The Augusta Press is suing the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department over its refusal to turn over any information concerning the call for sheriff officers to respond to possible domestic violence at the home of the second in command of the Richmond County Solicitor’s office.
On May 3, a friend of the Chief Assistant Solicitor Geoffrey Alls’ family called 911 after hearing over the phone yelling and sounds of someone being hit, according to the 911 call. She had been on the phone with Alls’ wife until the call abruptly ended. Alls was not arrested that day, but his now-estranged wife obtained a temporary order of protection based on allegations of his violence that day.
The Augusta Press asked for a copy of the incident report and for the responding officers’ body cam video from the May 3 call, but the request was rejected. The Richmond County Sheriff Office’s public information officer responded that the incident report and everything related to the call was not subject to the state’s Open Records Act. The sheriff’s PIO officer cited the statute requiring all law enforcement agencies to file specific report forms for every domestic violence call. The required reports must be filed with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, even when no arrest is made although those reports are considered for statistical purpose only and not subject to the Open Records Act.
The Augusta Press’ attorney David Hudson disagreed with the sheriff’s analysis of the law. On May 20, The newspaper filed a formal request under the Open Records Act asking again for the information about the Alls’ call. The department’s attorney told Hudson the department’s position hasn’t changed.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday, June 21, in Richmond County Superior Court seeks a judge’s ruling that the incident report and body cam video for the sheriff’s call to Alls’ home should be released under the state’s Open Records Act.
Alls, who is currently on administrative leave, is the second person in charge of the office responsible for prosecuting the majority of domestic violence cases in Richmond County.
The lawsuit, which represents only one side of the legal dispute, also seeks a $1,000 penalty to be imposed for violation of the Open Records Act and attorney fees.