Photo by Elaine Rackley
Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson explained the process Clayton County Director of Finance, Angela Jackson, used to avoid testifying before a special purpose grand jury.
JONESBORO — Clayton County’s finance director and the county’s top administrator were issued subpoenas to appear before a special purpose grand jury Friday — but only one may have had to testify.
Friday’s proceedings are the latest twist in an ongoing investigation into alleged criminal activity by County Finance Director Angela Angela Jackson, County Manager Wade Starr and county Commissioners Wole Ralph, Sonna Singleton and Gail Hambrick.
Jackson’s attorney, Thomas Michael Martin, had sought to quash the subpoena ordering Jackson to testify before the grand jury, and county Superior Court Judge Matthew O. Simmons granted the request.
The subpoena commanding Jackson to appear before the special purpose grand jury was for her to be sworn in as a witness for the state. The subpoena did not inform her as to which case she was supposed to testify about, nor did it list a case number that could be referred to, according to the motion.
The issue was resolved behind closed doors in Simmons’ chamber.
“She was subpoenaed before a grand jury that affords her due process rights,” said Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson. “Under the case law with a grand jury present a person is afforded that right. She waived that right. The grand jury has the right to examine the county officers.”
Lawson’s office has been pursuing an indictment against Jackson for several counts, including “Avoid a public document” for more than a year. At one point, Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield had to hold a hearing to decide whether former county attorney Michael Smith, and another attorney for the county could testify before the grand jury. Benefield ruled they could.
In July, Martin file a motion to have Lawson disqualified from investigating Jackson, Starr, Ralph, Singleton and Hambrick. A hearing was held Thursday on that motion to disqualify Lawson from representing the state before the special purpose grand jury, according to Martin.
“The motion was denied by Judge Simmons, and within thirty minutes of that denial Ms. Jackson was served with a subpoena to appear before the special purpose grand jury,” said Martin. “Yesterday, upon her receiving that subpoena, she contacted me and I filed a motion to quash that subpoena. This morning Judge Simmons granted the motion to quash the subpoena, therefore Ms. Jackson was not required to testify.”
Martin said he represented Jackson for more than a year, adding that she has committed no crime.
“Clearly, she is a target of the investigation and what they were attempting to do was to force her to go before a grand jury and testify against herself,” said Martin. “We will wait and see what the district attorney does. We do not know what Ms. Jackson is accused of, if anything. We do not believe she has done anything wrong. And if she is charged with anything, we will aggressively defend it.”
More officials have been notified to address the special purpose grand jury, according to the district attorney. Clayton County Manager Wade Starr appeared to have been one of those who may have testified.
“Another official has been subpoenaed,” Lawson said, as she returned to her office. Within minutes, Starr — accompanied by a man who would only identify himself as Starr’s attorney — emerged in the Clayton County Courthouse hallway that connects the district attorney’s office to the grand jury meeting room.
Starr and his attorney declined comment.