MAY 2020
So much has changed since we last connected in this manner. Like all of you, we are adjusting to a new ‘normal’ during these unprecedented times. Due to the ongoing public health and safety issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent restrictions placed upon us by county, state, and federal mandates, our operations are predominately remote.

However, in collaboration with our criminal justice partners in the Sheriff’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, Defense Bar, judiciary, and other stakeholders, we are creating a path forward by engaging via video conferencing and in-person social distancing manners to conduct hearings and perform other important and mandatory legal functions. Additionally, we are still receiving cases from our partnering law enforcement agencies, which continue to make arrests as necessary and appropriate.

Indeed, while we may be physically distant, the work continues. It is unclear what the long-term impact on our operational structure will be as a result of this health crisis, but we remain flexible in our ability to adjust our operations model as necessary, as we work through our current circumstances and prepare for what lies ahead. 

In this latest edition of our newsletter, we offer a glimpse of our altered office operations and a recap of our progress and initiatives this quarter. Among our highlights: our selection as a partner site for a national criminal justice reform initiative; the identification and capture of a serial rapist linked to eight cold cases; the conviction and subsequent life sentence of a local gang member, along with our successful efforts to stem gang violence; the creation of a multidisciplinary task force focused on the abuse of at-risk adults and our ongoing awareness campaigns centered around human trafficking, domestic violence, and teen dating violence.

We are proud of our progress, but are not resting on our laurels. There is still much work to be done. To that end, let me pause here to say “thank you” for your ongoing support and vote of confidence in me. In March, I qualified, unopposed, to run for a second term as your DeKalb County District Attorney. It is an honor and a privilege to serve. And, as I write this even in the face of some uncertain days ahead, what I know for sure is this: we will get through this together. 

In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay distant.

District Attorney
Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit
Criminal Justice Amid COVID-19  
The Office of the DeKalb County District Attorney began assessing the potential impact of COVID-19 on operations in early March following a stakeholder meeting convened by the DeKalb judiciary regarding the impending pandemic. On March 10th, DA Boston and her leadership team began mapping out strategies for remote operations. Within three days, the State Supreme Court declared a judicial emergency, which prompted the shuttering of in-house operations by days’ end. Remote work operations began in earnest on Monday, March 16, 2020.

While the emergency judicial order halts jury trials, other criminal proceedings continue. First appearance and bond hearings are being held via video conferencing methods. It has also become a commonly used platform for DA leadership, team, and partner meetings and trainings on a wide variety of matters. Through the duration of the shelter-in-place and judicial order mandates, DA staffers will continue to work in a remote capacity and remain accessible to the public throughout the work week via phone, text, and email.
Senior ADA Lenny Krick argues a case before the Supreme Court of Georgia via Zoom
Our Juvenile Division holds their weekly team meeting via Zoom
Our Anti-Corruption Unit has some fun during their weekly team meeting
Our Elder Abuse & Exploitation Unit meets virtually to discuss how COVID-19 is impacting our elders and what our community can do to help
Our Major Case Unit participates in a virtual Bond Hearing
DA Boston Hosts Virtual Town Hall
On April 29, 2020, DA Boston hosted DA Dialogue , a virtual town hall, moderated by Veronica Waters of 95.5 WSB.

DA Boston discussed how her office is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing strategies to ensure that offenders’ rights are protected, while holding them accountable; ensuring that victims’ and witnesses’ needs are met; and working with other criminal justice partners to maintain public safety.

In the Spotlight
DeKalb DA’s Office Chosen as Partner Site for National Criminal Justice Reform Study
The Office of the DeKalb County District Attorney has been selected by the Vera Institute of Justice to participate in its Reshaping Prosecution program, a national initiative focused on criminal justice reform.

