A judge Tuesday modified a ruling he made in June — in turn, freeing a man who was initially ordered to spend three years in jail despite a Bartow County Superior Court jury finding him not guilty roughly three months ago.
Although jurors did not find Cartersville resident David Kenneth Webb guilty on charges of methamphetamine possession with intent to distribute — in fact, they returned their verdict in less than half an hour — Superior Court of Georgia Senior Judge Richard Sutton nonetheless determined "by preponderance of the evidence" that Webb had violated probation. As a result, Sutton ordered Webb to serve three years in jail, with credit for time served dating back to April 14, 2017.
Defense attorney Arnold Ragas filed a motion for reconsideration shortly after Sutton made that determination June 22.
"In this particular case, I take into account the fact the jury made a fairly prompt verdict," Sutton said Tuesday in Bartow Superior Court. "I am modifying the order to give credit for time served and authorize his release today."
Ragas said he was somewhat caught off guard by the judge's decision. That's one of the reasons, he said, why he also requested Sutton reconsider the length of his client's probation revocation; in that fallback scenario, Ragas said he was hoping to see Webb's time behind bars reduced from three years to just two.
Instead, Ragas saw his client released from custody that day.
"I'm never surprised when justice prevails, although it doesn't always," he said. "And today, it did."
According to Cherokee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth York, a bag containing 12.515 grams of methamphetamine was found near a motel. And that same bag, she said, contained Webb's Social Security card.
Ragas argued that his client's identification was stolen. He also called into question the accuracy of police testimony in the case, at one point arguing that there's "a better case of perjury against [one of the officers] than possession with intent to distribute against Mr. Webb."
Court documents indicate Webb received a 10-year sentence for theft by receiving and fleeing/eluding in November 2015.
"With the prior felony convictions, the state would object," York said after Sutton ordered Webb's release from jail, "but we understand the court's positions."
In the wake of the case, Ragas called for changes to the state's probation revocation procedures.
"There is often talk about criminal justice reform and I don't hear enough included in the probation system in that conversation. Not all states allow what happened in this state — some states, if you are found to be not guilty of a criminal offense, you cannot pursue a revocation based on the same set of facts," he said. "I would love for Georgia to reconsider that law."