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State v. Lampl

Supreme Court of Georgia

March 16, 2015

THE STATE
v.
LAMPL

Reconsideration denied April 9, 2015.

Page 630

Certiorari to the Court of Appeals of Georgia -- 325 Ga.App. 344.

Tracy Graham-Lawson, District Attorney, Elizabeth A. Baker, Kathryn L. Powers, Frances C. Kuo, Assistant District Attorneys, for appellant.

The Steel Law Firm, Brian Steel, for appellee.

HUNSTEIN, Justice. All the Justices concur.

OPINION

Page 631

Hunstein, Justice.

We granted the State's petition for a writ of certiorari in this criminal case to determine whether the Court of Appeals properly affirmed the superior court's order dismissing a particular count of the indictment and suppressing statements made by the defendant, Appellee John James Lampl, before a special purpose grand jury. While we agree with the superior court's conclusion that the special [296 Ga. 893] purpose grand jury exceeded the scope of its authority in its investigation, we hold that the relief granted was improper. We therefore reverse.

In March 2011, the Chief Judge of the Clayton Judicial Circuit, at the request of the Clayton County District Attorney, issued an order pursuant to OCGA § 15-12-100 authorizing the impaneling of a special purpose grand jury to investigate certain alleged public corruption. The special purpose grand jury issued subpoenas to various witnesses, including Lampl, who testified before it in June 2011. In July 2011, the special purpose grand jury returned a 16-count bill of indictment against Lampl on charges of conspiracy in restraint of free and open competition, false statements and writings, and perjury. The indictment was subsequently nolle prossed in the aftermath of the Court of Appeals' holding in Kenerly v. State, 311 Ga.App. 190 (715 S.E.2d 688) (2011), that the authority of a special purpose grand jury is limited to conducting investigations and does not include the power to issue indictments.

Shortly thereafter, in September 2011, Lampl was indicted by a regular Clayton County grand jury on eight counts, including one perjury count, similar to those charged in the special purpose grand jury's initial indictment. The conspiracy and false statements counts all pertain to alleged conduct by Lampl, in his capacity as City Manager for the City of Morrow, in connection with a City real estate development project known as " Olde Towne Morrow." The perjury count is based on an alleged false statement Lampl made in the course of his testimony before the special purpose grand jury.[1]

Through counsel, Lampl filed a bevy of pretrial motions, including (1) a Motion to Quash Count VIII (the perjury count) and (2) a joint Motion to Dismiss Count VIII and Motion to Suppress Defendant's Alleged Statements Made to Grand Jury. Lampl also moved to compel the production of the special purpose grand jury's impaneling order, which had been filed under seal. The trial court subsequently ordered that the impaneling order be unsealed and a redacted version of the order, omitting the names of the particular individuals identified as subjects of the investigation, be released to the parties.

The impaneling order calls for the formation of " a special purpose grand jury for the purpose of investigating public corruption and various crimes allegedly committed by currently or previously elected county officials and county employees." It is undisputed that, during the time period under investigation, Lampl was an official with and [296 Ga. 894] employee of the City of Morrow, not Clayton County, and that Olde Towne Morrow was a project undertaken by the City, not the County. It is also undisputed that Lampl's name was not among those specifically referenced in the impaneling order as subjects of the investigation.[2]

Contending that the impaneling order did not authorize the special purpose grand jury to investigate alleged corruption by City officials, Lampl then filed a Plea in Bar and Motion to Dismiss with Prejudice, seeking dismissal of either the ...


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