Attorney claims he can not get police car crash report - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Attorney claims he can not get police car crash report

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

December 12, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The lawyer for an Athens man, badly injured in a 2007 car crash with a Dougherty County Police car, says he is frustrated by state prosecutors that will not release the accident report.

A federal lawsuit has been filed against Dougherty County and two Dougherty County police officers involved in that crash, which killed one man and left his father an incomplete quadriplegic.

William Wilcox of Athens and his wife have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, saying that the two then Dougherty County Police Officers deprived him of his federally protected interest in life, liberty, and due process, when his car was struck by a Dougherty County Police Car. The lawsuit claims that the DCP Officer was speeding more than 90 miles an hour when it struck Wilcox's car, but his attorney says the Georgia State Patrol report on the crash to back up his claims "has fallen into a hole."

The fatal crash happened April 3, 2007 on I-16 in Candler County. Investigators say Dougherty County Police Officer Jeremiah Fenn rear ended a trailer being towed by William Wilcox, causing his Toyota to overturn. Son Milton Wilcox was ejected from the Toyota and killed. His attorney says William Wilcox was paralyzed from the neck down for months, but now has recovered use of his arms and legs.

Dougherty County insurance provider Liberty Mutual paid the Wilcox's 250 thousand dollars for the wrongful death claim for Milton Wilcox. Now the Wilcox's have filed a federal lawsuit against the county, Officer Fenn, and DCP Officer Oscar Gilliam, who was driving a second DCP Police Car in front of Fenn. The Wilcox' claim in the lawsuit Officers Gilliam and Fenn were driving in excess of 90 miles an hour, drafting in tandem, like in a race, when Fenn hit the Wilcox vehicle.

But Wilcox attorney, Gary Gerrard, says he still has been unable to get a copy of the GSP Reconstruction report of the crash. District Attorney Steven Askew in October 2007 declined to file felony charges against Fenn, and says he sent the Crash report to Candler County State Solicitor William Neville, to decide if Fenn would face misdemeanor charges. Gerrard says Neville claims he never received the GSP report, and now all state officials are saying they can not release the official report.

Attorney Gary Gerrard said "The Candler County Solicitor refuses to release the report or close the case or do anything else until he quote "sees the file." And I'm at my wit's end. I don't know what else to do."

Attorney's are waiting on Judge Louis Sands in Albany Federal Court to decide if the lawsuit will move forward. Gerrard says he and the Wilcox's are determined to take the civil rights lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court, claiming that the two Dougherty County officers were reckless and that Wilcox deserves punitive damages.

I have made lots of calls and have run into what the Wilcox' attorney claims.  I have called Georgia State Patrol officials, who tell me they can not release the wreck report because prosecutors have not finished with it. D.A. Askew says he does not have a copy of the wreck report, and says Solicitor Neville is the only prosecutor who can release it. Neville's office tells us he works out of a different location than his state office, and he has not returned our calls.

Officer Fenn has left the Dougherty County Police, and now works with the Marine Corps Logistics Base Police.  Officer Gilliam stills works for DCP.

 Dougherty County Attorney Spencer Lee said he does not comment on pending cases, so the federal lawsuit waits on a ruling by Judge Louis Sands if it will proceed to trial.

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