Enotah County District Attorney Jeff Langley, whose office was briefly disqualified from prosecuting a man who faced multiple felony charges after a staff prosecutor saw a confidential mental evaluation, has finally seen the defendant convicted on 20 counts.
After being booted from the case in 2017, Langley’s office sought to have the order reversed, convincing Superior Court Judge N. Stanley Gunter that there was no harm from what an assistant DA described as a brief scan of the report.
On Dec. 10, a Lumpkin County jury found defendant Jonathon Morgan guilty on 20 counts, including rape, aggravated sodomy and aggravated child molestation related to an incident on Christmas Day in 2015. Morgan, then 31, was accused of terrorizing his family at gunpoint for hours before being arrested after a car chase.
Morgan’s sentencing date has not been set, said Enotah Circuit Chief Assistant District Attorney William Clark, who handled the six-day trial.
Morgan’s lawyer, Andrew “A.J.” Richman of Cumming’s Richman Law Firm, said he would file an appeal on several issues, among them whether Langley’s office should have been allowed back on the case.
Clark said he was only able to find three other instances in which an entire prosecutor’s office was tossed from a case.
Richman had requested a mental competency evaluation by the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities as part of his defense workup. In early 2017, through an unexplained mix-up, a copy of the evaluation found its way into the email inboxes of two prosecutors.
One didn’t recall opening it while the other, Faizah Shabazz, said she “glanced” at it and read the conclusion.
“I argued that it was a violation of the attorney-client privilege and that the law does not allow them to read it,” Richman told the Daily Report in August 2017.
Gunter agreed and ordered Richman to draft an order disqualifying Langley’s office, which represents the five-county circuit that also includes Lumpkin, Towns, Union and White counties.
Clark filed a motion for reconsideration the following month, arguing that Gunter’s ruling “is an unauthorized interference with the elected district attorney’s constitutional role and right to enforce the law within his circuit.”
Following what Clark said was a two-hour hearing, Gunter agreed to overturn his prior ruling and ordered the prosecutor to draft a new order.
That order said “Shabazz testified that she scanned the document and read the conclusion. She recalled no content of the evaluation, and all she recalled about the conclusion was that after reading it, she knew she would be able to proceed with the prosecution.”
The doctor who conducted the evaluation “was not retained by the defense, Therefore, the communications by the defendant to [the doctor] are not protected by the attorney-client privilege,” it said.
Further, once Richman received the evaluation, he filed a notice of intent to raise a mental competency defense, according to the order. That meant the prosecution was entitled to a copy of the report anyway, and the issue was therefore moot.
Clark said he would ask Gunter to sentence Morgan to life without parole at sentencing.
He said that Morgan, a military veteran, had guns “throughout the house” and was armed and wearing body armor when he fled arriving officers.
“It was a wonderful ending in that no one was hurt,” said Clark. “It was rewarding to bring long- awaited justice to the victims.”
“I respect the jury’s verdict,” said Richman. “They deliberated for several hours and had multiple, interesting questions throughout the day.”