By Kathy Jefcoats
A local defense attorney will withdraw from representing a former sheriff's spokesman on felony charges, rather than fight a motion to disqualify himself that was filed late Thursday by the Clayton County district attorney.
Tracy Graham Lawson filed the motion of disqualification against local, high-profile attorney, Keith Martin. Martin was representing Jonathan Yusef Newton, the former sheriff's spokesman, on theft and forgery charges related to his former job. Martin also represents Beatrice Powell, another former sheriff's employee, in a pending appeal of the Civil Service Board's ruling against her.
"The defendant herein made statements to investigators with the Clayton County Sheriff's Department after his arrest," states Lawson in her motion. "Said statements include information concerning Ms. Beatrice Powell and former Sheriff Victor Hill."
After offering to provide proof of the statements to the court for private inspection, Lawson points out the conflict. "Mr. Keith Martin's representation of the defendant and Ms. Powell creates an irreconcilable conflict of interest," she states in the motion.
Martin, the former longtime Clayton County Solicitor General, found out about the motion Friday afternoon, and consulted an attorney. After meeting with Newton, Martin opted out of the case.
"I have read the State's motion and, as drawn, it has no merit," said Martin late Friday evening." After consulting with an attorney, we have identified a potential conflict that could, in the most outlandish circumstances, arise. We have learned here in the Land of the Outlandish to expect just that. For that reason, I am requesting to withdraw as co-counsel for Mr. Newton on Monday. I wish him the very best and applaud Ms. Lawson for her protection of his constitutional rights, hopeful that it continues."
Newton, 38, was arrested May 20, after being indicted by a Clayton County grand jury on multiple counts of theft by taking, and first degree forgery.
The indictments allege that Newton took county funds earmarked for the publication of Hill's newsletter, "The Star," and used them for his personal use. The indictments also allege that Newton worked on Hill's autobiography while on county time.
At the time of his arrest and subsequent court appearances, Newton was represented by Constance Manigo Daise. Martin, however, represented Newton at his June 29 arraignment.
Martin and Daise have also filed a motion for dismissal. Daise continues to represent Newton.