Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
Former Clayton County sheriff's spokesman Jonathan Newton pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges he stole from taxpayers while an employee.
Newton was first indicted on those charges in May by a special purpose grand jury. However, District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson re-indicted him Wednesday using the regular panel because a July 6 ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals opined that special grand juries cannot issue criminal indictments.
Appearing with his attorney, Constance Manigo Daise, Newton told Superior Court Judge Al Collier only that he was "not guilty" of the charges alleged in the indictment. Because Newton was re-indicted, deadlines for filing and hearing motions begin anew. Yesterday's scheduled hearing for defense motions was postponed until the end of September.
Collier set the case for trial the week of October 3.
Newton has filed motions for discovery and to suppress evidence seized from his home. The motion alleges that officers took a computer and other items but did not provide him with an inventory. Newton states he is unaware of what was taken.
The computer was returned the next day, to Newton's wife, but the police did not provide her a list of what files were copied or deleted, the motion alleges.
Newton also wants police to provide a copy of the statement he made to them after his arrest.
Local attorney Keith Martin was briefly Newton's co-counsel. However, he withdrew Monday after Lawson filed a motion to disqualify him because of a conflict of interest. Martin represents another former sheriff's employee, Beatrice Powell, in a civil service board appeal to get her job back.
Newton worked under former sheriff Victor Hill as his spokesman and was in charge of his newsletter, "The Star." Lawson alleges that Newton, who also published his own now-defunct newspaper, worked a scheme to transfer county funds earmarked for the newsletter for his own use.
Collier reminded Newton to attend his calendar call Sept. 29.
"If you fail to show for the calendar call, we can issue a bench warrant for your arrest, so you want to make sure you are here for that," said Collier.