Left to right: Paul Howard, Judge Gail Tusan and Ted Jackson ()
A judge has intervened in a feud between the Fulton County district attorney and sheriff over the DA’s access to recorded calls and videotaped visitations at the county’s jail facilities.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan on Aug. 29 issued an ex parte order directing Sheriff Ted Jackson to immediately restore access to the Securus Technologies database for District Attorney Paul Howard and his staff, saying “no reasonable justification exists” for barring them.
Tusan issued her order after reviewing a letter Howard sent to the sheriff on Aug. 16, the day after his office was locked out of the jail inmate monitoring program. Howard said in his letter that Jackson, “without notice or explanation,” denied him access to the security system’s video platform and a portfolio of other tools that allowed the DA to monitor inmate calls and jail cells in real time. Howard said the ban also denied his staff access to notes dating back two years that they stored on one of the security system’s programs.
Howard’s letter did not mention an earlier contretemps between the two over the custody of Atlanta attorney Claud “Tex” McIver and recordings the DA’s office used of McIver’s interactions with jail visitors in arguing to revoke the lawyer’s bond. McIver is charged with murder in last year’s shooting death of his wife, Diane, and of attempting to influence witnesses’ testimony. McIver and his attorneys claim he fired the gun by accident.
In early June, prosecutors used a recorded conversation between McIver and Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall and a second recorded conversation of the jailed attorney and Schwall’s ex-wife to argue the lawyer’s bond should be revoked. Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker argued McIver was attempting to, or at least believed he could, influence public officials.
During his visit with McIver, the judge was recorded telling the jailed attorney, “Hey man, I’m with you 1,000 percent,” Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker said during a June court hearing. Following Schwall’s visit, McIver also met with Anne Schwall, the judge’s ex-wife and the mother of McIvers’ godson.
During that conversation, McIver was recorded saying, “Listen, I don’t want to use any names but my godson’s father, I need you to contact him. All he needs to do is make a phone call and then I can be out of here the next day,” Rucker said.
Prosecutors learned later that month McIver was transferred from the central jail in downtown Atlanta to a jail annex in the city’s northern suburbs. Claiming that visitors at the “low-security” facility were not logged in or recorded, prosecutors demanded in a June 21 motion that McIver immediately be returned to the central jail.
The lawyer’s transfer, they argued, “makes it possible for [McIver] to continue to attempt to improperly shape the evidence in the case.” They also contended that, “Without properly documented and recorded visitations and jail calls, there is no method to ensure [McIver] is persuaded from attempting to alter evidence and influence witnesses in this case.”
Mark Adger, a colonel with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, in June characterized prosecutors’ allegations of McIver’s special treatment as “blatant lies.” Adger said McIver, 74, was not afforded special treatment and was moved because he is housed in administrative segregation away from the general population and “we needed space at the main jail … for an acute, medically supervised inmate.”
Responding to an inquiry by the Daily Report, Jackson’s office issued a statement saying, “We are re-evaluating administrative and operational protocols as it relates to Securus. Further, we have requested a legal assessment of the Securus operations and use by our law enforcement partners.”
The sheriff was not available for comment, and a spokeswoman referred all questions to the county attorney. Fulton County Attorney Patrice Perkins-Hooker did not respond to a request for comment.
In his letter to Jackson, Howard said access to the jail security system was “an integral part of our operation and essential to ensuring the safety of our victims and witnesses.” The DA said he sent the letter after he was unable to reach the sheriff by phone.
Howard said in his letter that his staff used the jail security system to monitor inmates and gather intelligence. The DA also said his staff conducted “research” by identifying inmate calls both to their own telephone accounts provided by Securus Technologies and “by use of other inmates’ accounts.”
Howard said the information gathered by his staff included intelligence on planned escape attempts, the delivery of contraband to jail facilities and to inmates at the courthouse, and the theft of inmate medications and personal identification numbers. He said his office also had “ongoing live monitoring” of some defendants.