State Supreme Court to hear arguments on former Unadilla police chief's case

The Georgia Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments today from attorneys on the Court of Appeals of Georgia’s reversal of a 2007 Dooly County Superior Court conviction of former Unadilla Police Chief Leonard Smith.

Smith was convicted in 2007 of three counts of false swearing after being accused of claiming simultaneous work hours at both the Unadilla and Fort Valley police departments.

He was sentenced to five years in prison.

In March of this year, the state appellate court found that the state was required to notify Smith when a grand jury in Dooly County considered indictments against him.

Stephen N. Hollomon, a Warner Robins attorney representing Smith, successfully argued that police officers accused of a crime have the right to make a sworn statement to a grand jury when his or her case is presented.

However, Smith was not afforded the opportunity to know when the case was presented, Hollomon said.

Denise Fachini, Cordele Judicial Circuit district attorney, and assistant district attorney Cheri Nichols appealed the case to the Georgia Supreme Court.

The state argued in court briefs that grand jury terms are set by law and publicized, that Smith was given the proposed indictments in advance and that it was his responsibility to afford himself protections under the law, according to a case summary provided by the Office of Public Information for the Georgia Supreme Court.

The state’s position is that the law does not compel the state to provide the date, time and place a grand jury will consider an indictment, according to the case summary.

But Hollomon argued in court briefs, according to the case summary, that “if the peace officer does not know when the grand jury will be considering his case, he cannot exercise the opportunity to assert the rights he has been granted.”

Hollomon noted in a telephone interview that the district attorney’s office is the only entity that has control during a given court term when a grand jury case will be presented.

Information from the Telegraph’s archives was used in this report. To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.