The Truth will set you…on FIRE.

The letter below came  from the comments section of the Gainesville Times article  Editor pleads guilty to DUI.   So in reading the letter from the Hall County attorney that represented Mr. Clarke, Michelle Rohan, I realized that it is a perfect follow up to yesterday’s post.   Thank you to  lawyer Michelle Rohan for what appears to be the most factual account of this heaping mess.

It now seems to me that the smell I eluded to yesterday was that of some back door attacks on the different people involved.  The comments on the Times article seem to be in attack of the Sheriff and his deputies.  That can be attributed to the attempts to move Jon Strickland up the list in the coming election.

Jon, if you are reading this, know that those rogue anonymous posters will do you more harm than good.

Why would the assistant solicitor ask for jail time after her boss already negotiated a deal? Is this a lack of communication, someone back peddling, or an outright lie with other motivation?  What would the Hall County Solicitor, Stephanie Woodard have to gain from lying??  One would guess that since her position is an elected one,  I would guess that she received pressure from a different public official.  Perhaps one of our Commissioners?   It is no secret that the comment section of the Gainesville Times is a cesspool for shady politicians and their friend hiding their identities and bashing their competition.  So to think that the leaked info on the Times comments from an anonymous poster came from Woodard is not such a far fetched scenario.  That begs the question;  where is the integrity of the solicitors office? Change the deal, leak the information, deny any involvement…  Yup, Stephanie Woodard is officially a politician.  So now is her job to prosecute the criminals of  Hall County in order to keep our citizens safe, or to further her political career by any means, including unethical practices?  I feel safer already.

Maybe it is time to consider a new Solicitor General.  I vote Billy Hollingsworth.  Word on the street is that he is 9 and 0 against the solicitors office in jury trials, maybe he is our guy.   How about it Billy?  Ready for a campaign?

If you were trying to pickle a judge in this who mess, what are you thinking?   Judge Roberts was most likely in the bed asleep when Clarke was arrested having nothing to do with the time frame with which he was arrested and processed.  It would seem like the actions of the Solicitor could have been in attempt to toss him under the proverbial bus as well.   That doesn’t strike me as the smartest move ever.  Especially when it comes out that Judge Roberts followed procedure well within the bounds of the law.

So, Ms. Woodard, what was the motive for all of this?  Were you trying to tarnish the reputation of what for all we can find is a respected lawyer in Hall County?  Were you trying to attack a respected Judge in the very courthouse you work in?  Maybe you are looking to move up in the world and get on the bench?  What do you stand to gain in leaking information?  The Truth wants to know.  I am sure all of Hall County would like to know prior to checking a box on election day for the Solicitor General selection.

Lastly,  I feel we need to cover the  lack of honesty in reporting from this reporter.   Is she looking for Mr. Clarke’s job?  This lawyer states that she explained via phone to Carolyn Crist exactly how things transpired and yet she still embellished and left out the facts.  the leaving out of facts is one thing, but the outright lies in her article are just unacceptable.

Here is the letter to the Gainesville Times from attorney Michelle Rohan.  Comments are open, so you tell me what in the world is going on.

michellerohan:    May 5, 2011    4:10 p.m.

May 4, 2011

The Gainesville Times
345 Green Street N.W.
Gainesville, GA 30501

Re: Mitchell Clarke

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing this letter to The Gainesville Times in hopes that it will be published, in its entirety, as soon as possible. As you are aware, I am the attorney who represented Mr. Mitchell Clarke in regards to his DUI charge in Hall County State Court. After reading the article that was printed in the paper, and the comments that have been posted on your web-site regarding the article, I feel that it is necessary to make certain that all things regarding this matter are made clear.

First, Mr. Clarke retained me after receiving an advertisement letter that my office mailed to him after his correct name, address, and charges were printed on a list of arrests that I received, pursuant to an open-records request to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. Therefore, there was obviously no effort by any one in the Hall County Sheriff’s Office to prevent Mr. Clarke’s arrest from becoming public. As to why Mr. Clarke did not write about his arrest prior to May 1, 2011, I can only trust what Mr. Clarke stated in his editorial that his supervisors made that decision for him, however, I would also hope that he would have followed my recommendation not to make any public statements regarding his arrest, which could be used against him in the event that he entered a not guilty plea and his case was tried before the Court.

(Part 1 of letter)
michellerohan:    May 5, 2011    4:12 p.m.

Secondly, although Mr. Clarke may have stated to Deputy Chris Dale of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, at the time of his arrest, that he was the editor of The Gainesville Times, there was no indication that he stated this in an attempt to gain any favor with Deputy Dale, nor did he receive any. Further, I am certain that any law enforcement officer would confirm that most people that they arrest do anything that they can do in hopes to avoid an arrest, which is always an embarrassing situation for anyone, no matter what type of job they have. I can personally state that Mr. Clarke never once asked me to curry any type of favor for him based upon his position with the Gainesville Times.

(Part 2 of letter)

michellerohan:    May 5, 2011    4:13 p.m.

