In Part 2a of this series, we left off right after Cory Sasser was given his second bond and was banished from Glynn County. A.D.A John B. Johnson made a deal with Sasser’s defense attorney concerning his bond conditions. Judge Cabiness thought the bond conditions were too lenient and added additional requirements. In the end, his bond conditions let Sasser stay with his sister in Alabama and required him to check-in with the CSRA probation office using a smartphone app instead of a GPS bracelet. Against court orders, Sasser never set up the app.
From May 24, 2018, until June 26, 2018, there isn’t much to know about Cory Sasser. His wife, Katie Kettles-Sasser, believed at one point that he’d been in town stalking her. Still, the investigation at that time was inconclusive.
On June 26, 2018, Sasser appeared in Glynn County for a custody hearing for his and Katie Kettles-Sasser’s child.
Afterward, Sasser and his adult son, Bryce, went to Moondoggies to order a pizza. Sasser allegedly made a gun gesture in Katie and John Hall’s direction, but Katie had her back turned and didn’t see it for herself. Nevertheless, she was justifiably concerned and notified authorities.
Unfortunately, the police couldn’t get enough information for an arrest. Being charged with Terroristic Threats would have put Sasser in jail and protected Katie. However, police need probable cause to make an arrest. And there was information provided that suggested the gesture Sasser made from across the room could have been his waving to a friend rather than a threat.
Was it reasonable for the officers to believe it was just a wave?
But after Sasser’s standoff with S.W.A.T. less than a month before, shouldn’t they have considered that Cory Sasser was dangerous?
The problem was that after the standoff with S.W.A.T., and after Sasser had assaulted two fellow officers, the district attorney’s office was lenient on Sasser’s bond conditions. And Cory Sasser never spent a night in jail.
It’s reasonable that the investigating officers would think any arrest warrant they applied for wouldn’t be honored unless there was concrete proof of wrongdoing. Additionally, the forms to swear out a warrant is an affidavit that is sworn under oath that the officer has sufficient probable cause. A vague gesture from across a room wouldn’t be enough.
Officers can not arrest someone based on bond violations alone. However, they did report the breach to the court on June 27, 2018.
Judge Flay Cabiness told the investigator to contact the CSRA probation office about filing a motion to revoke Cory Sasser’s bond. CSRA Probation Officer Amy Corcoran informed the investigator that they would contact D.A. Jackie Johnson’s office.
On June 28, 2018, investigators were told by the CSRA probation officer that they wouldn’t revoke Cory Sasser’s bond unless the police department brought up new charges against him. On that same day, D.A. Jackie Johnson contacted Police Chief Powell and told him that her office would be arranging a bond revocation hearing.
Since the police department didn’t have probable cause to take out new warrants on Cory Sasser, they took steps to surveil the exterior of Katie Kettles-Sasser’s home in an attempt to find probable cause to arrest Cory Sasser for stalking. At that time, it seemed that this was most that the police department could legally do to protect Katie.
From the time of the Moondoggie’s incident on June 26, until Sasser murdered Katie Kettles-Sasser and John Hall the evening of June 28, what was Cory Sasser doing?
On June 27, 2018, Cory Sasser traded in his truck, opting for one that wouldn’t be recognizable.
On June 28, 2018, Cory Sasser paid for his own cremation and funeral. He then drove to Valdosta to buy ammunition and a new gun.
On the evening of June 28, 2018, Cory Sasser drove to John Hall’s residence, then shot John Hall in his driveway. Then he went into John’s house, forced his way through the bathroom door, where Katie Kettles-Sasser had been hiding, and then shot her as well.
It didn’t take long for law enforcement to arrive and chase Cory Sasser to his personal residence, where he took his own life.
Late June 28, 2018, Chief Powell had one of his officers contact the GBI to perform an investigation into these events.
On June 29, 2018, District Attorney Jackie Johnson’s office requested the GBI to investigate.
If you were Monday morning quarterbacking this, a double-murder/suicide would seem the obvious conclusion to the sequence of events leading up to the night of June 28. The problem is, no one can know the future with any certainty. You must study the facts available and make the best decisions based on your limited information.
The events of June 28, 2018, were distressing. Understandably, elected officials worried about public perception. So, it’s no surprise that a closed-door meeting was called soon after these events. According to sources, attendants included D.A. Jackie Johnson, Chief John Powell, Sheriff Neal Jump, Mark Spaulding, County Manager Alan Ours, other county officials, and curiously, select private citizens.
According to sources, this meeting was called to decide how much information to release to the public. However, the exciting portion of the meeting was not about public perception, but about D.A. Jackie Johnson’s reputation.
More than one source has stated that during that meeting, it was brought up that a county employee, a GCPD officer, had publicly made derogatory statements about Jackie’s handling of the Sasser case on social media.
D.A. Jackie Johnson allegedly insisted that the officer be fired.
