Tuesday, July 6, 2010

High-Profile DUI Case in Georgia Reveals an Ugly Secret About Courts

The biggest sports story in the South at the moment involves an administrator, not an athlete.

The tawdry tale led to the resignation Monday of University of Georgia Athletics Director Damon Evans. It also inadvertently revealed one of the ugly secrets about our court system.

Evans, 40, was a historic figure, the first black athletics director in the history of the Southeastern Conference. By most accounts, he had performed well since replacing Georgia legend Vince Dooley in 2004. But a series of boneheaded decisions last Wednesday evening cost Evans his dream job.

Evans was arrested on a DUI charge shortly before midnight last Wednesday in Atlanta. The police report revealed a series of embarrassing details for Evans--and the University of Georgia:

* He refused to take a breath test, but admitted to having three vodka cocktails;

* His passenger was Courtney Fuhrmann, a 28-year-old female who was arrested for disorderly conduct. (In the mugshots above, both Evans and Fuhrmann seem to be struggling to hold their eyes open.);

* Police noted a pair of red panties that were resting between Evans' legs. They belonged to Fuhrmann, he told officers.

* Evans made his position known to the officer in an apparent effort to get off without an arrest;

* Evans is married, the father of two;

* Evans had filmed a public-service announcement, played on the video board at Georgia games, warning fans not to drink and drive.

Evans is a Georgia graduate and is a former Bulldog football standout. But the mountain of unseemly details proved to be too much. The AD and his alma mater parted ways yesterday.

From a legal standpoint, the most revealing part of the story came after Evans had met with an attorney, Edward Tolley of Athens, Georgia. Reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

"I explained to Damon in general terms what the law is," Tolley told the AJC after the meeting. "I'm sending him to somebody who is an expert with the law in this area and familiar with the Atlanta judicial system. Local representation is important in cases like this."

Why would "local representation" be important in a DUI case? As long as a lawyer is licensed in Georgia, and is familiar with the relevant law, why would it matter if he is from Atlanta, Statesboro, Macon, or Plains?

The answer? It shouldn't. But what Tolley probably was saying, in a delicate way, is this: "A lawyer in Atlanta is likely to have appeared before the judge a number of times, and they might even be social buddies. Heck, the Atlanta lawyer perhaps has contributed to the judge's campaigns--and most of our judges are elected--or provided other favors to the bench. That will greatly enhance Mr. Evans' chances of getting off lightly in this DUI case."

It would have been interesting if an enterprising reporter had asked, "Does your decision to refer Mr. Evans to an Atlanta lawyer have anything at all to do with justice or the safety of the public?"

Tolley's likely response? "Hmmm . . . ahhh . . . geeee . . . Can I get back to you on that?"

1 comment:

James Greek said...

Boy Boy Boy, Georgia courts are the worst in the country. They did my mom wrong!