Thirdly, I am concerned by Carolyn Crist’s seeming inability to correctly state the facts regarding this situation in her article about the entry of Mr. Clarke’s plea. Based upon my reading of the article, and my knowledge of the facts, the primary thing that Mrs. Crist reported correctly was that Mr. Clarke’s sentence was a typical sentence for a first offense of DUI less safe. The real truth about the matter was that Mr. Clarke’s case, based upon the case assignment system for Hall County State Court, was assigned to Judge Charles Wynne. However, Mr. Clarke was a member of a charitable organization that both Judge Charles Wynne and Judge Larry A. Baldwin, II are also members of. Because of that situation, in an attempt to avoid any appearance of impropriety or special treatment, and to avoid any discomfort on the parts of Mr. Clark, Judge Wynne, or Judge Baldwin, I determined that it would be in the best interests of all parties, that his case should be closed in front of Judge Roberts, whom he did not have any personal association with. Under the rules of the Hall County State Court, a case may be closed in front of any Judge, regardless of which Judge the case is assigned to, prior to the scheduled arraignment of the case. I personally negotiated a plea offer with Mrs. Stephanie Woodard, the elected Hall County Solicitor, via telephone, which included a plea of guilty to a less-safe DUI, with all of the Hall County Solicitor’s Office’s standard conditions of a first offense, and with no further jail time. I have personally negotiated this type of sentence, in this same type of situation, on numerous occasions on behalf of other clients. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated Section 40-6-391 (c) (1) (B) requires a twelve month sentence on any conviction for DUI, but all twelve months of the incarceration may be suspended, and served on probation, if the conviction was not based upon a blood alcohol content of more than 0.08 grams. The Georgia Court of Appeals held in State v. Dyer, 275 Ga. App. 657 (2005), that the minimum mandatory 24 hour sentence is ONLY required to be ordered in a per se DUI (that with a blood alcohol content of more than 0.08 grams) rather than a less-safe DUI, which is what was negotiated in Mr. Clarke’s case.

(Part 4 of letter)

michellerohan:    May 5, 2011    4:14 p.m.

Despite the fact that I had personally negotiated this sentence with Mrs. Woodard, including the closure of the case in front of Judge Roberts prior to arraignment, when Mr. Clarke was entering his plea in front of Judge Roberts on May 3, 2011, Mrs. Amber Sowers, the Chief Assistant Solicitor for Hall County, stated to Judge Roberts that the Solicitor’s Office was recommending 48 hours to be served in jail. I stated to Judge Roberts, at that time, and on the Court’s record, that Mrs. Woodard had negotiated a sentence which included no jail time, and if the Solicitor’s Office needed to confirm that, then we could step out to ask Mrs. Woodard to come into the courtroom. No attempt was made to secure her presence, and Judge Roberts sentenced Mr. Clarke just as Mrs. Woodard and I had negotiated. Therefore, Judge Roberts sentenced Mr. Clarke to the approved negotiated sentence between myself and Mrs. Woodard. The Court did not deny the State’s request for further jail time, as indicated in Mrs. Crist’s article. The curious portion of all this regarding Mrs. Crist’s article is that she personally spoke with me, via telephone, on May 3, 2011 to confirm what had actually occurred regarding the jail time not being ordered, and I relayed this information to her, however somehow it did not make it into the article.

Lastly, the bottom line of this situation is that Mr. Clarke is not a public figure who should be required to “air out his dirty laundry.” The fact that he is employed by your newspaper does not make his actions, which are unconnected to his employment, in any way relevant as news. Mr. Clarke also did not receive any special treatment based upon his job. I negotiated a sentence for Mr. Clarke that is similar to numerous other cases that were similarly situated. I think that it is extremely unfortunate that your paper allows people, who obviously are not armed with the facts, to make salacious comments on your web-site with the intent to inflame people regarding certain situations. Having read some of the comments that were posted regarding Mrs. Crist’s article, I am curious to know how some of those individuals would have some of the information, such as a blood alcohol content, when that information has only been released to the Hall County Solicitor’s Office. Perhaps it would be a better practice to force people to use their real identities when posting on your site, and not allow them to spew baseless accusations against individuals while hiding behind false identities. If people really had the facts, could back their allegations up, and had nothing to hide perhaps they would not feel the need to create such false identities through which to rant. I’ll be signing this with my real name so no one has to wonder whom it was that provided this information.


Michelle Rohan
Attorney at Law
(Final Part of letter)

  10 comments for “The Truth will set you…on FIRE.

  1. Sassy
    May 5, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    It seems you are missing the forest for the trees. You speak down about the cesspool of comments. You talked about it being just a DUI. You address the solicitors office. You even comment on the motivation of the reporter.

    What you seem to miss goes back to what I had thought was your original mission. Hall County Truth. I guessed by the name of your site that you felt that the people of Hall were not being served the Truth from the news outlets available.

    You talk about how this or that injustice is happening in our county but ask yourself are the occurrences of those injustices the symptoms of a greater problem?

