Rob Teilhet’s controversial ad has made state and national news. According to the AJC and PolitiFact, the ad is “false.” In an interview with done by Andy Peters with the Fulton Daily Report, Mr. Teilhet claims that he is more experienced than candidate Ken Hodges on the issues that matter most to being Attorney General. He also defends the ad.
The ad featuring the mother of an unarmed man shot and killed by a Muscogee County law enforcement officer who claims that Hodges did not get an indictment because he “forgot to swear him in, tried to hide the video, and then refused to reopen the case” According to MSNBC, the ad is “tinged with racial implications, as black voters could make up more than 50% of the Democratic electorate for the first time in this race.” Politifact rates the ad as “false” in a story analyzing it.
Claim 1: “The officer got off because prosecutor, Ken Hodges, forgot to swear him in”
At the time that the case was presented to the grand jury witnesses were not required to provide testimony under oath. Teilhet argues that the unsworn nature of the testimony hurt public confidence in the evidence.
Claim 2: Hodges tried to hide the video
There was no evidence that the video was hidden from the grand jury. Mr. Hodges submitted a brief with the Prosecuting Attorneys Counsel of Georgia and the District Attorneys Association of Georgia against releasing the video to the public before criminal proceedings took place. The video, it appears, was available to the grand jury.
Claim 3: Hodges “refused to reopen the case”
Mr. Hodges made no recommendation at all to the grand jury and did refuse to convene a second one. The case was reviewed by the Department of Justice for a possible civil rights action, and the DOJ declined to bring a case.
The ad is perhaps misdleading but not, as PolitiFact/AJC reports, false. Prosecutors shape the action of grand jurors. The oft-repeated cliché is that a prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich.
DAs often use the grand jury as a filtering process to dump cases they don’t want to prosecute for whatever reason. DA’s could choose not to present cases at all, but using grand jury as a filter allows them to not bring cases for reasons ranging from the well meaning to the political. While nobody but those who participated in the proceeding will ever really know for sure, the failure to swear in the police officer might provide you a clue about whether Mr. Hodges steered this proceeding in a particular directions. The fact that he was brought on as a special prosecutor tells you that the case was a political hot potato.
What emerges from this story is not a false campaign ad but one with heavy spin. The facts will likely remain forever murky. The good news for Mr. Hodges is that this tape, viewed in a light least favorable to him, will likely make die-hard Republicans love him in the general election if he gets there.