No penalty for teen busted at party
by Kim Isaza
kisaza@mdjonline.com
February 24, 2010 01:00 AM | 5152 views | 81 81 comments | 70 70 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA - The case of an underage drinking party bust by Cobb Police at a fashionable west Cobb home next to Marietta Country Club, which led to one of the teens getting baseball practice as community service, took a bizarre and admittedly embarrassing turn for the Cobb Solicitor's Office on Tuesday.

John Summers, an assistant prosecutor under Cobb Solicitor Barry Morgan, recanted to the Journal late Tuesday the statements he made Monday, in which he said Woodstock municipal judge and Marietta lawyer Diane Busch - whose home was the site of the party bust - negotiated a deal with Cobb State Court Judge Nancy Campbell to allow 19-year-old William Maxwell to count 150 hours of baseball practice as community service. Summers admitted that he misread his notes Monday, and that not only was a deal for baseball practice not struck, but that he also allowed Maxwell to have his case dismissed without performing any community service.

"I said let bygones be bygones," Summers said.

On late Monday afternoon, two Journal reporters met with Summers and Cobb Solicitor Barry Morgan, and that's when Summers made his statements about Busch, the judge and the baseball practice deal.

Busch - who is being investigated by a special prosecutor to determine if she supplied alcohol to the teens at the party - was representing Maxwell and continued to represent the teenager until Feb. 11. That's the day she signed and submitted a notice asking the court to substitute Susan M. Miller as counsel for the teen. Busch did not appear on the teen's behalf that day, though under her signature is the phrase "attorney for defendant."

Maxwell was a Journal honorable mention All-Cobb County outfielder/pitcher at the Walker School in 2006 and is on baseball scholarship at Houston's Rice University, the 2003 national champion. Tuesday's recant by the solicitor's office means erroneous information was given out by Summers, and Maxwell is walking away from the case without penalty, while one of the other 10 teens given a citation at the party was ordered to perform, and did complete, 40 hours community service at an animal shelter.

Morgan acknowledged to the Journal on Tuesday evening that he is embarrassed by the glaring mistake by his young associate, which came to light after the Journal asked on Tuesday morning for a copy of the letter from Rice University verifying that Maxwell's "community service" - which called for 150 hours of baseball practice from Jan. 13 through Feb. 11, or 37 hours a week - had been performed.

In the morning telephone call, Morgan told the Journal that the document was not found in the case file, that his office had called the teenager's attorney to request another copy, and that still no such paperwork had turned up. Morgan said Summers came to see him about the snafu around 4 p.m., after Summers was out of court for the day.

Morgan did provide copies of community service verification for another teen who was cited for underage drinking in the same incident and whose case was also dismissed by Judge Campbell on Feb. 11. That student performed a total of 40 hours of community service with Sheltering Arms family and children services and at Mostly Mutts animal shelter, in addition to having a drug and alcohol evaluation, three clean drug tests and writing an essay.

Asked how he feels personally about Summers' snafu, Morgan said he was "drained." Asked if he felt this would harm his re-election bid later this year, he said, "I'm not worrying about that right now. I'm just trying to do the right thing."

Asked if he would fire his young associate, Morgan said, "I haven't decided what I'm going to do."

Tuesday morning, the Journal had received a multitude of comments by readers, almost all critical of what they deemed a "light sentence" for Maxwell. One blogger even said that since he was on a baseball scholarship, he was "being paid" to perform community service at practice.

In a Jan. 7 e-mail Busch sent to Summers, she wrote: "Have something to run by you - MIP, on a citation, first ever arrest, kid is on baseball scholarship to Rice in Houston ... Anyway, I am writing to ask whether you would consider some alternative diversion program ... and in exchange for the 40 hours cs (community service), accept proof that by his court date of February 11, he will have completed some 150 hours, conservatively, of baseball, for Rice, which is a not for profit University."

Monday, Summers - whose office at that time did not yet have the police report and was unaware that the teenager had been cited at Busch's house - said he responded by e-mail that, "I'm fairly certain Judge Campbell won't go along with it. 150 hours of Baseball in exchange for the normal stuff won't cut it with her."

Busch then said she would speak directly to the judge to see what was acceptable.

Cobb Police sent the initial police report - which also notes that this teenager had an Alco sensor reading of .171 - to the solicitor general's office about 5 p.m. on Jan. 12.

The next morning, Jan. 13, Busch and Summers were both appearing before Judge Campbell on an unrelated case, and Busch asked to discuss the teenager's case, Summers said.

