen months after entering into a pretrial diversion program with the State of Georgia, Jessica Colotl’s felony false swearing charge has been dismissed.
Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary Staley signed an “order to dismiss” Wednesday in the case against Colotl, whose 2010 arrest after a traffic stop nearly led to her deportation.
“When I took office Jan. 2, (the motion to dismiss) was still on my desk, so I went about finding a way to resolve it,” said Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds on Thursday. “I learned it was on the calendar for (Jan. 9), so I called Assistant District Attorney Greg Epstein and told him that we needed to do whatever we could to close this case.”
After reviewing the case front to back, Reynolds said he came to the conclusion that the Cobb District Attorney’s Office was “bound by its agreement,” even though he wasn’t involved in the case initially, as former District Attorney Pat Head retired effective Dec. 31.
“There was an agreement made 16 months ago, where the District Attorney’s Office had agreed to proceed with some sort of dismissal,” he said. “I reviewed that agreement, I believed that the state legally and ethically was bound by that agreement, and I believe the District Attorney’s Office has to abide by its word.”
Reynolds reached out to Colotl’s defense attorney, Jerome Lee with Taylor, Lee and Associates of Atlanta, and spoke to Staley about having the case resolved.
“She was in agreement that it should be dismissed,” he said. “The order was prepared, we had a brief hearing in court where (Staley) read the order into the record, then her honor proceeded to sign the record.”
Staley was unavailable for comment Thursday.
Reynolds said his understanding of the case was that on Aug. 31, 2011, Head reached an agreement with Colotl that allowed her to enter into a pretrial diversion program, which required Colotl to complete at least 150 hours of community service, pay an admission fee to complete the program and provided the District Attorney’s Office with at least three letters of references from individuals who attested to her character.
“She successfully completed her end of the deal,” Reynolds said. “She did what the state asked her to do.”
Upon Colotl’s completion of the program, Head’s office submitted a dismissal motion to Staley, but Reynolds said either the judge or Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren “became concerned about the case, or at least expressed concern about the way it was handled,” thus causing it to carry on for 16 months and bounce between court calendars the latter part of 2012.
“I think there had been some contention in this case and in the record … I was not at liberty to express an opinion one way or the other,” he said. “I inherited it some 16 months later and felt that the DA was bound by the agreement, whether the present administration agrees or disagrees.”
In a statement released by Warren, he said he was disappointed in Head’s decision to defer Colotl’s case and allow her to enter into the program but understood that Reynolds inherited the case and was bound by a prior decision.
“I respect District Attorney Reynolds and look forward to working with him,” he said. “I also appreciated the fact that he took the time to discuss with me his decision to dismiss this case prior to releasing it to the media.
“However, as I have said before, it is my opinion that Ms. Colotl deserves no special consideration in the criminal justice process for decisions she made as an adult to violate the laws of this state. Affording her special treatment in this situation would send the wrong message to our youth and other members in our society.”
Colotl’s case began in March 2010 after a traffic stop on the campus of Kennesaw State University. She didn’t have a driver’s license and was taken to the Cobb County Jail, where she gave jailers an old address as her current one, resulting in the felony charge of making false statements.
An illegal immigrant, she also was turned over to federal immigration authorities, who later let her stay in the United States.