A Rossville man with a pending racketeering charge in Walker County will go before the Georgia Supreme Court this week to argue that his arrest was unconstitutional.
Joe Mohwish will represent himself before the seven justices, claiming his civil lawsuit against prosecutors and police shouldn't have been dismissed.
He sued Lookout Mountain District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin and Rossville after his arrest in 2009, saying police shouldn't have raided his business and taken gambling equipment because he had a state license to operate raffles for nonprofits, which is legal in Georgia.
After the raid, Mohwish was indicted on a gambling charge under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, along with two others. Their indictments claim the three were operating an illegal gambling operation across North Georgia.
Mohwish said he believes if the Supreme Court rules that his arrest was unconstitutional, his criminal charges will be dropped. He denies doing anything illegal.
Franklin didn't return calls seeking comment on the case, but in a motion to the Supreme Court, he wrote that Mohwish's lawsuit was rightfully dismissed and that Mohwish would be able present his claims as part of his defense in the criminal trial, according to a summary by the Supreme Court's press office.
Mohwish and Franklin will present their oral arguments before the state Supreme Court on Tuesday morning, and the court is expected to issue a ruling within six months.
Only a few people represent themselves -- legally known as pro se litigants -- on serious cases and even fewer on appeals, said University of Georgia Law professor Ronald Carlson.
Jane Hansen, spokeswoman for the Georgia Supreme Court, said she couldn't estimate how many pro se litigants are granted an argument in the court each year, but the last person to represent himself and win was an Atlanta blogger named Matthew Cardinale in February. The court agreed with Cardinale that Atlanta shouldn't have omitted the names of City Council members who favorored or opposed an amendment when it was later reported in the minutes.
In December 2008, Mohwish obtained his license to operate raffles for nonprofits. He claims he has a real estate business in which he leases property and equipment to fundraising charities, according to the Supreme Court summary.
Mohwish said he was operating a charitable raffle for the Michigan Barber School in Detroit when the Rossville Police Department raided his business, taking his records and machines.
The Michigan school's director, Darryl Green, said the school had agreed to participate in a raffle with Mohwish in 2009 and had applied for the proper license through Georgia, but the school never received any money from Mohwish.
In 2011, Green took over the business full time when his brother died and Mohwish called to renew the raffle. Green said he agreed, but after he started getting phone calls from the Walker County Sheriff's Office saying Mohwish was operating without a license and had a pending racketeering charge, he decided to get out.
"I didn't want to have anything to do with it anymore," Green said. "I had dealt with it long enough."
In 2011, Mohwish said he tried to renew his license to run a raffle, but the Walker County Sheriff's Office denied it.
Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6659.
Joy Lukachick is a crime reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing down ...