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Flag charge stems from unrelated, ongoing inquiry

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The Clayton County District Attorney's ongoing inquiry into alleged political favors has led to the indictment of a former maintenance director on a completely unrelated theft charge.

Late last summer, a Clayton County grand jury heard allegations that the county's maintenance employees had been doing work on the homes of elected officials at reduced prices.

The grand jury recommended that the allegations be further investigated, but did not indict anyone or charge anyone with wrongdoing.

During the continuation of the investigation, a maintenance employee told the grand jury that Donald Ray Hood, the former director of the county's building and maintenance department, stole a flag intended for a memorial for a fallen police officer, according to the district attorney's office.

The cloth flag was supposed to hang in the Clayton County Police Department's memorial to Officer Michael Davis, who was killed in a car crash while on duty in 2005.

According to the employee, Hood said it was a nice flag, took it, and replaced it with a cheaper one. After the employee's testimony before the grand jury last week, Hood was charged with felony theft by taking and arrested.

The indictment was sealed last Thursday, and the arrest was kept secret, until it was leaked to the television media on Monday. One week later, the indictment has been unsealed, but the details of the allegations and the evidence against Hood remain vague.

Testimony before the grand jury is secret, so it is not publicly known why the employee told the grand jury about the flag.

No one seems to know what could have motivated such a theft.

Police Chief Jeff Turner said the flag didn't have any sort of significance, other than that it was a nice flag intended for the fallen officers' memorial.

"It's just amazing to me that somebody would actually take a flag that was intended for that purpose," Turner said. "There's no real motive for it. You can go to a post office and get a flag. That's the puzzling part to me. Why this flag?"

The indictment is no clearer on possible motives, alleging only that Hood "unlawfully took a United States of America flag, the property of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, and did unlawfully appropriate said property with the intention of depriving said owner of said property."

The police department is not investigating the missing flag, but Turner said he was personally surprised at the accusations against Hood.

"Just personally," the chief said, "I was actually shocked to hear that they were suspecting Donnie Hood, because I've known Donnie Hood for years and the Donnie Hood I know -- that was not in his character. But then again, the police department is not responsible for the investigation, and there's a lot I don't know about it."

Hood's attorney, William J. Atkins, said Thursday that the allegations are "completely false" and "completely politically motivated."

In a motion for a speedy trial, filed the same day, Atkins noted that Hood had been "subjected to an interrogation on matters that bear no relation at all to the crime alleged."

Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott did not immediately return phone calls seeking a response to Atkins' statements. The District Attorney's investigation into the alleged theft and the inquiry into alleged political favors are ongoing. She has declined to comment on ongoing investigations.