Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis requested another prosecutor to oversee the Rayshard Brooks murder case, citing the behavior of former D.A. Paul Howard. Willis has said Howard’s methodology of attaining the arrest warrants was politically motivated. Willis sent a letter to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, notifying him of her wishes.
“I believe both matters create sufficient question of the appropriateness of this office continuing to handle the investigation and possible prosecution of these cases that the public interest is served by disqualifying this office and referring the matter to specially appointed prosecutor,” Willis wrote in the letter which was first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
June 17th, former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard brought murder charges against former Atlanta Police officer Garrett Rolfe for firing the two shots that killed Rayshard Brooks June 12th at a Wendy’s on 125 University Avenue. If convicted of murder, Rolfe could face a maximum sentence of life in prison or death (if the prosecutors choose to seek it).
After shooting Brooks, Rolfe said “I got him” and kicked him, and Brosnan then stood on Brooks’ shoulder, Howard said. The officers did not provide medical aid to Brooks for more than two minutes after he was shot, Howard explained during the indictment.
Their demeanor after the shooting “did not reflect any fear or danger of Mr. Brooks, but reflected other kinds of emotions,” Howard said.
“My predecessor obtained arrest warrants against the following defendants for incidents that occurred during the campaign,” Willis’s letter states. “I believe his conduct, including using video evidence in campaign television advertisements, may have violated Georgia Bar Rule 3.8(g). In addition, as you are aware, my predecessor’s conduct also prompted a referral to the GBI for criminal investigation by you his issuance of grand jury subpoenas at a time when no Fulton County Grand Jury was empaneled.”
Attorney General Carr asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate whether Howard improperly issued grand jury subpoenas in the case against Rolfe.
Willis’ decision to punt comes at a time when the current political and social justice environment is tense with urgent calls for reform and relief over the repeated shootings of Blacks at the hands of police officers.
Carr will now have the option to either assign the case to another prosecutor, take up the case in his office, or assign it to the prosecuting attorney’s council.
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins called for an independent prosecutor to handle the case in June. He called the charges against Rolfe and Brosnan political. Rolfe’s attorney, Noah Pines, said in July he hoped the case would be reassigned to another prosecutor.
“We look forward to the Attorney General appointing a new prosecutor, who we hope will review the GBI report (which we believe is favorable) and dismiss the case against Garrett Rolfe,” Pines wrote.
Meanwhile, Willis also chose to defer the cases involving two college students to the State. Taniyah Pilgrim, a Spelman College Student, and her boyfriend Messiah Young, a Morehouse student, who were wrongfully and brutally apprehended during a Black Lives Matter protest on May 30th. Police body camera footage shows officers shouting at the couple, firing Tasers at them and dragging them from the car. The officers involved were fired.