The Vera Institute of Justice produces ideas, analysis, and research that inspires change in the systems people rely upon for safety and justice. Vera collaborates with communities most impacted by these systems and works in close partnership with government and civic leaders to implement change. Along with DeKalb, two other counties, including Ingham County in Michigan, and Boulder County in Colorado, were selected for the Vera partnership after demonstrating a strong commitment to working to transform policies, practices, and office culture to address disparities and increase transparency and accountability to their respective communities.

“It is an honor to have been selected by the Vera Institute of Justice as a partner site for its data-driven analysis of our policies and procedures,” said District Attorney Boston. “This is an opportunity for us to take an honest look at our operations, understand what we’re doing well, and identify areas for improvement in our ongoing efforts to create a more fair and equitable system for processing cases and promoting just outcomes.”

Each new office will work with Vera to implement concrete, data-informed policy and practice reforms to increase public safety while simultaneously reducing the reach and impact of the criminal legal system, promoting racial equity, and increasing public confidence in office operations. Read more.
Promoting Justice Through Sentencing
DA Boston is featured in a video produced by Fair and Just Prosecution about sentencing reform and second chances. She was part of a group of elected prosecutors from across the country that convened at Yale University to discuss the importance of revisiting lengthy sentences and the role of District Attorneys in promoting reform.

“It’s so easy to lose hope when you think you’re never getting out," stated Boston. "And we have to find a way to give those folks hope.”
Law Talk with BJ: Progressive Prosecution and Equity
In March, DA Boston appeared on the “Law Talk with BJ” podcast to discuss the challenges of being a double minority District Attorney – representing less than 1% of African American female elected prosecutors in the country; steps she took to train and understand implicit bias with her staff; her ideas regarding juvenile justice reform; and how she believes the state of Georgia can improve in its criminal justice reform efforts.

DA Boston Recognized by Atlanta Magazine
In January, for the second year in a row, DA Boston was named to Atlanta Magazine’s 500 Most Powerful Leaders, Government & Infrastructure. Read the article here.

In 2019, DA Boston was featured on the cover of the publication.
New Initiatives
DA Boston Establishes Multidisciplinary Team to Address Abuse of At-risk Adults
In January, District Attorney Boston launched a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) to aid in the detection, investigation and prosecution of abuse of elderly and disabled adults in DeKalb County, and to assist victims with finding social services to protect them from further abuse. A signing of the team’s Memorandum of Understanding and the first meeting of the group, known as the DeKalb At-Risk Adult (DARA) MDT, took place on January 15, 2020.

At-risk adult abuse is on the rise. National prevalence studies indicate that over 10% of Americans age 60 and older experience some form of elder abuse in a given year. However, the majority of elder abuse cases do not reach the attention of those charged with responding. This crisis calls for more sophisticated responses, and MDTs have proven to be beneficial in the field of child abuse.
DeKalb launches new group to combat elder abuse

DeKalb County launched an initiative on Wednesday to combat abuse of elderly and disabled adults.

Read more
District Attorney Boston has engaged those on the front lines in the fight against exploitation and abuse to join the DARA MDT. Partners include public safety departments, state agencies, and organizations which provide services to the at-risk adult community. Deputy Chief ADA Jeanne Canavan, who leads the DA's Elder Abuse & Exploitation Unit, along with her team, were integral in conceptualizing and implementing the DARA MDT.

The team will meet quarterly, and participants will coordinate on cases throughout the year to expedite prosecutions and ensure swift delivery of services to at-risk adults in DeKalb County.

DA Boston hosted a press conference and signing of the DARA MDT Memorandum of Understanding in January.

She is pictured with signatories and representatives from agencies that have committed to participating in the effort.

The first meeting of the DARA MDT took place after the signing, and was led by Deputy Chief ADA Jeanne Canavan.
DA Boston Hosts Inaugural Community Forum Focused on Domestic Sex Trafficking
In 2018, Georgia had the seventh highest number of human trafficking cases in the nation, according to statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline. In January, to commemorate National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month, DA Boston hosted her inaugural community forum on the issue, Towards the Light: A 20/20 View of Domestic Sex Trafficking, to raise awareness and inspire action to eradicate the growing epidemic.

