Monday, February 22, 2021

Paulding district attorney Donovan indicted on bribery charges

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A suburban Atlanta district attorney has been indicted on charges that he improperly sought to have a municipal court dismiss a charge against the female employee he is accused of sexually harassing.

Paulding County District Attorney Donald Richard “Dick” Donovan was indicted Wednesday for bribery, two counts of false swearing and violating his oath of office.

Donovan is accused of committing bribery when he dismissed a criminal case in Paulding County Superior Court in which the defendant was being represented by the prosecutor of the municipal court in nearby Cedartown. In exchange, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said, Donovan was trying to influence the prosecutor to dismiss a shoplifting case in the Cedartown court that was pending against a woman who worked in his office.

The indictment also alleged that Donovan lied in an sworn statement he made during an investigation into whether he was sexually harassing the same employee. Specifically, the indictment alleges Donovan lied when he denied “ever having said that he wanted to have sex” with her and that he lied when he denied “describing his fantasies desiring to be physical” with the woman.

The indictment also alleges Donovan violated his oath of office when he committed bribery.

A judge will issue a warrant for Donovan’s arrest, Carr spokesperson Katie Byrd said. No date has been set for his arraignment.

He could face between one and 20 years in prison if convicted of bribery, between one and five years in prison if convicted of violating his oath, and between one and five years in prison for any conviction of false swearing.

Donovan declined to comment on the allegations in an email to The Associated Press. It’s unclear if Donovan will remain in control of the district attorney’s office while under indictment. Gov. Brian Kemp could appoint a three-member commission to decide whether to suspend Donovan, but spokesperson Cody Hall was unable to immediately answer whether Kemp would do so.

Donovan took office in 2010 and is next up for election in 2022.

“Dick should resign,” tweeted state Sen. Jason Anavitarte, a Dallas Republican who represents most of Paulding County.

The employee filed a suit in federal court against Donovan, the county, and the state’s Prosecuting Attorneys Council in 2019 after filing a formal complaint earlier that year. That suit said that for a two-year period starting in 2017, Donovan told the woman he was in love with her, gave her unwanted hugs and kisses, sent her personal text messages and emails, gave her unwanted gifts, forced her into private meetings and described sexual fantasies involving her and his desire to have sex with her.

The woman said she felt Donovan was retaliating against her for the complaint and said she feared the prosecutor could fire her.

A lawyer hired by the county corroborated the woman’s allegations, finding that “the District Attorney likely did harass (her) and retaliated against her for reporting the harassment and discrimination,” according to the woman’s lawsuit.

The lawsuit was settled in early 2020. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported the woman was paid $300,000, with the state, an insurer and the county splitting the cost.

A lawyer for the woman declined comment by email. The AP is not naming her because she alleged unwanted touching in a lawsuit against Donovan.

Carr said the the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted the criminal inquiry.

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