Former officer threatens suit against D. A. - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Former officer threatens suit against D. A.

March 18, 2003


Albany-
A former Dougherty County Assistant police chief threatens to sue the district attorney.

Woody Hart's lawyer, Joe Vaknin, says D.A. Ken Hodges acted unethically in trying to keep his client in jail.  "I think it's pretty clear Mr. Hart's civil rights have been violated," Vaknin said. 

Hart is free after serving two years in federal prison for his part in an embezzlement scheme. He's back home in Albany, but only after spending 24 hours in one of Georgia's toughest prisons. That's something the Georgia Court of Appeals says shouldn't have happened. Vaknin said, "the elected district attorney of Dougherty County decided to overstep his authority and abuse the power of his office."

Hart completed his federal prison sentence last week, but Hodges insists he should spend three and a half more months in state prison. "I believe that Mr. Hart will have to serve the remainder of his state time," Hodges said.

Two weeks ago, a Dougherty Superior Court judge ruled Hart should not serve more time. Hodges appealed.  "Mr. Hodges threatened to take out a fugitive warrant if he did not return to the Jackson State Prison Monday morning," Vaknin said.

Hart did report to the state prison Monday, but a Court of Appeals judge ruled he should be released immediately. He wasn't let out until Tuesday. The Appeals judge said Hodges went too far in trying to make sure Hart serves time in state prison. 

According to the ruling, "The District Attorney has no authority to subjugate an order of the Superior Court to his own will, thereby circumventing the orderly imposition of justice." The ruling goes on to say Hodges "may not seek to impost a detainer against Hart or subject him to further imprisonment...and any attempt to do so is at his own risk."

Hodges says the criticism from the Appeals Court comes from just one judge, is based on false information, and should be directed at the Corrections Department. "I don't hold the key to any Georgia prison. They decide who to keep and who to let out," he said.

Hodges says he consulted with the Corrections Department and agrees with their decision to put Hart behind bars but says ultimately he's not responsible. Hart's lawyer disagrees and says Hodges opened his office and the Corrections Department to a possible federal civil rights suit.

Hodges says when the full Court of Appeals hears the case, he believes they will rule Woody Hart must spend the extra time in state prison.

posted at 12:05 a.m. on March 19 by ben.roberts@walb.com