More than 100 community members attended the free event, which was held on January 23, 2020 at Porter Sanford Performing Arts & Community Center. The event began with a community reception and resource fair with information provided by law enforcement and social service agencies. The program featured discussions with panelists from the following organizations: DeKalb County Board of Health, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, DeKalb County Police Department, DeKalb County School District, Department of Juvenile Justice, Georgia Cares, Georgia Center for Child Advocacy and Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. At the end of the program, Kayti Batya, Survivor Leader for Street Grace, offered a moving keynote address and survivor account.

The event was hosted in partnership with Cash Krugler Fredericks and Dance 411.
A 20/20 view of domestic sex trafficking

Local experts weigh in on human trafficking at DeKalb forum.

Read more
DA Boston and keynote
speaker Kayti Batya
Dance 411 performed a moving and thought-provoking piece at the beginning of the program
DeKalb County Probation, along with many additional service providers in the community, spoke to guests during the Resource Fair
Art created by students from the DeKalb School of the Arts was on display during the Community Reception
Wear Blue Day for Human Trafficking

The DA’s Office joined the #WearBlueDay movement on January 11th to express solidarity with victims of human trafficking, raise awareness about the issue, and show our commitment to working towards ending human trafficking.
DA 101: Media Training
In January, the District Attorney’s Office hosted an inaugural information session for media professionals.  DA 101: A Guide to Understanding Felony Prosecutions in DeKalb County, led by Director of Communications, Yvette Jones, provided the opportunity for participants to meet members of the DA’s executive and communications teams, and gain insight into the policies and procedures governing felony prosecutions as well as the operational structure of the DA’s Office.

The session included information about warrants, indictments, investigations, juvenile prosecutions, open records, grand jury, and more.
Communications Specialist Lisa Myers, Deputy Chief ADA Kelly McMichael, General Counsel Rupal Vaishnav, Deputy Chief ADA A’Sheika Penn,
Director of Communications Yvette Jones and
Chief ADA Pete Johnson
DA Boston greets members of the media
Chief ADA Pete Johnson answers a question about felony prosecutions
DA Case Files
Accused Serial Rapist Linked to Eight Metro Cold Cases Captured 
An alleged serial rapist linked to eight sexual assault cold case crimes, including five in DeKalb County, was apprehended in February. 58-year-old Wesley Cooley, charged with Rape, was arrested in Conyers and is being held in the DeKalb County Jail without bond. Additional charges are pending. 

The current charge against Cooley stems from the April 2017 rape of a female victim in Tucker. He was identified as a suspect in February 2020 following a positive DNA match. Further investigation revealed that DNA evidence from that 2017 crime also links the same attacker to seven other unsolved sexual assault cases throughout metro Atlanta, including four in DeKalb, two in Atlanta, and one in Conyers. The crimes span a period of nearly 20 years, dating back to 1999. The victims range in age from 15 to 38 at the time of the respective offenses.

“A dangerous predator whom we believe has been terrorizing women for at least two decades, is off the street,” said District Attorney Boston. “This is a huge moment for the victims on whose behalf we advocate. We will continue to fight for them; to seek answers, and justice, no matter how long it takes.”

Cooley was identified through the investigative work of the Georgia Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (GASAKI) Task Force with assistance from the Conyers and DeKalb County Police Departments.

GASAKI was established in 2018 in partnership with the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) as part of a multi-year, multi-million dollar, federal grant under the Nation Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. The team consists of prosecutors, investigators, and victim advocates from the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, the Atlanta Police Department, the Prosecuting Attorneys Council (PAC), and CJCC (with resources from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department and Live Safe) working collaboratively to solve cold case sexual assault crimes.

Additionally, the GASAKI Task Force relies on the ongoing work and commitment of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab to test backlogged Sexual Assault Kits.

