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GBI to investigate Scott-Hood dispute

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is going to look into a dispute involving the Clayton County District Attorney, her husband, and the son of the late Donnie Hood, according to Paul Head, the Cobb Judicial Circuit District Attorney.

Brian Hood sought to have District Attorney Jewel Scott, board of commissioners chairman candidate, Lee Scott, and investigator, Ernest Neismith, arrested after a public confrontation the day before the primary election.

According to a police report, the Scotts demanded that a police sergeant arrest Brian Hood, who was campaigning for an opposing district attorney candidate, on allegations he was vandalizing their campaign signs. Hood wanted the Scotts arrested on allegations they threatened to kill him, and illegally detained him.

Clayton County Police Sgt. W.K. Lee responded to the scene on July 14, and wrote in his report, that Neismith allegedly "beat" on Hood's truck window, demanding that the man get out of the vehicle. Neismith then apparently pulled his county vehicle in front of Hood's, blocking his exit. Neismith reportedly told the police sergeant he was responding to reports of vandalized campaign signs.

A large, $250 wooden sign, supporting Jewel Scott's re-election bid, had been knocked down, near the site of the confrontation. Neismith reportedly said he "realized who the suspect was and he was aware of the feelings that the suspect may have toward the district attorney's office."

Brian Hood's father, Donnie Hood, the former director of the county maintenance department, was accused by the district attorney's office of stealing a flag from a police officer's memorial. He was prosecuted as part of the district attorney's investigation into alleged graft in county government, and seen as someone who could allegedly provide evidence in that ongoing investigation.

The elder Hood fought the charges, hiring an attorney who accused the Scotts of corruption and political conspiracies. The district attorney replied with an attempt to take away Hood's retirement pension.

Donnie Hood, 62, committed suicide on Feb. 29. His surviving family, including Brian Hood, blame the Scotts' for his death.

The Hood family campaigned for a district attorney candidate they thought could unseat Jewel Scott in the July 15 primary, and Brian Hood was distributing the candidate's signs on the 14th, when confronted by the Scotts.

When the Scotts and the district attorney's office investigator approached Brian Hood, he "became fearful of his safety because of the treatment of his mother and father at the hands" of the Scotts, according to Lee's police report.

The sergeant reported that he attempted to "sort out all the details of the disturbance call," but was interrupted by the district attorney, who demanded that Hood be immediately arrested.

"I felt there was not enough evidence to justify an arrest or prosecution," Lee wrote. "I felt that the sign had not been toppled recently. The sign not only had water marks on the back of it, where water had accumulated and sat, and wet pine straw matted to the back of it, but underneath the sign, was debris and water, yet the rest of the pavement around the sign and the entire parking lot was dry, indicating that the sign had been knocked down prior to, or at least during, the heavy thunderstorm."

The Scotts did not press charges against Hood, whose candidate lost the primary race the next day, but Hood wants to have both Jewel and Lee Scott arrested.

A pre-issuance hearing on Hood's warrant application was scheduled this week, but has been delayed because the county's judges have recused themselves from hearing the case.

After Hood filled out arrest warrant applications, the case was sent to the Cobb County prosecutor, to avoid possible conflicts in Clayton County.

Pat Head said Tuesday that the whole thing is "under ongoing investigation," and everybody's statements will be taken by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Head said there is a lot of politics involved, but he is involved and the GBI is involved, so there will be "no indication from anybody that this has anything to do with politics."

Head, a Republican, is unopposed in his bid for re-election, and said he's been involved in politics since 1984.

Asked how he would approach the case, to sort out the politics from the facts, in a sometimes politically-charged climate, Head got angry.

"Do you have any idea what my job is about?" he said. "I'm offended by the question ... If you can't do that, separate all of the issues that are going on, then you don't need to be in politics. That's what the process is all about."