Summerville, Ga., police captain not disciplined for seeking court costs

Summerville, Ga., police captain not disciplined for seeking court costs

October 18th, 2013 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Harold Tucker

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

A Summerville, Ga., police captain who was caught on tape telling a criminal defendant to pay an illegal court cost will not be disciplined.

City Manager Russell Thompson said Thursday that Capt. Harold Tucker was simply doing his job. Tucker serves as a liaison between the police department and the Chattooga County State Court.

Sometimes he works out plea deals on criminal cases from Summerville, and he recommends these deals to state Solicitor Sanford "Buddy" Hill. The solicitor decides whether to accept the plea deal and then forward the case to Judge Sam Finster.

In the end, Thompson said, Tucker was not the one who accepted a court payment for an unprosecuted case -- a practice that is illegal in Georgia but common in Chattooga County State Court.

"In his capacity," Thompson said in a statement, "Captain Tucker had no authority to dispose of cases, only make recommendations. Only the judge can dismiss or nolle prosse [decline to prosecute] cases."

On Thursday, Finster said Thompson was accurate in his assessment. Hill could not be reached for comment.

Thompson and Police Chief Stan Mosley began looking into Tucker's role in illegal court activity after the Times Free Press published a story Saturday detailing a specific interaction between a defendant and the police department's second-highest-ranked employee.

On Sept. 9, Tucker told 22-year-old Koran Tirai Dyer that if he didn't pay the court $1,000, Finster would find him guilty of affray (fighting). Dyer, who was recording the conversation, paid the cost, and Hill declined to prosecute. Dyer gave the recording to the Times Free Press.

Charging court costs on a case in an unprosecuted case is illegal in Georgia. But Thompson said Tucker will not be disciplined for telling a defendant to pay the illegal court cost because Hill and Finster held more power in the courtroom. Tucker just made a recommendation, the city manager said. Hill and Finster executed the plan.

But last week, Mosley said his officers usually abstain from giving defendants legal advice. In July, Summerville officer Josh Brock lost his job after his bosses found out that he helped write "Uncle Wiggy's Secret Guide to Dealing with the Police," which informed defendants about their Fourth Amendment rights.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com.