DeKalb DA Announces Capture of Accused Serial Rapist

Proud to stand with our law enforcement partners to announce the arrest of an alleged serial rapist tied to multiple cold cases.

Read more
Jay Neal, Executive Director, Criminal Justice Coordinating Council , addresses members of the media
Members of the GASAKI Task Force
Life Without Parole for Convicted Gang Member
A local gang member tied to the infamous HATE Committee, the enforcement arm of the notorious Gangster Disciples criminal street gang, will spend the rest of his life behind bars after being convicted of murder. Jurors returned guilty verdicts against 26-year-old Kaylon Jiles, in March, on charges of Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault, and weapons offenses in connection with the 2017 shooting death of 30-year-old Eris Fisher following a drug dispute. Jiles was immediately sentenced to a term of life in prison without the possibility of parole, by DeKalb County Superior Court Judge LaTisha Dear Jackson.

Co-defendant Traquan McLeod, also identified as a member of the HATE Committee, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the crime after previously pleading guilty to charges of Voluntary Manslaughter and Violation of the Georgia Street Gang Act.
DeKalb Gang Violence: A Closer Look
Where there was once a large number of gang-related murders stemming from gang-on-gang violence, the numbers in this category are decreasing, according to data from the DeKalb County Police Department. DKPD statistics* show while there was an uptick in homicides in 2019 over the previous year, those deaths were predominantly attributable to gun violence in general (see inset), not gang violence in particular.
A quick analysis of the data reveals one homicide attributed to gang violence in DeKalb in 2019, and a total of eight known gang-affiliated perpetrators charged in connection with various crimes. However, there was no provable nexus between the cases with which those offenders were associated, and organized gang activity. 

The consensus between the DeKalb Police Department’s Homicide and Gang Units, and the DA’s Major Case Unit, is that their combined efforts, resources, and crime-reduction strategies are impacting gang activity and violence, resulting in a downward trend throughout the county. However, District Attorney Boston remains committed to the fight saying, “Gang violence is an issue no matter how large or small the numbers. We will continue to focus our efforts on strategies that work to combat the problem, until it is no longer a problem or a threat to our community in any way.”
Cultivating Leaders
Chief ADA Visits Civil Rights Sites with Leadership Atlanta 
Last year, Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Stolarski was accepted into the 2020 Class of Leadership Atlanta. Leadership Atlanta is a nine-month, executive-level series comprised of 80 established community leaders representing a broad cross-section of metro Atlanta. Class members explore some of the most challenging issues facing our society and gain insight into what they can do to make Greater Atlanta a better community for everyone.

On February 29, 2020, as the 55 th anniversary of Bloody Sunday approached, the 2020 class took a trip to Alabama planned by fellow classmates Bernice King, CEO of The King Center and the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., and Tameka Rish, Vice President of Corporate Partnerships for the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The trip provided the opportunity for a deep dive into our country’s legacy of racial injustice.

The class visited the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery. They had the opportunity to hear from Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer and best-selling author of Just Mercy. Stevenson shared a message of hope with the group, encouraging them to trust and believe that through hard work, we can confront inequality and make strides toward righting the wrongs in our criminal justice system.
“It’s astonishing how intentional systemic racism has been after slavery was abolished, through Reconstruction and Jim Crow laws, and currently through mass incarceration and mass supervision,” Stolarski said. “The trip reaffirmed for me that we have to be every bit as intentional in dismantling institutional racism.”

The group ended the day by walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of the brutal Bloody Sunday beatings of civil rights marchers during the first march for voting rights.

“You read about it and hear about it, but can’t really appreciate what it was like for the marchers until you walk across the bridge and realize they couldn’t see what was waiting for them on the other side,” Stolarski said.

King, who is also a reverend, offered a prayer and spoke about the significance for her to walk across the bridge on the eve of the anniversary.

