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.