June 1-- A Georgia Court of Appeals decision may impact results of a 2010 video gambling raid in Toombs and Emanuel Counties.
You may remember that Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman paid an Atlanta law firm over $390,000 in commissions for settlements with 29 convenience stores hit by the operation. Additionally, his office received nearly $735,000 in settlement money.
On May 25th, a three-judge Court of Appeals panel ruled that a similar raid and circumstance in Moultrie in 2010 was "void as against Georgia public policy" and reversed a lower court ruling.
Altman currently has a case growing out of the seizures in Emanuel County pending before the Court of Appeals and says he can't comment because the case is still pending. He said he is aware of the recent Appeals Court ruling but hasn't had time to review it and noted the panel of judges hearing the Emanuel County case may render a different ruling.
Meanwhile, Alan Begner, the attorney who argued the appeal on behalf of defendants in the Moultrie case, says it's posslble Altman and the lawyers he paid may have to return the money.
"I think the Court of Appeals found the contingency relationship to be void as against public policy. The use of the word 'void' means it was illegal to begin with and I think that both the money that was paid by stores and machine owners is subject to being returned and that the DA may have to return all the money as well as the two private lawyers," he said.
Altman says he doesn't think the cases which were settled out of court will be impacted by the Appeals Court decision.
Last year the state legislature outlawed the practice of paying commissions to third party attorneys hired by the state.