By Ed Brock
Five suspects in a Jonesboro theft case were released and the charges against them dropped due to insufficient information on a form.
Jonesboro Police Sgt. Wayne Woods said he will now seek indictments against the suspects so they can be rearrested. Also, one of them has already been rearrested on a different but related charge.
Last Tuesday Jonesboro officers arrested Angela Duncan, 26, Mitchell Swygert, 42, both of Jonesboro, and 37-year-old Ginger Betsill of Riverdale at the Render Street home in Jonesboro where Swygert and Duncan live. On Wednesday they arrested Swygert's brother 44-year-old Richard Swygert and 24-year-old Robert Beall of Griffin at a house on Rogers Avenue in Jonesboro in a related investigation.
Clayton County Magistrate Court Chief Judge Daphne Walker dismissed the charges against all five because there was not enough information on the "warrantless arrest probable cause affidavit" submitted by the arresting officers, Woods said. Woods added that he has no problem with Walker's reasons for dismissal.
"It's more a misunderstanding," Woods said. "With me being new in the area (Woods started working with the Jonesboro Police Department in November) I'd never dealt with this before."
He has since met with Walker and determined exactly what information she requires on the forms.
"There will be no problem with this in the future," Woods said.
Walker said she could not comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation, but did say that she is "not happy" with the warrantless arrest affidavit system that was established before she took office.
"It was one of the reasons I ran for office was to get rid of the procedure," Walker said.
The problem with the affidavits, Walker said, is that they often don't have enough information written on them and judges must base their decisions solely on what is written on the document.
"If it's not facially sufficient we do have to deny the affidavit," Walker said.
Walker said she is hoping to return Clayton County to the system used by almost every other county in the state in which the officers go to a magistrate judge to give the reasons for warrantless arrests.
Woods said Richard Swygert was re-arrested on Monday on charges of theft by receiving. Originally he was charged with violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.
As for the other cases, Woods has passed them on to the Clayton County District Attorney's Office for investigation and submission to a grand jury for indictment consideration.
The district attorney's office will look over the information from Jonesboro and decide independently if the cases should go to the grand jury, said Senior Assistant District Attorney Todd Naugle.
Woods expects the grand jury to indict the suspects, but he can't say when that might happen. Until then all five are free to do what they wish and to leave the area, but if they are indicted a warrant will be issued for their arrests.
A man answered the phone at a number left by Richard Swygert on Monday, but that man said he did not want to comment on the case.
In the initial investigation a Jonesboro officer stopped a car driven by Betsill with Mitchell Swygert as a passenger as they were pulling into the driveway of the Render Street house. The officer was stopping Betsill for a broken windshield, but they eventually discovered at least three stolen motorcycles and a stolen trailer, methamphetamine and marijuana on the property. Mitchell Swygert and Duncan were charged with theft by receiving and possession of marijuana in connection with that incident and Betsill was charged with possession of methamphetamine.
The next day officers noticed Mitchell Swygert's car missing from the house and found it later at the Rogers Avenue home where their conversations with the residents made them suspicious.
They found Richard Swygert and Beall hiding behind furniture in the house. They also found more drugs, guns and more stolen property. Swygert and Beall were both charged with possession of illegal drugs and Beall also faced charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.