Fulton County solicitors on Tuesday chose not to prosecute the vast majority of the first 111 neglected criminal files that were discovered in a utility closet and in the office of a case manager.
State Court Judge Susan Forsling and two deputy solicitors zipped through the calendar in a 12-minute hearing.
Forsling said she counted at least 18 cases that solicitors asked to be reset on a trial calendar. All the rest of the cases were nolle prossed.
The hearing was the first of five that Forsling scheduled before the end of the year to resolve some of more than 2,000 old files found in May. Forsling has said her longtime case manager, Joel Schaffer, probably let a handful of cases slip through the cracks every month, resulting in stacks of files being hidden in his office and in an unused utility closet. Schaffer resigned in the spring after a 38-year career with the county.
“I continue to be astounded,” Forsling said while signing nolle prosse orders from the bench.
Forsling said she saw one case that indicated on the outside of the file that it was dead docketed, but there was no dead docket in the file. In another case, the case manager had signed a sentencing sheet but he never gave it to Forsling to sign, so no sentence was entered.
Some of the cases date back to 1991, six years before Forsling was appointed to the bench.
In those cases that were reset, the deputy solicitors said they wanted additional time to locate the alleged victims.
Fulton County Solicitor General Carmen Smith said in an interview that each of the cases was assessed before making a determination about whether to nolle prosse or move forward.
“It’s made on a case-by-case basis,” she said.
Speedy trial issues may have contributed to the cases that were nolle prossed.
“That concern is on every calendar that we have,” Smith said.
For each case, Forsling read the defendant’s name, and the deputy solicitors said whether they would nolle prosse or reset. Fulton County Conflict Defender Director Elaine McGruder asked whether she could be listed as the attorney for those cases that were reset without a lawyer named, but Forsling said she couldn’t appoint representation for defendants until she determines their financial status.
While the solicitor’s office attempts to locate victims for the cases that were reset, Forsling said that notices will also be sent to the defendants’ last known addresses.
Forsling aimed to clear a backlog of about 700 cases, while about 900 other cases—most of which date from 2008 to 2010—were being distributed to seven other state court judges who volunteered to help.
About 500 defendants named in the lost files had been arraigned in June and were already on trial calendars.
Each of the cases was assessed before making a determination about whether to nolle prosse or move forward.
“It’s made on a case-by-case basis,” said Fulton County Solicitor General Carmen Smith.