Government employees do not enjoy the same first amendment rights as private citizens. When in their official capacity, they are considered an extension of the government. When off duty, their speech can be regulated if a reasonable case can be made that their statements interfere with the operation of government.
The exception to this, of which D.A. Jackie Johnson should be aware, is when governmental employee statements fall under federal and state whistleblower statutes—which this officer’s statements potentially did.
In that closed-door meeting, Jackie took the issue even further. D.A. Jackie Johnson brought up the name of a private citizen who had also made unflattering comments about Jackie on social media.
D.A. Jackie Johnson allegedly looked to Chief Powell and informed him that he needed to “do something” about that citizen.
If the implications aren’t clear, please go back and re-read that last sentence.
What had D.A. Jackie Johnson meant when she insisted that the Police Chief “do something” about a private citizen exercising their first amendment right?
Now, this is where things get interesting.
The GCPD officer who Jackie Johnson allegedly wanted fired for making unflattering comments about her—he’s currently under indictment.
The Police Chief that Jackie Johnson allegedly urged to violate a citizen’s rights—he’s also under indictment.
Another interesting detail comes from an email the Baxley Informer discovered from Wrix McIlvaine to Jackie Johnson.
Wrix Mcllvaine is an attorney for Katie Kettles-Sasser’s mother. The civil suit that was emailed to Jackie Johnson was filed against the Glynn County Police Department and various police officers, including Police Chief Powell.
What interest did Jackie Johnson have in this civil suit?
Was she defending the Glynn County Police Department and Glynn County? Was she verifying the accuracy of the suits claims?
In its original form, the civil suit is directed almost exclusively at the Glynn County Police Department and its officers. The suit has many inaccuracies and deficiencies that D.A. Jackie Johnson could attest to.
Here are a few examples taken from the original filing on January 31, 2020:
This statement is true. The police did assure Sasser that his firearms would be turned over to his family. What is not mentioned here is that it was Marissa Tindale, D.A. Jackie Johnson’s current employee, who was the negotiator on the phone with Sasser that night. Marissa Tindale was the one who told him that, and yet her name isn’t listed in the civil suit.
Below is a transcript of communications between Cory Sasser and Marissa Tindale taken from the night of Sasser’s standoff with S.W.A.T:
This is false. The Sheriff’s department took charge of Sasser and escorted him from the scene to the hospital and then the medical facility. Documents proving this can be seen here, in Part 2a of this series. The sheriff and judges let Sasser voluntarily, not forcibly, admit himself into that medical facility. And yet, as of January 31, 2020, the sheriff wasn’t listed as a defendant in this civil suit.
The information was not limited. Glynn County has a computerized system that allows the district attorney’s office access to police files. Additionally, the civil suit acknowledges one of the officers who came forward to drop charges, but it doesn’t address the other. Officer Hyers spoke with A.D.A. John B. Johnson before Sasser’s bond hearing, warning him that Cory Sasser was dangerous. Jackie Johnson’s assistant D.A. ignored that officer’s warnings, didn’t call Officer Hyers to speak during the court hearing even though he had a right to speak, and then ensured that Cory Sasser was let out on bond. And yet, A.D.A. John B. Johnson is not listed as a defendant in this civil suit.
The bond conditions agreed to between the defense attorney, and A.D.A John B. Johnson were too lenient, so the judge added an additional requirement. Cory Sasser was required to download a CSRA electronic reporting app onto his phone. CSRA Probation Officer Amy Corcoran didn’t enforce this requirement because Cory Sasser told her that his bond would be modified. Amy Corcoran ignored the court’s order based on Cory Sasser’s word alone.
Additionally, as discussed earlier in this article, police have no authority to make arrests for bond violations. In fact, the way the system works, the probation office notifies the district attorney’s office of a bond violation. Then it is the district attorney who does the paperwork required to have the bond revoked. The police department had no authority to arrest Cory Sasser for a bond violation. The ultimate responsibility for that falls under the district attorney's office, and to a smaller degree, the probation office.
And yet, CSRA Probation Officer Amy Corcoran is not listed as a defendant in this civil suit.
Interestingly, Amy Corcoran is no longer a probation officer with CSRA.
Amy Corcoran currently works for D.A. Jackie Johnson.
The GBI investigation conducted after Sasser murdered Katie Kettles-Sasser and John Hall, concluded that no one in the police department had assisted Sasser in his crimes. District Attorney Jackie Johnson was well aware of this, as stated in her press release on August 23, 2018. The full document can be seen by clicking this link.
Based on the wording, just being in contact with someone wouldn’t be a violation. They would’ve had to provide Sasser assistance in his crimes. With text messages, that would be easy to prove. But what about phone calls? How could anyone know the content of a phone call? Cory Sasser certainly made a lot of phone calls leading up to his double-murder/suicide. Any one of those calls could have provided him with information.
Including phone calls from an assistant district attorney from D.A. Jackie Johnson’s office—Liberty Stewart.
