Springtime For Bribery in Georgia
May 3, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — During an interview between a Clayton County, GA police officer and an elderly, lawyerless couple charged with theft of a stolen vehicle, the officer managed to incriminate himself so thoroughly that he became the subject of a federal investigation. Meanwhile, the charge against the couple was dropped – all thanks to video.
Mike and Michelle Pierce run M&M Thrift and Salvage in Griffin, GA. Earlier this year, the couple did what they’d done without incident many times before. They went to purchase a car at a public auction. The Pierces wound up acquiring a Toyota Corolla for $1700.
After they paid for the car, the Pierces’ tow truck driver looked up the Corolla’s vehicle identification number and spotted what the government hadn’t: the car was reported stolen. According to the Pierces, they immediately contacted the Clayton County Police Department when their driver notified them of the theft and relinquished the vehicle.
Three days later, apropos of nothing, the cops returned the Corolla. A detective later contacted them to let them know the department made a mistake and the car should still be impounded. Despite the unnecessary imposition, the Pierces did their best to help out the cops and cooperated when they returned to re-impound the Corolla.
For their pains, the police arrested the Pierces nine days later, in the middle of their store during business hours. According to WSBTV, the outlet that broke the story, the couple was charged with theft (presumably theft by deception – Georgia Code § 16-8-3) for “defrauding a records clerk into providing a vehicle release form” for the car.
The story then took an even stranger turn. After the Pierces made bail, they were approached by Officer Grant Kidd with the Clayton County PD. Kidd, who had not hitherto been involved in their case, asked that the couple meet him in a parking lot.
At this point, the Pierces were understandably suspicious of strange overtures from cops. After consulting with their children, they settled on a plan: the elder Pierces would go ahead with the interview, no lawyers involved, but covertly record what was said. Meanwhile, the Pierces’ adult daughter would film the encounter from a suitable distance.
The plan was flawlessly implemented and yielded some remarkable audio. Officer Kidd was recorded offering, in astonishingly explicit terms, to make the Pierces’ case “go away” in exchange for a $1500 bribe. Kidd implied he had a contact in the DA’s office who routinely got cases “administratively dismissed” for $750 apiece. He offered the Pierces a payment plan (“$1000 up front, then the rest of it you pay after it go away”) and even a money-back guarantee (“If it don’t go away… if it go into the grand jury, you get your money back.”) When Mr. Pierce asked whether they’d ”get in trouble for bribing,” Officer Kidd reassured them they wouldn’t (“No. You ain’t never gonna talk to him.”)
Following the interview, the Pierces hired attorneys and brought the recordings to the attention of Clayton County DA Tracy Lawson and CCPD Chief Michael Register. DA Lawson said that the case against Kidd was “immediately” turned over to the FBI; Chief Register, who confiscated Kidd’s badge and gun, told WSBTV that the allegations against Kidd “turned [his] stomach.”
For his part, Kidd has since quit the force. The charge against the Pierces was promptly dropped; they filed a civil rights lawsuit against the county on March 10.
Agreeing to talk to the cops without a lawyer present is a very bad idea; this holds doubly true when they say they want to meet in a parking lot. But just this once, the usual rules were turned upside down and the non-cops emerged victorious. Truly, spring is a joyous season.