    I would say yes. The result of not properly investigating and holding ALL the our leaders accountable for their actions. The Times has made it clear that they want to play in Hall County politics in a major way. They have demonstrated a knack for bias to the point of eliminating entire stories from the public if it may be negative about their guy. That has got to stop. Wrong is Wrong no matter who it is.

    This incident is the clearest evidence of the Times betrayal of their integrity to report ALL. It was a stupid DUI. But it was a look into behind the curtain at the efforts to deceive their readers once again.

    You want people to hear the truth from not only you, but the Times. Demand it in ALL instances! I don’t care who the public official is. Be clear what you expect from the Times so they know someone will call them out when they are not being fully honest with the readers. Don’t give them a pass.

    That is my ramble.

  2. George T
    May 6, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I can see both sides. On 1 hand, the Times holds people accountable so they should be held to the same standards. On the other hand, this is just a worker at a paper; it’s hard to say how much input he had.

    Overall, when you have a paper making up news, I think they should be held to a higher standard and their mistakes are as news worthy as a politician getting a DUI.

  3. Not the Solicitor General (wink)
    May 27, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Hall County truth? More like uninformed Nosy Nelly gossip. I normally sit out debates and just shake my head about nonsense like this but I cannot stand by and let your commentary go without response.

    From what I gather about the courtroom debacle it seems that at worst there was some miscommunication between Ms. Woodard and her asst solicitor regarding the plea deal. Of course Ms. Rohan uses the opportunity to grandstand – both in court and online. You say Ms. Rohan’s letter is the most factual account – I would certainly say it is the most detailed account, but factual? It serves her client and cause to post her version of the events. But why would you assume that her perspective is factual?

    Working in the courthouse (not in the Solicitor’s office) I have had the opportunity to interact with Ms. Woodard and her staff – she is a class act and we citizens of Hall County are lucky to have her as Solictor. You mention Billy Hollingsworth – I have also interacted with Mr. Hollingsworth and he seems a nice fellow and is good at what he does, but he doesn’t even play in the same league with Ms. Woodard when it comes to the experience and skill required to run a multi-million dollar county department.

    I have also have interacted with the crass and unpleasant Ms. Rohan. You express concern about Ms. Woodard’s political ambitions – it is Ms. Rohan’s ambitions that Hall County should be concerned about because… well my momma raised me if didn’t have anything nice to say to keep my mouth shut. Draw your own conclusion.

    I have read through some of your other opinions about Hall County officials. I would hate to walk through life wearing the negative lenses you have on, where everything right is wrong and wrong is right. As the saying goes there are two sides to every story and I would encourage you to check both sides before forming an opinion, especially one you broadcast to Hall County as the “truth”.

  4. Not the Solicitor General (wink)
    May 27, 2011 at 9:45 am

    If you are looking for truth you should try looking into this one. It is my understanding that Mitch Clark was released from jail 1 hour after his DUI arrest. Do you think for even 1 second that if you or I were arrested for DUI we wouldn’t be spending at least the rest of the night in lockup?

    Since then I know for a fact that there have been several Gainesville Times stories from junior editors which have had negative information about the Hall County SO and Col. Strickland in particular that have not been allow to go to press by (drum roll…) Mitch Clark. Was there some quid pro quo for favorable treatment in the jail? Seems to have worked out well so far for someone running for Hall County Sherrif to have someone on the inside of the paper making sure negative information isn’t released to the public.

  5. Razzmataz
    May 27, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    redelly86 ,

    Its a fact Mitch Clark was in jail for only one hour.It is also a fact that his boss Dennis Stocken bailed him out. So the question really is what does the Gainesville Times owe the SO for these favors? I dont know about stories not going to press, but I have heard 5 reporters have quit in the last couple of months.
    here is a link to the story.

    • The Truth
      May 27, 2011 at 1:23 pm

      Alas, everybody keeps harping on the “hour” however, in talking to couple of folks that work in the jail, an hour to process out is not uncommon.

  6. Razzmataz
    May 27, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    So what you are saying is people that are legally drunk and slurring that have been arrested for DUI can be released in an hour and go drive again and maybe kill someone. If Jail people say this is “not Uncommon” then Hall County has serious liablity issues.
    What would have happened if Clark after an hour in jail drove again and killed someone. Would the HCSO say well we commonly let people like him out after an hour.

    • The Truth
      May 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm

      No, what I said was that it is not uncommon to get out in around an hour. I didn’t say give him his car back and send him on his way. I wasn’t there and i do not know procedure in the jail. I am saying that the whole “hour” thing does not prove any special treatment in my opinion.

  7. Razzmataz
    May 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I have a feeling if you look at how long everybody arrested for dui spends in Hall County Jail you will make a discovery. Either Clark was given special treatment or all people being arrested for DUI are being released around an hour. Either way there is probably a story for this website.

  8. randy shearerl
    January 10, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Regarding DUI courts…anyone have any “experience” on the DUI court sanctioning dilutes as if they were “positives?”


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