Liberty Stewart admitted during her GBI interview that she’d been in communication with Cory Sasser throughout these events. She even mentioned that she’d been aware that Sasser was in Brunswick at his son’s house on June 24, two days before his court hearing, and in violation of his bond.
Was Liberty Stewart aware of Sasser’s bond conditions?
In her GBI interview, Liberty stated that when talking to Sasser, she confirmed that he hadn’t touched his guns and that he was aware that he wasn’t allowed to have contact with the guns. Obviously, Liberty Stewart was aware that he had bond conditions and knew some of them.
A.D.A. Liberty Stewart, who’d been in contact with Cory Sasser the night of his showdown with S.W.A.T, continued to communicate with him throughout his downfall. They spoke on June 26 and again on June 27.
On the evening of June 28, just hours before Cory Sasser would murder Katie Kettles-Sasser and John Hall, Sasser texted Liberty. Sasser indicated that he wasn’t doing well emotionally. In response, Liberty called Sasser to check on him.
In her GBI interview, Liberty stated that she told Sasser he needed to speak to someone about his anger, preferably a psychiatrist. Sasser responded that he “was speaking to someone and that someone was her.”
Liberty Stewart knew that Cory Sasser had been admitted to a mental health facility the previous month. She knew about his showdown with S.W.A.T. and that Sasser had attacked two officers. So when Sasser implied that he was emotionally compromised and “not alright,” why hadn’t Liberty notified anyone? If she had voiced her concern, is it possible that authorities would’ve verified Sasser’s location, determined he was nearby and stopped him from murdering Katie Kettles-Sasser and John Hall?
As an assistant district attorney, Liberty Stewart would fall into the category of “law enforcement personnel” from example number 6. And yet, Assistant District Attorney Liberty Stewart is not listed as a defendant in this civil suit.
There’s no way of knowing why District Attorney Jackie Johnson took an interest in the Kettles civil suit. Or why she directed her staff to forward a draft copy of that suit to someone by the name of Mr. Cabiness.
Perhaps Jackie was verifying the accuracy of their claims. If so, she did a terrible job, as the examples we gave were only the tip of the iceberg. And as anyone who’s studied icebergs will tell you, what you see on the surface is only a tiny portion of what lies beneath.
In the last half of the Kettles civil suit, some statements and additions appear to have no basis on the civil suit’s claims. Statements that play suspiciously into Jackie Johnson’s recent actions against the Glynn County Police Department.
A grand jury recently convened in which D.A. Jackie Johnson made the case to abolish the GCPD.
If the GCPD were abolished, it would place full control under Sheriff Neal Jump, who D.A. Jackie Johnson seems to have a good relationship with.
Historically, the consolidation of power is rarely a good thing.
Take a look at this email from D.A. Jackie Johnson, to Senator William Ligon, dated January 30, 2020 (the day before the Kettles civil suit was filed). In this email, Jackie copy and pasted an article by The Brunswick News about legislation (Senate Bill 317) that was being proposed to allow the abolishment of county police departments.
In this article, a quote by Commissioner Allen Booker aptly describes why this legislation shouldn’t go through.
“…It’s a power play for folks who want all law enforcement under the sheriff. While I think Neal Jump is a good person, and I told him this, if he was going to live forever, I would support this. But he’s not going to live forever.”
And then, from Commissioner Brunson,
“Whether it’s put under Sheriff Jump is irrelevant. I have no issues with Neal Jump, but tell me who’s going to be the sheriff next year? Who’s going to be the sheriff in 2025?”
These commissioners were making an excellent point about the consolidation of power. Everyone thinks it’s great until the wrong person has it.
So what does any of this legislation have to do with District Attorney Jackie Johnson?
The above clip was taken from the article that Jackie emailed to the senator. It states that Jackie’s presentation to the Glynn County grand jury is what set Senator Ligon on the path to sponsoring Senate Bill 317. And Jackie sent that email to the senator the day before Wrix McIlvaine sent her a copy of the Kettles civil suit on the day it was filed.
Those are entirely unrelated events, so why does it matter?
The above documentation is from the original Kettles civil suit filed on January 31, 2020. The information provided is associated with a scandal that happened months before anything related to the Sasser incident occurred. It serves no purpose in this civil suit.
Look closely at the highlighted accusations. What does any of this have to do with Cory Sasser or Katie Kettles-Sasser? The officer being referred to doesn’t work for the department anymore and isn’t on the list of defendants. The dates are months before Katie and Sasser were even separated. There are many more examples of this throughout the last half of the document, and considering the inaccuracies of the first half…
Why would attorney Wrix McIlvaine intentionally add pages worth of unrelated information to a civil suit? Why would that information be the district attorney's arguments for abolishing the police department? And why would Wrix McIlvaine send it to the district attorney the day that the case was filed?
Another good question, and interesting coincidence—why would the Kettles civil suit, just bursting with ‘abolish the police’ propaganda, be filed on the same day that Senate Bill 317, to abolish the police department, was discussed in the Senate?
To be continued in Part 3 of this series...