Originally created 02/19/03

Leaders vote no on Craig inquiry

If an in-depth investigation is good enough for the city, it ought to be good enough for District Attorney Danny Craig.

That was the message of several Augusta Commission members considering a resolution Tuesday that would have asked the state attorney general's office to investigate Mr. Craig's prosecution of a child molestation case.

The resolution failed from a lack of support, and even if it had been approved, a spokesman for the attorney general said Tuesday that the request appeared to be out of the office's jurisdiction.

Before a vote was taken, though, Mr. Craig and several commissioners went head to head - not only about the district attorney's involvement in the molestation case but also about the motives behind a special grand jury empaneled more than three years ago to investigate alleged corruption in city government.

As the district attorney, Mr. Craig was the appointed legal adviser to that grand jury.

On Tuesday, the commission drew several connections between the investigations undertaken by that panel and the need to conduct a similar investigation of Mr. Craig.

"I've always believed a little sunlight is good for everything," Commissioner Andy Cheek said.

This month, The Augusta Chronicle reported that Bobby Brassell Jr., a 42-year-old Martinez man accused of aggravated child molestation, was allowed to plead guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery and had not been required to register as a convicted sex offender. State Sen. Don Cheeks contacted the district attorney at least a dozen times in two years to argue the man's innocence.

The Richmond County Democratic Party already has asked that the Republican senator be investigated for possible ethics violations in connection with the case.

The resolution drafted by the commissioners said an investigation of Mr. Craig is needed to "restore confidence in the local judicial system."

The resolution asked several questions about the case, including when Mr. Brassell's felony charge of child molestation was changed to a misdemeanor and who was responsible for making that change. It asked why there appears to be a "disparity in sentencing" for child molestation cases.

Mr. Craig appeared before the commission Tuesday to answer those questions, at times delivering lengthy descriptions of the judicial process as part of his response.

"The real problem with our justice system is that it's run by humans," he said.

The commissioners who opposed the resolution said that because the court case took place in Columbia County, it was out of their jurisdiction.

Other commissioners said the matter deserved further review, pointing to the 3 1/2 -year special grand jury investigation into city government as an example of past efforts to "root out corruption" and hold elected officials accountable.

"We owe it to our citizens," said Commissioner Lee Beard, adding that Mr. Craig's testimony Tuesday was "only one side of the story."

Mr. Beard also criticized the special grand jury's work, saying its members were disrespectful and their investigations often inappropriate.

"When you have a special grand jury that has a special agenda, I lose respect for them," he told Mr. Craig.

Commissioner Richard Colclough, who had placed the resolution on Tuesday's agenda, said his request for an investigation should not be interpreted as having anything to do with the special grand jury's investigations into city affairs.

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.


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