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Judge dismisses molestation case against officer

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A grand jury indictment accusing a former Jonesboro police officer of child molestation has been dismissed by a judge.

According to the order signed by Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert Collier, Kenneth Jerome Alexander -- who also served briefly as a bodyguard for former Interim School Superintendent Gloria Duncan -- was improperly indicted by the district attorney's office, because police officers have the right to appear before a grand jury when evidence is being heard against them.

"[Alexander] was employed as a police officer for the City of Jonesboro at the time of the alleged incidents," Collier wrote in the order dismissing the indictment, "and he was not allowed to appear and ... give a statement to the grand jury during the proceedings."

The 45-year-old Hampton man was charged with four counts of child molestation, two counts of enticing a child to have sex and one count of violating his oath to uphold the law as a police officer. According to the arrest warrants filed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Alexander allegedly touched two 14-year-old girls inappropriately, exposed himself to them and took pictures of the high schoolers while they were half-clothed, in 2003.

"He said he would pay us for sexy pictures," one of the girls wrote in 2004, in a statement obtained by the Clayton News Daily through an open records request. "When he was taking my pants down, he put his hand in my pants and touched my privates."

When the case was indicted in December, four years had passed since the alleged incident. High school freshmen at the time, the two girls are now 18-years-old and have never seen the police officer they said molested them tried by a jury.

Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott and Senior Assistant Todd Naugle said the time was necessary for additional investigation and said many cases were taking longer to prosecute because of an increase in crime and an under-funded office.

In October, the Clayton News Daily published a story citing Alexander's case as an example of the more than 750 cases backlogged in the district attorney's office at the time, cases that had languished for years waiting to be dismissed or indicted.

Alexander was indicted by a grand jury less than two months later, but it was apparently done incorrectly.

The prosecutor defended the decision not to allow Alexander to appear before the grand jury by saying the incident's "alleged in the indictment did not occur in the performance of his official duties," according to court documents. The argument is contradicted by the GBI's investigation, and was rejected by the judge.

Lee Sexton, the attorney representing Alexander, said the district attorney's office seemed to not understand the law.

"I think the state was likely under the impression that since child molestation was not one of his duties, that it didn't count," Sexton said, "but he must be summoned before the grand jury and allowed to make a sworn statement. This is actually one of the rare occasions where the defendant does have that right, as a public official."

Sexton said he doesn't expect the district attorney's office to appeal the order dismissing the indictment, and he will work to have the felony indictment expunged from the record, so Alexander can work in law enforcement again.

Though the case was closed on a technicality, Sexton said Alexander's case was always really strong, and he believes a jury would have "immediately" found him not guilty of the charges.

A video from Alexander's police car showed a conversation with the two teens right before the alleged molestation. Sexton said the video showed there was "obviously some manipulation going on there ... the way the girls were talking? This was a big set-up sort of thing."

Alexander is not yet free of the case, though, as prosecutors could seek to re-indict him. Scott said the process was already in the works and promised the case against Alexander was "not going away."

The case may not be re-indictable, however, because of the statute of limitations. Laws have recently changed, Sexton said, but he believes that a four-year time limit on molestation indictments applies to Alexander's alleged acts, and that the time limit has already run out.