WTOC Investigates: The Truth on Trial - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

WTOC Investigates: The Truth on Trial

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

It is not a fine line between the truth and a lie. And our courts are a place where we expect to find the clearest of separation.

That, however, may not have been the case this past February in the trial of a former Metro homicide detective, who admitted to crashing an unmarked patrol car while drunk behind the wheel.

Months after the crash and arrest, Kevin Grogan was suddenly indicted on two more serious charges. Both felonies.

But it’s what happened during Grogan’s jury trial that should have all of us asking an otherwise unimaginable question: Whether it’s the truth that’s on trial these days inside Chatham County Superior Court?

When you’ve spent your life in the service of your community, first as a combat veteran, then as a homicide cop, becoming the defendant facing felony charges takes its toll. And it was a heavy one on Grogan.  He was emotionally spent when a friend had an idea.

“The suggestion was made that you should write this down and you’ll feel better,” Grogan said. “Well, low and behold, that happened. So, that first night I went and sat down and I wrote like 40 pages in one night.”

And last month he published a 250-page book about his time with Metro, and an experience in Chatham County Superior Court that completely changed his belief in local justice.

Following a D.U.I. crash in his unmarked police cruiser in July of 2014, then Metro Homicide Detective Grogan found himself targeted in a city that was watching cop after cop go down in a whirlpool of corruption, that included the city’s police chief.

Nearly a year after Grogan was charged with D.U.I., his file was pulled by internal affairs and delivered to the Chatham County District Attorney’s Office.  And new felony indictments were brought. One for telling investigators he was driving his own car instead of a city vehicle. A second for urinating in the tree line near the accident scene with the permission of his supervisor. That was felony tampering with evidence. 

Grogan had his suspicions as to why these new charges were brought.

“In January of 2015,” he recalls, “the defense in Sgt. Malik Khaalis’s case filed a selective prosecution saying ‘You’re only charging black officers and you’re only charging them with things that have never been charged before’. Which, if you look at the record, is absolutely true. That was the day that my file was retrieved from internal affairs.”

Grogan was certain he was about to become the white officer who would balance the spreadsheet of police corruption prosecutions.

“They were fighting a perceived corruption with actual corruption,” Grogan insisted.

In February of this year, The State vs. Kevin Grogan trial was underway. Grogan and his attorney, Michael Schiavone, felt they had a powerful defense against the two added felony charges. Grogan would admit to the DUI crash.

Then the trial took a hard-left turn when the prosecution called an Assistant District Attorney named Matt Breedon to the stand.

Breedon told the jury that Grogan refused immunity and refused to testify in a murder case Grogan investigated as a Metro cop, and that resulted in a suspect going free.

Problem is, that never happened. Certainly, not according to the trial transcripts.

Defense Attorney Michael Schiavone read Breedon’s testimony from the transcript. 

“This was in my mind when I was hearing it, and I remember that this happened. Because it sticks out in my mind when he refused to testify, refused to accept immunity, we had to dismiss a case and, of course, a guy who was charged with murder walks out of the courtroom.”

Breedon later said he may have confused the name of the accused killer but not the facts. 

Grogan’s attorney says he knew exactly what was happening.

“He did not walk out of that courtroom,” Schiavone said. “Emphasizing the way he did to me was intentional to prejudice that jury against Grogan, to make him look really awful.”
 
In fact, the judge in Grogan’s case, Judge Timothy Walmsley, was the judge in both the murder cases Matt Breedon was batting around. And Walmsley sentenced both defendants to decades in prison.

Yet, despite a motion filed to have Walmsley recused and the false statement retracted, the judge granted neither.

The next day another Assistant DA, Jerry Rothschild was called to the stand confirming that what Breedon said was not correct.

I asked Grogan how shocked he was that the judge did not step forward and say, “wait a minute. I was the judge in both of those cases. No immunity was offered. Neither murderer walked?”

“I was sick to my stomach then,” he said. “I’m sick to my stomach now.”

What might make Kevin Grogan even sicker is this case out of Dougherty County in 2013 when Matt Breedon was an Assistant DA there.

He got his conviction in an aggravated assault and street gang terrorism case only to have state’s highest court reverse one conviction, in part, because Breedon made statements to the jury about the defendant’s involvement in other crimes, when there was absolutely no evidence to back it up. This is according to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Was it Breedon who helped the DA lose its corruption case against Grogan as well?
 
“There are individuals in that office who have proven again and again that they will do anything to further a political agenda. You mentioned Matt Breedon. I’ll tell you, Christy Barker. The chief
assistant, Greg McConnell who sits over them. And then you have to hold the elected official, the District Attorney herself accountable because it’s the burden of command.”

I requested interviews with Meg Heap, Matt Breedon and Judge Timothy Walmsley to give each a chance to respond to Grogan’s accusations. Because of the pending litigation, the DA’s office declined. 

Judge Walmsley says talking about the case would violate the Canons of Judicial Conduct.

That may change now that Grogan and his attorney have sent the District Attorney’s office notification it plans to sue all the individuals involved in his case claiming a conspiracy to commit wrongful acts against the former Metro cop. 

Michael Schiavone wonders why it took Grogan to notice a problem.

“Why aren’t they doing something about it?” said Schiavone. “Bringing an outside prosecutor to look at it, bringing the GBI to look into it, bringing the FBI in to look at it. You see what I’m saying because this is over and above, at the very least, this is a false statement.”

And exactly what the DA was trying to convict Grogan of.

Heap only released a statement on Grogan’s plans to sue, saying in part, “The case was prosecuted, tried in front of a jury and sentenced by a judge. His case was brought to my office by the police as are thousands of other cases each year.”

There is another reason Grogan chose put his struggles to paper.

“I use my case in the book as an illustration,” Grogan explains. “But if it can happen to me who is a middle class, Irish army veteran, combat veteran, and relatively well-decorated police officer, what chance does a kid in Yamacraw Village have? What chance does a kid from off of Ogeechee Road have?”

Today, Grogan is finished with police work. He’s running a small business enjoying what he calls his own private paradise with his two dogs and three horses. 

His days of confronting the most dangerous people in Savannah are over.

“Not having to think about that or deal with that stuff anymore is, I mean talk about a weight off your shoulders.”

However, with a pending lawsuit against the Chatham County DA, his days of dealing with what he calls injustice may be starting all over again.

I received the response to Grogan’s threat of a lawsuit against the DA’s office. 

In it, the Assistant County Attorney calls Grogan’s claims absurd, saying he even admits in the book that he was driving a city car drunk, lied about what car he was driving when he crashed and that any damage to mister Grogan, he brought on himself.

The response ends with the county calling the threat of a lawsuit quote, “drumming up publicity for a book that is currently his primary source of income.”

Clearly, Meg Heap’s office does not feel Mr. Grogan has a case.

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