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Judge denies motion to remove prosecutor from Ray Sansom case

A circuit court judge has denied motions to remove Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs from the Ray Sansom case. The judge also denied a motion to dismiss charges against Sansom and his co-defendants, Jay Odom and Bob Richburg.

But while he denied the motions, Judge Terry Lewis found fault with Meggs' conduct in the grand jury proceedings, saying his words and tone of voice were "sarcastic" and "clearly conveyed not only disbelief, but disgust, to the grand jurors." But he found no evidence Meggs engaged in prosecutorial vindictiveness by filing new charges -- grand theft -- after official misconduct charges were mostly dismissed.

Lewis wrote: "Although I find that the prosecutor has said and done things which he should not have, the question remains as to whether the remedy should be a dismissal of the charges or removal of the state attorney from the case. "The federal cases cited by the defendants acknowledge that dismissal of an indictment is an extreme remedy. In this case, we have the added factors that (1) the indictment was, in fact, dismissed and the new charges are by information; and (2) the state attorney was under no obligation to bring the matter to the grand jury anyway. A dismissal of the charges or removal of the state attorney are drastic remedies not justified under the circumstances as discussed above."

He then added a stern reprimand to Meggs, "It is expected, however, that the state attorney will be guided by the observations made herein as to further extrajudicial comments about this case or the defendants. If my confidence proves to be misplaced, I will revisit the matter."

Defense attorneys argued that during the grand jury proceedings, Meggs acted like a bully and led the jurors. Lewis agreed. "In reviewing that evidence, it is clear to me that Mr. Meggs, by word and tone of voice, commented repeatedly on the credibility of the witnesses before the grand jury. Rather than simply ask questions and get answers, to put forth evidence or information before the grand jury, he continually argued with the witnesses, and did so in a sarcastic tone of voice which clearly conveyed not only disbelief, but disgust, to the grand jurors."