Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney Dennis Sanders has declared there will be no indictment of local attorney and candidate for Georgia House District 123 Wright McLeod on the bizarre case relating to the false imprisonment of a former Augusta Warrior Project employee.
“Based on the facts and applicable law, it does not appear that the state will be able to prove all three necessary elements of criminal false imprisonment beyond a reasonable doubt,” Sanders wrote in his April 7 order.
The three necessary elements of criminal false imprisonment that Sanders is referring to are the arrest, confinement or detention of another person; the violation of personal liberty; and lack of legal authority.
“As a result, it would be contrary to the principles of justice to all parties for the State to proceed when legally there is insufficient evidence to prove that a crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt,” Sanders wrote. “This case is herby dismissed.”
The word “dismissed” was music to Wright McLeod’s ears last week, considering the fact that he is facing an upcoming election for the Georgia House District 123 race.
Clearly, the last few months have really been a ball of stress for him and his family.
Earlier this year, McLeod learned Richmond County Magistrate Court Judge William Jennings had signed a warrant for his arrest involving allegation against him of false imprisonment of former Augusta Warrior Project employee Janice Jamison.
The entire community was stunned.
Not by the absurd allegations of a disgruntled employee, but by the fact that the judge would sign a warrant for McLeod’s arrest along with Augusta Warrior Project Director Amy Palowitch.
Before McLeod knew it, he was booked into the Charles B. Webster Detention Center on Phinizy Road.
“I have never been arrested. I have never been accused,” McLeod, a retired naval officer, told the Metro Spirit earlier this year. “I think the last time I even got a speeding ticket was when I was going to see my girlfriend and soon-to be-wife more than 20 years ago.”
After sitting in jail for about two hours and being released on his own recognizance, McLeod was shocked that Jamison was claiming he and Amy Palowitch, the director of staff and operations at AWP, refused to allow her to leave the office on Dec. 28, 2015, until they searched her purse and backpack.
The only reason that McLeod, who serves as a volunteer board member for the Augusta Warrior Project, was at the AWP office that day was that the staff had requested he assist in the termination of Jamison.
“I have been asked to assist in the terminating of employees before and have done so,” McLeod told the Metro Spirit. “I was asked to assist in the terminating of this employee and did so. I always have a witness and, all I can say is, this employee was terminated for cause.”
McLeod insisted the termination was justified.
“The termination was done legally, it was done extremely professionally and it was done ethically,” McLeod said. “Never once did I state or infer that she was not to leave the office. In fact, I was there to get her to leave the office. And I think the evidence will show all of that to be true.”
Obviously, Sanders agreed with McLeod.
“All parties agree that neither defendant physically touched or restrained Jamison,” Sanders wrote. “On the day of the incident, Jamison did not tell the officer that either McLeod or Palowitch had prevented her from leaving Jamison’s office. Additionally, when the officers specifically asked if she wanted a police report done regarding the incidents surrounding the termination, Jamison indicated that she did not.”
That fact is very telling.
It wasn’t until the following day that Jamison had a friend contact the sheriff’s office and indicate that Jamison wanted to report that she had been falsely imprisoned by McLeod and Palowitch.
That’s really pathetic. If Jamison really felt threatened, she should have told the sheriff’s deputies at the time of the incident.
Before the deputies escorted Jamison out of the building, the report states that she gave McLeod one black binder that belonged to the company, but that she “didn’t have anything else that belonged to them.”
Once she arrived at her car, Jamison gave the deputies multiple keys to Augusta Warrior Project’s office.
When the deputies returned the keys to Palowitch and McLeod, they asked why Jamison had been fired.
“They stated that they believe that she stole a large amount of data that belonged to the company and she was seen using different memory sticks on different occasions,” the report states. “I asked them what kind of information did they believe was stolen, they advised me that it was pertaining to veterans’ personal information. They also believed she stole product information, which could cost them a large amount of money if it went to their competitors.”
But, at no time, did the termination become hostile, McLeod insisted.
“It was very civil. There was never a Mexican standoff,” McLeod said. “There was never the blocking of the door. It was, ‘We need to ensure what belongs to you, you get and what belongs to Augusta Warrior Project, we get.’”
And yet, the judge signed the warrants for the arrests of McLeod and Palowitch, ruling there was probable cause to support a charge of false imprisonment.
“I am mad as hell,” McLeod told the Metro Spirit earlier this year. “This did not need to happen. It should not have happened. We did nothing wrong. If the call came today to do it all over again, we would do exactly what we did on Dec. 28. No different. I have not learned anything that has convinced me to do it any differently or any other way.”
In fact, McLeod said he sincerely believes Jennings was wrong in signing the warrants for his and Palowitch’s arrest.
“I disagree with the warrant being signed. I disagree with the judge’s decision,” said McLeod, who has previously served as a municipal judge in Hephzibah. “I am a former judge. Judges are not perfect. It is a very, very preliminary process. I think the judge made the wrong decision, but I believe in the judicial system. I believe in the judiciary and I believe, in the end, everything will come to light. At the end of the day, we have been falsely accused.”
Turns out, McLeod was absolutely correct.
He and Palowitch were falsely accused. The case has been dismissed. And now he is free to campaign as hard as possible to ensure he wins the Georgia House District 123 seat.