Hayes says several cases mishandled, demands ‘competent management’

Tue, 06/10/2008 - 3:22pm
By: Letters to the ...

I am writing regarding a recent plea handled by the District Attorney’s Office with respect to four individuals charged with child molestation.

Based on the indictments on file in the Fayette County Clerk of Court’s office, four individuals were charged with child molestation after two women, Barchi and Graham, engaged in sexual conduct in the presence of a young child, while two males, Burns (the child’s father) and Graffeo, encouraged and photographed the sexual activity.

The Official Code of Georgia 16-6-4, in part, states that any indecent or immoral act done in the presence of a child under the age of 16 years is child molestation. Clearly, the elements were met in this case by all four adults. Yet, no one was convicted of child molestation.

Instead, each of these defendants received extremely lenient treatment. The District Attorney’s Office allowed Graffeo to plead guilty to cruelty to children with a five-year prison sentence.

Burns, the child’s father, who was slated to testify against the two women, was also permitted to plea to cruelty to children, but received five years probation and 120 days in a diversion center. (Diversion center is when a defendant is permitted to work during the day and is only incarcerated at night.

The two females, Barchi and Graham (the ones who engaged in the sexual conduct in the presence of the 3-year old child), were also permitted to plea to cruelty to children charges.

Barchi received one year probation, and 90 days in a diversion center. Graham received one year probation, 60 days in a diversion center, and incredibly, first offender status, which means if she successfully completes her probation she does not have this conviction on her record.

As a father, I find this outcome reprehensible. As a candidate for district attorney, I look at outcomes like the one above and am more positive than ever that we need an experienced prosecutor in the district attorney’s position.

Four individuals charged with child molestation should not have been treated so leniently. Why? At least two of these defendants participated in explicitly sexual conduct in the presence of a child while the sex acts were photographed by at least one of the other two participants.

Furthermore, there were admissions made by at least two of the defendants saying they knew the child was present. The elements constituting child molestation under Georgia law were met in this case, yet all of the charges were reduced.

The District Attorney’s Office is quoted as saying, “We felt the facts lent themselves more to a cruelty to children charge.” If the District Attorney’s Office thought this, then why weren’t the cases indicted as “cruelty” instead of child molestation and then reduced?

The answer can be found in other failed child predator cases in this circuit. Consider the recent valiant efforts of Peachtree City’s Internet predator team. Scott Selfe was one of the individuals charged and convicted as a result of his attempt to engage in pornographic communications with a police officer thought to be a minor.

In January 2008, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed Selfe’s conviction for child pornography because the indictment was fatally flawed and incorrect.

Currently, there are 20-plus more child predator convictions at risk of being overturned because the District Attorney’s Office is failing to properly indict cases. (See, Selfe v. State 2008 GACA A07A2162).

We must demand competent management of such serious crimes from the District Attorney’s Office. We must demand better use of our resources as a community.

I have 12-plus years of prosecuting serious crimes, including crimes against children. I am asking for your support on July 15, 2008, to ensure that we move forward with experienced leadership

Rudjard Hayes

Candidate for District Attorney

www. Rudjardhayes.com

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sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Mon, 06/16/2008 - 4:03pm.

Lots of Sturm und Drang regarding the "Frisky Foto Four" "child molestation" case. I'm no fan of Scott Ballard, but I think this case is a bit overblown.

I was surprised to find out you are technically guilty of child molestation if you are having sex with your spouse and your kid walks in and sees you. (Lock them doors, folks!)

Now, this foursome evidently took photos of two women in flagrante delicto and there is a three year old kid in the background of one of the pictures.

That's plain nasty, but "child molestation"? I don't think of that as "child molestation", the law notwithstanding.

The prosecution had a very tough case to prove, they couldn't determine when the pictures were taken or if they had been photoshopped or altered. They plea-bargained down to "cruelty to children", one guy got 5 years and the rest got probation. I think justice was served here. Four adults made a mistake and they are all paying for it now to some degree.

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