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An Atlanta man who spent nearly two extra years in prison because the Fulton County Superior Court Clerk’s Office didn’t give prison officials his release date is suing head clerk Juanita Hicks for $2.5 million. Calvin T. McGee II, who was serving a seven-year sentence for child molestation, should have been freed from Rogers State Prison May 27, 2001. He didn’t get out until March 5 of this year. The 22-month delay in his release occurred because the Fulton clerk’s office didn’t send the necessary paperwork — a final disposition of sentence — to the state Department of Corrections. McGee was finally released after Fulton Superior Court Judge Doris L. Downs rushed a letter to prison officials on March 5, along with McGee’s 2000 sentencing order. McGee, represented by Decatur attorney Ralph S. Goldberg, filed suit early this month in Fulton State Court against Hicks and an assistant. The suit alleges that clerks have a “nondelegable duty” to perform their jobs. One of those jobs, the suit says, is to notify the prison system of sentences. O.C.G.A. � 42-5-50 requires clerks to send certified copies of sentences to the prison system within 30 days of when clerks receive sentencing documentation. In McGee’s case, according to McGee v. Hicks, No. 03VS057136B, the defendants negligently breached that duty. McGee seeks damages of $2.5 million, including $6,000 in lost wages and the loss of a car worth $3,000. McGee returned to his previous job at a local dairy when he was released. Hicks began an investigation this spring into why McGee’s paperwork didn’t reach corrections officials. That investigation is not yet complete, Hicks said, adding that it will include disciplinary action for those responsible, if any is warranted. She reiterated previous statements that every piece of paper her office handles is critical to people’s lives and property and that her office takes its job very seriously. Normally, the judge’s staff brings sentencing orders to the clerk’s office, where a deputy clerk reviews them and prepares packages to be sent to the Department of Corrections. But a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections has said prison officials never received Downs’ July 20, 2000, order — which set McGee’s release date for May 27, 2001 — until March 5 of this year. The paper snafu left the clerk’s office open to a suit because the routine handling of paperwork is regarded as a ministerial, rather than discretionary act. Discretionary acts are, as a rule, protected by immunity from liability, while ministerial acts are not. Assistant County Attorney Willie J. Lovett Jr., who is representing Hicks’ office, said it’s possible his office will make a settlement offer once Hicks’ investigation is completed. But such an offer would not be in the range of the $2.5 million McGee is asking for, Lovett said. JUDGE MODIFIED ORIGINAL SENTENCE McGee entered a guilty plea to child molestation charges in 1993 and was sentenced to eight years on probation and given first offender status. His probation was revoked on March 3, 1997, after probation officials claimed he had been baby-sitting the same children he molested. Downs sentenced him to 20 years — seven to be served in prison and the rest on probation. McGee originally was scheduled to be released June 27, 2003. But he won a modification of that sentence in 1997 after his public defender convinced Downs that her original sentence overlooked giving McGee credit for the number of months he successfully had completed on probation prior to the revocation. Inexplicably, however, no order reducing the sentence was filed for several years — until the summer of 2000. Neither attorney involved remembered who was supposed to prepare the order in 1997. McGee’s public defender left that office shortly after the 1997 hearing reducing the sentence. In the interim, McGee wrote the clerk’s office numerous times asking for copies of orders (including the order modifying his sentence), transcripts and arrest warrants, as well as information about filing dates of various documents. He also filed several pro se motions. Nearly three years after Downs granted McGee’s sentence reduction, a new assistant public defender presented an order to the judge to sign. Downs’ July 20, 2000, order recalculated his maximum release date, changing it to May 27, 2001. That order, according to the computer docket and the case file, was filed with the clerk’s office the day it was issued, almost a year ahead of McGee’s release date. McGee, in an interview earlier this year, said he didn’t have the correct paperwork to show prison officials he ought to be released. He said he had an order signed by Downs that reduced his sentence, but it had the wrong name on it. Prison officials, who had never received the new sentencing information from Fulton, didn’t believe him, he said. He finally received copies of his file in February of this year and said he showed them to a counselor at the prison, who assisted him in getting released. NOT THE FIRST MAN HELD TOO LONG McGee’s case is not the first time Fulton clerks’ failure to process paperwork has kept an inmate in prison too long. Dexter Michael Hill had his murder conviction reversed on May 1, 2000, but sat in Arrendale State Prison for another year and 10 months instead of being returned to the Fulton jail for either a retrial or a dismissal of the charges. His letters to clerks asking why he hadn’t been transferred weren’t answered. Hicks said a temporary employee was responsible for the mistake. Hill, according to computer records, since has been retried and re-convicted.

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