Skip to comments.2 plead guilty in Ga. drug raid death
Posted on 04/26/2007 8:56:56 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
ATLANTA - Two police officers pleaded guilty Thursday to manslaughter and other charges in the shooting death of a 92-year-old woman during a botched drug raid at her home last fall.
Officer J.R. Smith, who also agreed to resign from the police department, told a state judge that he regretted what had happened.
"I'm sorry," the 35-year-old said, his voice barely audible. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath, criminal solicitation, making false statements and perjury, which was based on untrue claims in a no-knock warrant obtained to enter Kathryn Johnston's home on Nov. 21.
Former Officer Gregg Junnier, 40, who retired from the Atlanta police in January, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath, criminal solicitation and making false statements under the plea deal. Both men are expected to face more than 10 years in prison.
In a hearing later in federal court, both pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to violate a person's civil rights, resulting in death. Their state and federal sentences would run concurrently, and both men agreed to help investigators with their probe into the activities of Atlanta narcotics officers.
The charges followed a Nov. 21 "no-knock" drug raid on Johnston's home. An informant had described buying drugs from a dealer there, police said. When the officers burst in without warning, Johnston fired at them, and they fired back, killing her.
Fulton County prosecutor Peter Johnson said that the officers involved in Johnston's death fired 39 shots, striking her five or six times, including a fatal blow to the chest.
Johnston fired only once through her door and didn't hit any of the officers, he said. That means officers who were wounded likely were hit by their own colleagues, he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Yonette Sam-Buchanan said Thursday that although the officers found no drugs in Johnston's home, Smith planted three bags of marijuana in the home as part of a cover story officers concoted.
A third officer, Arthur Tesler, who is on administrative leave, was charged with violation of oath by a public officer, making false statements and false imprisonment under color of legal process. His attorney, William McKenney, said Tesler expects to go to trial.
Tesler, 40, is "very relieved" not to face murder charges, McKenney said, "but we're concerned about the three charges."
Both Smith and Junnier could have faced up to life in prison had they been convicted of murder. The murder charge was reduced to manslaughter as part of their pleas, and prosecutors agreed not to pursue the burglary and assault charges. Now, Junnier will face 10 years and one month and Smith 12 years and seven months. No sentencing date was immediately set.
The case raised serious questions about no-knock warrants and whether the officers followed proper procedures.
Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington asked the FBI to lead a multi-agency probe. He also announced policy changes to require the department to drug-test its nearly 1,800 officers and require top supervisors to sign off on narcotics operations and no-knock warrants.
To get the warrant, officers told a magistrate judge that an undercover informant had told them Johnston's home had surveillance cameras monitored carefully by a drug dealer named Sam.
After the shooting, a man claiming to be the informant told a television station that he had never purchased drugs there, leading Pennington to admit he was uncertain whether the suspected drug dealer actually existed.
Pennington said Thursday that the entire episode "has been a very painful five months for the police department."
The Rev. Markel Hutchins, a civil rights activist who serves as a spokesman for Johnston's family, said the family was satisfied with Thursday's developments.
"They have never sought vengeance. They have only sought justice," he said.
Associated Press writer Jason Bronis in Atlanta contributed to this report.
What good is a Drug War without casualties? As long as the insane WOD is prosecuted more innocent people will die at the hands of the drug warriors. End the WOD now.
Probably finalizing their plea agreement.
What an awful situation. She had every right to shoot at them, and they start shooting back. Don’t really know if the cops should go to prison or what...
If true, then this scumbag should get an extra ten years.
Makes one wonder where the three bags of dope came from. You would think after gunning down the grandma that he wouldn't have time to zip back to the station and get some pot out of the evidence room. Combined with the policy change on drug testing this is a very interesting statement.
They should go to prison and take it in the a$$ every day and night!
Good. In a lot of jurisdictions there is too much SWAT style policing. There was another incident in Wilmington, NC not too long back involving a kid who stole a playstation. Apparently in Wilmington that is enough to warrant a 3 AM raid with shots being fired through the door! The kid was walking to the door to answer the police knock and they started firing before he even got there and killed him. They could have easily taken him down in broad daylight. Instead they had too many swat toys and not enough real things to use them for. The fact that the door had holes in it really came back to haunt the officers who were fired and are being investigated for possible charges.
The police didn’t do themselves any favors by having an auction of playstations to benefit the fired officers either.
You hear about stuff like this, then during Columbine the cops were too slow to act - same deal with VA Tech. THOSE situations warranted aggressive law enforcement for safety of the public. Hope they get it right in the future.
“You hear about stuff like this, then during Columbine the cops were too slow to act - same deal with VA Tech. THOSE situations warranted aggressive law enforcement for safety of the public. Hope they get it right in the future.”
It is a tough balance in the heat of the moment like at Va. Tech. Not as tough a balance in something like the Atlanta case where they planned this out in advance and had time to figure out exactly what they wanted to accomplish.
What's sad is there are people who would have felt this justified if it were the lady's stuff. As it stands just in this case, the drug war allows it so the cops can plant evidence pretty easily.
Excellent observation. Are you a cop? '-)?
No, but I get drug tested a lot.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.