The two lawyers and the judge agreed to the teen's diversion requirements in open-court discussion, and Campbell did, in fact, allow the 150 hours of baseball practice in lieu of the usual 40 hours of community service, Summers said.

Summers said that on Tuesday, he reviewed his notes on the case involving the former Walker school standout. He said Busch, who was involved in another case in front of Campbell, did request that the Maxwell be allowed to count 150 hours of team practice as his community service.

"I had initially discussed with Diane Busch via e-mail about this 150 hours of baseball practice request. We ran it by the judge, and the judge was not amenable. She did not agree to that," Summers said.

"[Monday], I was remembering the 150 hours and the dismissal. But from looking at my notes, I now recall that I agreed to waive the community service part, and it is my recollection that the judge agreed to do that as well," Summers said.

So not only did the alleged hard-nosed judge reject community service time, she agreed to give Maxwell no punitive time.

As to why he agreed to waive the service entirely, Summers - who passed the bar exam in 2008 and has worked in the solicitor's office for one year - said he was "more concerned that [the teenager] had received his drug and alcohol evaluation and had three clean drug screens." The teenager also had to write an essay before his citation was dismissed on Feb. 11.

"I said let bygones be bygones. I was more concerned that he get a drug and alcohol evaluation and follow any treatment, if it was needed," said Summers, who grew up in north Alabama and attended law school at Texas Weslyan University in Fort Worth.

"I also want it to be clear that Barry Morgan did not know that I waived this, and all of his statements to you [the Journal] were based upon information that I told him," Summers said. "I should have run that [waiving the service] by Barry and I did not do that."

The diversion program includes fines and fees of about $200 per case.

Effective immediately, Morgan said, there will be no exceptions to any portion of the diversion requirements.

"If someone is not prepared to meet the requirements of a diversion, then they need to enter a plea or go to trial," Morgan said.
Comments
(81)
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We've had enough
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February 27, 2010
This article was one of the most disturbing that I've ever read. When two people commit the same crime but one gets NO penalty, naturally, we have to think that the person in question had some special connections - which in this case is also sadly very obvious. It's a sad lesson to teach our kids that actions don't have consequences or that who you know matters more than your own choices and character. My words describing how I feel about this judge would be inappropriate to post but for our childrens' sake, I pray she gets out of public office before any more harm is done.
Everday Mom
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February 25, 2010
I agree, it would seem that corruption and this back alley of connections needs to be forced under public scrutiny. I am still stunned, that it took a newspaper investigation to reveal that no charges were even filed. When other teens that did the SAME thing get charged and this one does not, what message are we sending to our kids???
OH MY GOODNESS!
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February 25, 2010
Oh my goodness. To that lawyer that posted, do you even realize what you just said? If our courts are such a "chummy" place, what are you doing to change the culture? Defending this chumminess is not an option!

Also, it's news to me that we hire lawyers because of their "connections". I thought we hired lawyers to help us navigate the legal code? Not to mold the laws...
Pattern of Deceit
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February 25, 2010
The issue is not that one mistake was made but that a laundry list of ethical, legal and moral responsibilities were trampled on and mocked by this judge and her friends gone wild. The MDJ has done a terrific job of piecing together the chronology of events since December 22 and they show very clearly, that unethical and criminal conduct continued long after the original incident. And taken together, it IS unacceptable.
Citizen X
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February 25, 2010
dear Mr. Long Time Lawyer,

As you may or may not be aware, this is a press "pre-emptive" strike against the corruption that has been going on for years in the Cobb County Judicial Courts. This single incident is just the tip of a very large iceberg hidden well beneath the surface. Good luck at keeping the "gang mentality" at bay when the "real" story goes public.

Just curious ... do you agree that the public has a right to know what their public officials are doing behind closed doors?

Alan Faircloth
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February 25, 2010
To Long Time Lawyer - FIRST, I never accused you of being part of the 2% but the 98%. SECOND, my biggest problem is with your statement that "The courthouse has always been a chummy place. That is what you hire a lawyer for is the use their relationships to get the best possible treatment possible for their clients." This intimates that justice is meted out based upon everything other than the facts and law and that the most well connected lawyers (who may also be judges, elected officials, etc.) are the best to hire. If that is true, then I have lost all respect for our profession. Clients deserve treatment (i.e., judgements) that match the underlying facts and are consistent with applicable law. Chummy relationships have NO PLACE in the guilt or sentencing process. Despite what this case seems to suggest, I refuse to believe that our justice system is "the best that money can buy" and continue to optimistically believe that the blind is still being worn by Lady Justice who holds the scales.
Unrelated
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February 24, 2010
Did we read the same story? What I am hearing is a solicitor's office that sounds like it's doing everything it can to destroy Busch's name. And, before you say that she did it to herself, consider that you are getting ALL of your info from the MDJ. Obviously, the solicitor's office brought this to the MDJ's attention and then realized they were in error (because everything is public record). THEN, "Morgan did provide copies of community service verification for another teen..." To what end and isn't teen's info privileged?

