Twenty five years as Cobb County’s solicitor general comes with a lot of stories, and Barry Morgan let slip a few of them at Monday’s meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Metro Marietta. The longtime prosecutor is set to step down at the end of the year.
Early on in his career, Morgan was working as a part-time magistrate on the graveyard shift — midnight to 8 a.m. Coming into work one night, he encountered a woman talking to another judge and a secretary. The woman was introduced to him as an FBI agent.
Cut to about 3 a.m., when the agent came knocking on the courthouse door. Though the public wasn’t to be let in during the middle of the night, a young Morgan figured it’d be prudent to allow a federal law enforcement official into the building.
“Well she starts talking, and I realized she’s no FBI. She said she had 80 arrest warrants that she needed to do,” he said.
“The first one was for (former Cobb Sheriff) Bill Hutson, and the second one was for Ronald Reagan,” Morgan said. “So I’m going, ‘How am I going to extricate myself out of this without pushing that panic button and having the sheriff come get me?’ So I said, ‘Ma’am, you know, you got so many warrants that I can’t type that fast, I just can’t do it. So you’re gonna need to come back at eight o’clock in the morning.’”
Morgan got that first gig courtesy of Superior Court Senior Judge Jim Bodiford. With Bodiford in attendance, Morgan offered a glimpse at the kind of ship the judge used to run down at the courthouse. A man on probation had been ordered to appear with a drug test, but the poor soul hadn’t paid for it.
“I just didn’t have any money,” the man offered, in Morgan’s recollection.
Bodiford ordered the man to sit in a chair in the courtroom, right next to the door through which the convicted are escorted, while the judge decided “what I’m going to do with you — whether I send you through that door, or I send you through that door back there out to freedom,” Morgan recalled.
Court proceedings went on through the day, until around 4 p.m., the man stuck his hand up.
“And Judge Bodiford said, ‘What do you want?’ And he said, ‘Judge, I found $20 in my shoe. I can pay for my drug test!’” Morgan recalled.
“That’s a true story,” Bodiford chortled.
“Judge Bodiford invited anybody who wanted to to sit in that chair, because apparently it grew $20 bills,” Morgan added.
The solicitor’s office is largely a humble position, Morgan said, but did get thrust into the spotlight in the late 1990s. That was during the trial of Brett Tonkin, an east Cobb man who chased a car full of teenage girls after they’d rolled his yard with toilet paper.
The car crashed, killing three of the girls. Tonkin was ultimately acquitted of manslaughter charges in a case that attracted national attention.
An otherwise grim tale, Morgan recalled instructing his teenage witnesses to wear “church clothes” when they appeared on the stand.
“I needed to be much more specific,” he joked.
His lone independent witness was a young man doing his homework, who’d claimed to have seen Tonkin chasing the girls. Upon arrival, the man appeared in what was evidently his idea of church-appropriate attire, with a fresh haircut to boot.
“So I bring him in — and my, my courtroom folks will appreciate this — this young man had shaved his head and was wearing an orange polo. He looked like we had brought him off the bus from Jackson prison,” Morgan said.
For the final question of the afternoon, one guest asked Morgan if Cobb officials owe Justin Ross Harris an apology, as was argued (with much gusto) by his attorney Maddox Kilgore in Saturday’s run of this column.
Morgan demurred on the question, but noted the interesting implications for the case in the game of musical chairs ongoing at the Cobb Superior Courthouse.
Judges LaTain Kell and Mary Staley Clark, the latter of whom presided over Harris’ trial, are both due to retire this year. To replace the duo, Gov. Brian Kemp has named Julie Adams Jacobs, a lawyer in the attorney general’s office, and Vic Reynolds, head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and former Cobb district attorney.
Reynolds, of course, prosecuted Harris in 2016 and would have no business overseeing a new trial.
“So the governor is not going to put him in Judge Staley’s place, because then that case is going to go back on the wheel,” Morgan said, the “wheel” referring to the rotation of cases on the Superior Court’s docket. “And none of the rest of the judges want that (case).”
“So our newest judge — Judge Julie Jacobs, who was in the AG’s office — I think will have to make those decisions,” he added.
“That’s a tough start,” someone chimed in.
“It is a tough start,” Morgan said.
“But she wanted the job,” another offered.
“That’s true. My grandfather always said, ‘Don’t ask for something unless you really want it, because you might get it,’” said Morgan.
Dan Flynn ended a 48-year law enforcement career in January when he retired as chief of the Marietta Police Department. On that occasion, the MDJ chronicled his long and impressive career, most of which was spent in the turbulent environs of Florida’s Miami-Dade County in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
At the time of his retirement, Flynn shared with MDJ reporter Hunter Riggall some incredible tales of those tumultuous times (if the criminal activity in what was considered a drug capital wasn’t enough, Flynn also had to navigate 1992’s Hurricane Andrew — the most destructive storm ever to pummel Florida). That MDJ article recounted some of Flynn’s absorbing police stories.
In speaking to the Kiwanis Club of Marietta last week, Chief Flynn went into a bit more detail on an incredible story that came full circle, serving as a beginning and ending to his career.
Just two or three weeks into his career Flynn was on duty when a fellow police officer was shot and killed. “His name was Harrison Crenshaw. Me, being a brand new officer, I responded to the scene … seeing a police officer killed like that was a shock … like I said I was two or three weeks on the job. We knew who the shooter was, so several officers fanned out looking for the shooter. As luck would have it, I end up being the one to find him and arrest him.”
Flynn’s career was off to an incredible start.
Now, fast forward nearly 50 years. Flynn is Marietta police chief and late last year a young man comes in to apply for a position as a police officer.
“I’m interviewing him, like I’ve interviewed hundreds of officers that I’ve hired, and I notice (on his resume) he worked in the Corrections Department of Miami-Dade County.”
The two started swapping stories of their time there and the applicant mentioned his father was currently with the M-DC police.
“He told me, ‘(My father) is a sergeant and my grandfather was an officer who was killed in the line of duty in the ’70s. I never met him ….’ It was like a ghost …. I told him, ‘You’re probably not going to believe me, but you’re looking at the person who arrested the guy who killed your grandfather.’ He was blown away. I had to show him the newspaper article I had with my picture in it to prove to him I wasn’t making this up. I hired him on the spot and he is working in the department today.”
The two parts of that story served as the perfect beginning and end to Dan Flynn’s talk that took the audience on a high-speed chase from rookie cop to retiring chief.
“It’s been one heckuva ride for 48 years,” Flynn said.
FILLING HIS SHOES: It’s been five months and 15 days since Flynn took off his badge and the city has yet to name a new chief. Interim Chief Marty Ferrell is keeping things in check, but Around Town checked in with City Manager Bill Bruton to inquire about the holdup on naming a new top cop.
Bruton said he and staff are sifting through applications and expect to hold interviews the first half of August before narrowing to finalists. That means a new chief could be in place late August, early September.