Thursday, April 6, 2023

Former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson (screenshot from campaign Vimeo) Credit: Screenshot

Moving at the speed of court

The trial of rapper Young Thug in Atlanta has made national headlines for allegations of street gang crimes, hip hop lyrics as evidence and the significant delays and jury issues besetting the court. 

But what’s made little news is how it could be impacting Glynn County and the long delayed prosecution of its former district attorney.

Atlanta lawyer Brian Steel represents Thug as well as former Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson – indicted for alleged interference in the investigation of Ahmaud Arbery’s death. The trial of Thug and 13 others in Fulton County recently earned the distinction of the longest jury selection in Georgia history – which is going on four months as of this week – while the judge anticipates the trial itself will last six to nine months. 

The judge presiding over Johnson’s case in Glynn County told The Current, “There are circumstances which make any meaningful scheduling difficult at this time.”

The Current’s Jake Shore has more from the judge and reports how the Young Thug case could be behind the glacial pace of ex-DA Johnson’s case.

Evidence guns for sale

Do you ever wonder what happens to all the evidence, drugs and guns that police collect throughout their investigations?

Police departments in Georgia are required to hold onto such evidence for criminal trials and appeals. But if 90 days pass after a conviction or judgment and nobody has claimed the (non-illegal) property, the law enforcement agency makes a request to a judge “to retain, sell, or discard such property,” according to Georgia law. 

But firearms that are not returned or no longer needed as evidence cannot be destroyed. Instead, they should be sold at a public auction, if possessed by a state agency or county law enforcement, the law says. Cities appear to be exempt from the mandate to sell. The weapons can only be bought by “persons who are licensed as firearms collectors, dealers, importers, or manufacturers.”

Documents filed in Chatham County Superior Court in the past month from the Savannah Police Department and Pooler Police Department provide a window into that process.

On Tuesday, Pooler police listed 59 guns obtained through criminal investigations, seizures, or abandonment to be sold at a public auction, according to court documents.

The firearms are mostly pistols or revolvers. They range from a Glock 19 pistol to Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun to a Micro Draco AK-47 pistol. Most of the other evidence items listed by Pooler include marijuana, digital scales, iPhones, and clothes. 

The City of Savannah has a policy that its department does not sell guns it confiscates, but keeps them instead. The policy cites that reintroducing “confiscated weapons into the community works against the efforts made by our law enforcement professionals,” according to the city’s website.

The Savannah Police Department’s evidence disposal sheet shows similar drugs, cassettes and video tapes and phones to be destroyed but also seeks to sell dozens of items of jewelry. Take a look.

Savannah high shooter hoax
Parents of Savannah High School students anxiously await student evacuation after a false report of an active shooter. (Jake Shore/The Current) Credit: Jake Shore/The Current


A recent report examined how the Savannah Police Department, Savannah-Chatham Public School System police, and other law enforcement agencies handled the school shooting hoax at Savannah High School last November.

The document gave credit to police for quickly arriving at the school to sweep classrooms for a shooter but pointed to a major communication breakdown between police, parents, students and emergency services.

A reporter for The Current was there and witnessed upset parents yelling at police about how to reunify with their children, fearful talk about social media rumors of the shooting, and a chaotic scene where students were jumping fences to get back to their parents.

The study’s findings, first reported by The Savannah Morning News (which had to fight to receive the report) and uploaded online by WSAV-TV, suggest several key changes be made by law enforcement, should an incident like this happen again:

  • Ensure an officer is dedicated to maintaining open flow of entrances and exits.
  • Increase coordinated training between police and school personnel, who gave conflicting orders during the Nov. 22 hoax.
  • Conveying accurate and timely information on social media, which is “critical to reunification, curbing rumors, and stopping false narratives.”
  • Identify primary and alternate reunification sites in advance to bring students and their parents back together.

See what the study found went wrong and right during the shooting hoax response.

Have questions, comments or story ideas? Email me at

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Jake Shore covers public safety and the courts system in Savannah and Coastal Georgia. He is also a Report for America corps member. Prior to joining The Current, Jake worked for the Island Packet and...