Former judge weighs in on Civil Grand Jury in Thomas case - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Former judge weighs in on Civil Grand Jury in Thomas case

Tony Thomas (Source: WTOC) Tony Thomas (Source: WTOC)
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Thursday, another group of witnesses will show up at the Chatham County Courthouse to offer their testimony to a Civil Grand Jury looking at serious accusations against Savannah’s 6th District Alderman, Tony Thomas. 

Many of you have been questioning why Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap would send the investigation to a body that at most might convince her to send it to another Grand Jury weeks down the road.

Now, a better understanding of the process and why such time and care is being given to this case in particular.

Years of scrutiny and innuendo by his own constituents. Months of research by the district attorney. Weeks of investigation by the GBI.  Most would think the case hovering around Alderman Tony Thomas was either ready for trial or ready to drop.

So why is a Civil Grand Jury hearing it all again, only to perhaps send it to a second Grand Jury later?  For those who think Heap is only searching for a way to escape prosecuting the Alderman, those who know her say they know better.

“I don’t think a whole lot scares her,” says former Savannah Municipal Court Judge, Kevin Street. “She plays fair but she’s going to play hard. She knows her rules of evidence. She knows her case, inside and out. She knows what the law is.”

Street says that is why Heap, her investigators, and the Grand Jury are tip-toeing, not leaping.

“I believe the district attorneys have chosen to have another set of eyes look at it in addition to their own investigators, the GBI investigators, have another set of eyes. And to assure that Alderman Thomas’ rights are protected,” Street continues.
 
Street, who has followed his share of cases against public officials knows that as a judge, he would expect the prosecution to be better than buttoned up on a case like this and to have no mercy in questioning those leveling accusations.  Because a trial, if one occurs, will be no picnic for them.

“When we’re talking about a man’s future,” Street says, “a man’s freedom, I’d rather them go overboard to make sure that, if charged, are valid charges.” 

Thomas’ social media postings, his lashing out at his own constituents, his companionship with boys and men a third his age, do not make him guilty of child sex assault, serving booze to minors, drug use or public corruption. But those certainly have added fuel to a fire that is consuming a lot of county resources right now.

The Civil Grand Jury process has been used dozens of times here in Georgia.  And in the overwhelming majority of those cases, it was used when a public official was in the spotlight. Once this Civil Grand Jury has completed its work, the investigation will remain secret. However, we do expect the DA to tell us whether this case will go forward or be dropped as early as this week. 

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