FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office says they are getting less support from the U.S. Marshals Service than they used to prior to a 2021 indictment.
The U.S. Marshals Service says they are still helping local law enforcement catch the bad guys.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis says that for years, police throughout metro Atlanta and beyond had been able to use the resources of the U.S. Marshals Service-led Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force for arrests of dangerous fugitives.
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Eric Heinze was a member of the U.S. Marshal Service and Kristopher Hutchens was a Clayton County police officer assigned to the task force and deputized by the U.S. Marshal’s Service.
“The United States Marshals Service, they have put some procedures in place that make them not as helpful to the biggest county in the state of Georgia. I think it’s a travesty,” Willis told Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne.
While she says that things have gotten better over the last two years, she says they have a ways to go in their relationship.
“It needs to get back to the way business always should run,” Willis said.
Lance LoRusso, Heinze’s attorney, says his client has pled not guilty and stands by the fact that he did nothing wrong and was serving lawful warrants.
Don Samuel, Hutchens’ attorney, says his client is innocent and has also pled not guilty. He says they expect the case will be dismissed.
Winne checked statistics with APD from 2021 when the indictment was handed up and in 2022.
In 2021, the U.S. Marshals assisted APD in 135 arrests. In 2022, they had assisted in 44 arrests. As of last week, they had assisted in 45 in 2023.
Sandy Springs Police Chief Ken DeSimone said it is common knowledge among local law enforcement officials that some federal law enforcement agencies are not offering the same level of cooperation concerning arrests as they once did in Fulton County.
DeSimone says that a former senior official with the U.S. Marshals Service told him that the Southeast Regional Task Force did not want to arrest fugitives in Fulton County over concerns with the Fulton County DA’s office.
He says there have been two occasions where the task force informed Sandy Springs police of out-of-state murder suspects in the city so Sandy Springs police could make the arrests instead of doing so themselves.
Thomas Brown with the U.S. Marshal’s Service released a statement saying:
The USMS works diligently with state and local law enforcement partners in Fulton County and throughout Georgia – many that are active, participating members of our regional fugitive task force – to ensure public safety, as our fugitive apprehension efforts are a cornerstone of our congressional mandate. In fact, since October 2021, the USMS regional fugitive task force in the Atlanta area has apprehended multiple violent fugitives, including several individuals wanted for murder, and seized multiple firearms in the process.
City of South Fulton Police Chief Keith Meadows says his department’s numbers don’t suggest an overall decline in cooperation with the marshals assisting in 35 arrests in 2021, 33 in 2022 and 44 so far in 2023.
Winne says he has been told that the task force provides all information to local law enforcement to apprehend fugitives, but standard practice is to not physically assist in the arrests in Fulton County because a Fulton County prosecutor has suggested in court filings that the task force “was not authorized to execute arrest warrants for violations of state law.”
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