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DeKalb district attorney to conduct Turner probe

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker said DeKalb County District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming has been named as the special prosecutor in the investigation of former Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner.

According to Baker, Fleming will assume the responsibility of determining whether criminal charges are to be brought against Turner, who has been accused by Clayton County officials of improperly using police surveillance equipment.

"Gwen Keyes [Fleming] has been appointed as the conflict counsel for that matter," Baker said Thursday. "This happened recently. All we can do is ask them to do it. My understanding is that her office has agreed to do it."

Fleming could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

On Dec. 28, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted to remove Turner as police chief and to reassign him as director of the Clayton Regional Law Enforcement Academy, following an audit critical of Turner's management of the police department. On Dec. 31, Clayton County Chief of Staff Alex Cohilas wrote Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson to request that Lawson investigate the possibility of pursing criminal charges against Turner over his use of a police department tracking device.

On Jan. 5, Turner was placed on unpaid leave, pending an administrative investigation into the accusations.

Cohilas could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Turner's attorney, Keith Martin, said that in October, Turner was in the process of an internal investigation of possible "illegal activity" among police officers in the department, in which the device would be used to track the movements of certain police cars.

Martin said that in order to test the battery life of the device, Turner gave the device to his wife, who temporarily kept it in the glove compartment of her car.

According to Lawson, following Cohilas' request, she recused herself from the investigation and asked Baker to appoint a special prosecutor to determine if criminal charges against Turner were warranted. Lawson said she received a letter from Baker on Tuesday confirming Fleming as the special prosecutor.

"I can confirm that Gwen Keyes Fleming has been assigned," Lawson said. "She's going to investigate it and it is up to her to determine if there is any crime. I will have no intervention in that at all. Nothing has been requested from my office to her office at this time."

Martin said Turner is "ready to get this over with" and that he and Turner are looking forward to working "with somebody who is interested in discovering the truth."

"I've got no problem with Gwen and look forward to working with her staff," Martin said. "She's intelligent, she's fair, she's effective. We know what the facts are. We are certainly willing to tell them to Gwen Keyes [Fleming] and her staff."