“The trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Stolarski said. “As a prosecutor, we have to understand our history in order to work for justice presently. I think every prosecutor needs to visit these sites.”
The 2020 Class of Leadership Atlanta
The National Memorial for
Peace and Justice
The group crosses the Edmund Pettus Bridge
Leadership DeKalb Justice Day
In February, the DA’s office curated another successful “Justice Day” for the 2020 Class of Leadership DeKalb. The program day, chaired this year by Director of Community Affairs/Deputy Chief ADA, Sonja Brown, offers participants a glimpse of DeKalb’s criminal justice system - ranging from jail tours to information sessions with law enforcement, prosecutors, and the judiciary. 
DA Boston served as a panelist on the Adult Justice System panel moderated by Chief Assistant Jenni Stolarski. Chelsea Peterson, a Senior ADA in the Juvenile Division, served as a panelist on the Juvenile Justice System panel. 
Deputy Chief ADA, Lisa Moultrie, was selected as a member of this year’s Leadership DeKalb Class.

Top photo: DA Boston addresses the Leadership DeKalb Class of 2020

Bottom photo: Jenni Stolarski, DA Boston, Chelsea Peterson and Sonja Brown
Supporting Partners & Raising Awareness
5th Annual Love Run 5K
On Saturday, February 29th, more than 300 runners and walkers braved the cold for DA Boston’s 5th Annual Love Run 5K to raise awareness about teen dating violence and funds for domestic violence survivors in commemoration of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

According to national statistics, one in three adolescents is a victim of a dating partner’s physical, sexual, emotional, and/or verbal abuse. Sadly, only 33 percent of teens report that abuse.

“We must continue to shine a spotlight on this disturbing epidemic impacting our youth,” said DA Boston, who created the Love Run 5K in 2016 while serving as DeKalb County Solicitor-General.

The 2020 race raised $13,868! Proceeds benefit the Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence (WRC). To date, the Love Run 5K has generated $35,989 for WRC.
Staff, family and friends of the DA's Office
celebrate the 2020 Love Run
DA Boston and her daughters before the race
DA Boston congratulates first place finisher Virna Trinidad
DeKalb County Probate Court Judge Bedelia C Hargrove, DA Boston, and WRC Executive Director Jean Douglas
Clerk of Superior Court Debra DeBerry, Tax Commissioner Irvin Johnson, and DA Boston
#Orange4Love Day  

The DA’s Office commemorated #Orange4Love Day in February to raise awareness about teen dating violence and the importance of building healthy relationships.
Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month
In April, the DA’s Office commemorated Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month with a social media campaign offering tips, resources and information regarding both issues and highlighting the work of the teams who investigate and prosecute these crimes. 
The campaign culminated with a moving video message from the GA Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Task Force, to which Senior ADA Agatha Romanowski and Investigator Crispin Henry, are assigned.  Watch now.
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week
The DeKalb DA's Victim Advocates Commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week
“Yes We Can” Food Drive
In February, DA Boston participated in Commissioner Kathie Gannon’s 11th annual "Yes, We Can!" food drive to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Donations decline after the holiday season, but food insecurity is a year- long concern for many families. Now, more than ever, in the face of COVID-19, dona tions are needed. Donate online here.
Leading the Charge Luncheon
The team attended the DeKalb Volunteer Lawyers Foundation’s Leading the Charge Awards Luncheon. During the luncheon, Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger was awarded the first Leading the Charge Award.
Staff in the Spotlight
In our last newsletter, we shared the story of our Trial Graphics Coordinator Troy Cost, who recently received a kidney transplant after a years-long wait. In January, Troy and his generous donor were featured in a story that aired on Fox 5. We're happy to report that Troy recovered well from the transplant and returned to work in February.
After four years, Atlanta man receives surprise gift

Troy Cost's life unraveled quickly four years ago when the now 26-year old was told his kidneys were failing. He was diagnosed with FSGS, or focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a leading cause of kidney failure in the United States.

Read more
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