SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The accusations against 6th District Alderman Tony Thomas just got elevated in a very serious way.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Chatham County District Attorney have clearly seen something significant between the dozens of witnesses and hundreds of documents and photographs that convinced Meg Heap to send the case to a Chatham County Grand Jury. At stake, serious criminal charges against Savannah's longest serving alderman.
Shock, surprise, amazement would not be words to describe the reaction to this development for those who have been trying to get someone to listen to their claims for years.
There was an entire website dedicated to exposing the accusations of child sex abuse, drug use and providing booze to underage young men.
The "Troll Chronicles" hit YouTube last year attempting to tie stories of friendship, employment, gifts and drugs in exchange for sex with the alderman.
All of that happening while we were conducting our own investigation into the activities of the city's most talked about councilman.
When I confronted Thomas last April about these accusations, his response was a challenge to his accusers.
"Well, you got to have evidence," Thomas told me. "In today's world, you've got to have evidence. I would suggest that they go and get that evidence."
Thomas is guilty of nothing, yet. However, District Attorneys don't make a habit of calling Grand Juries when there isn't at least some evidence worth considering.
No doubt part of that evidence Thomas provided himself through hundreds of picture of dozens of young men in bars, hotel rooms and trips, many on official city business.
"Everyone was looking around saying, what is he bringing this kid with him for," former Alderman Ellis Cook told me of one League of Cities trip. "At the end of the conference, the majority of the people on council went to then city manager, Michael Brown, and said look, tell him he can't bring young boys to these functions with him anymore."
Friday morning, deputies fanned out across Savannah delivering countless subpoenas calling on Tony Thomas' accusers to meet at the Chatham County Courthouse on August 22.
One of them is Chris Haupt. We spoke with him during our investigation. It was hard for him then and it will no doubt be hard for his next month.
"It's ruined every relationship I've ever had," Chris told me. "It drives you nuts. At that time you don't know how to handle it. Every day, you're ashamed. Alright. You don't want to tell anybody. If you do tell somebody they'll probably kill him."
Joey Foley, 23, also got a deputy's knock on the door this morning. His testimony will include what he claims happened the first time he met Thomas.
"And he went and took me and bought me a bunch of clothes. Took me to get my hair cut. Took me to get a massage. That same night, took me to Ruth's Chris, I got super wasted. I don't remember anything. Like I literally got to Ruth's Chris and woke up in Tony's bed," Foley said.
Thomas was quick to respond to the news of these Grand Jury on Friday on Facebook. He calls the accusations trumped up and false.
He even calls out WTOC and this reporter for, "participating" in this beyond normal reporting of the news. Adding that at the appropriate date, we will be addressed.
It became very clear Friday that Alderman Tony Thomas has more immediate issues to address, and WTOC will follow along every step of the way.