And, to "bygoneCobbParent", be thankful your son took responsibility for his actions. In the long run, he will rise above his mistake. "Getting special treatment" isn't a benefit, people. Let this go. First, you don't know the whole story; second, you are a pawn for some ugly vendetta; and third, no one EVER gets away with anything. If they don't pay the price now, they will, unfortunately, pay later. I hope the cost is minimal and doesn't involve an innocent.
Crime & Punishment
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February 24, 2010
If some of you think that being outraged that no penalty was given to somebody that broke the law qualifies as a witch hunt, then you really need to consult a dictionary. These people broke the law and they need to be held accountable. Crime and punishment. Doesn't get any simpler.
Ready to crack down
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February 24, 2010
I know I cannot be the only person that sees something terribly wrong when an assistant prosecutor conveniently remembers that he didn't file any charges only after our local newspaper inquires into the suspicious circumstances. That no penalty was given makes it even more outrageous and shocking. Something really must be done to fish out all this corruption that's rampant in this county before our justice system becomes a travesty.
Brookstone Voter
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February 24, 2010
What's long bothered me about this isn't just one thing here or there. People do make mistakes. But this should be the exception and not the norm. All the facts lead me to conclude that this judge has been making bad decisions over a LONG period of time. And THAT is UNACCEPTABLE.

Let's ask ourselves. How often does any responsible parent insult the police officers and intimidate them into not doing his job? How often do responsible parents get drunk while a crew of underage minors are inside their house? How often do people under investigation continue to do their job that requires them to disclose such conflicts of interest? How often do underage drinkers that are caught get NO penalty at all? How often do state senators come barging in demanding that an athlete receive special treatment? I'm not even close to done and look at how much space I've filled up!

It's easy to forgive little mistakes here and there. It's impossible to forgive someone that has so little integrity that transparency and respect for the law are the exception rather than the rule.
Cobb Taxpayer
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February 24, 2010
Morgan's management of the solicitor's office reminds me of Barney and Gober when Andy is away from Mayberry - who is in charge of this mess - could it be he Long Time Lawyer ? Cover-up, fix and mess-up seems to be the order of the day for Barney Morgan and is barristers. What a shame for all of the drunks obviously without fathers !
No Penalty?
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February 24, 2010
Someone (ehem... Mr. Summers...) needs to be penalized if we can't even give out any penalty to someone who breaks the law...
Come Again?
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February 24, 2010
Ms. Busch clearly does not understand the definition nor significance of the word responsibility. Why is she a judge? Why is she even a lawyer??
Misconduct again???
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February 24, 2010
This really boils down to public trust and transparency. On both these counts, Ms. Busch has failed horribly and for that she must face the consequences. Nearly everyone I know has been scratching their heads at how this judge CONTINUES to make bad judgments without facing any consequences. Well news flash - the grace period is long over, Ms. Busch.
Kudzu A.
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February 24, 2010
The rich and powerful are circling the wagons. Thank you for following this story. Isaza and Brumby rock!
anonymous
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February 24, 2010
To Cynthia

This was west cobb - east cobb was NOT involved.

Think you might have some prejudge???

I sure do - therefore your whole comment is null!
old timer
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February 24, 2010
This is a total mess. What do you think the news papers in Texas are going to say about this little cover-up?
Very sadojsto
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February 24, 2010
Surely this matter will catch the attention of a Grand Jury. If this is Cobb County law enforcement

and justice we are in a mess.
travilin
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February 24, 2010
Diane Bush should be removed, Campbell should be removed. Morgan should be removed, and not just by the elections. These offices should be held to the highest standards like they do to the people they prosecute. This is truly reporting at its best. This could cause me to start buying mdj subscription. I have the cash you guys keep digging. Reminds me of the old school reporters who were not afraid of the powerful. This type of conduct are why there are laws. They should be held accountable for their actions by someone who knows nothing of them, not another friend. Reporters are the only ones who can protect this country from this type of third world actions. I want to know more facts.
wcobbresident
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February 24, 2010
Long Time Lawyer-

Thank you, someone with an educated response.

I couldn't agree more.
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