'We're not backing down': Augusta forms new Violent Crimes Unit, Special Victims Unit




  • In US
  • 2022-10-04 16:41:59Z
  • By The Augusta Chronicle
Augusta District Attorney Jared Williams speaks during a press conference on the steps of the Richmond County Judicial Center on Tuesday, Oct.
Augusta District Attorney Jared Williams speaks during a press conference on the steps of the Richmond County Judicial Center on Tuesday, Oct.  

Standing in front of the Augusta Judicial Center Tuesday morning, Augusta District Attorney Jared Williams announced the formation of the Major Crimes Division, which will include a Violent Crimes Unit and a Special Victims Unit.

The new division was created in response to the lack of violent crime convictions, setting Augusta behind other large cities across the state.

In 2018, the sheriff's office caught Darrell Oliver, a serial rapist. The DA's Office took him to trial three separate times, and lost each time.

'The hardest to prove': Prosecutors lay out challenges of getting sex assault convictions

Williams said sex crimes cases are challenging to prosecute and Oliver going free, time and time again, showed the need for restructuring the DA's Office.

Out of every 1,000 instances of rape, only 13 cases get referred to a prosecutor, and only 7 cases will lead to a felony conviction, according to data from RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.

Williams said victims of violent crimes in Richmond County previously had overworked, underpaid prosecutors that may have been splitting time between murders and marijuana cases, or sex crimes and shoplifting.

"In 2020, Darrell Oliver wasn't facing an SVU prosecutor," he said. "He walked away, free to go commit another rape. He did just that in November of last year, but this time we were ready."

Last week, Oliver went up against SVU prosecutors and after five days of trial, a Richmond County jury found him guilty of rape, kidnapping with bodily injury and burglary in the first degree. He received two life sentences plus 20 years.

Augusta District Attorney Jared Williams speaks during a press conference on the steps of the Richmond County Judicial Center on Tuesday, Oct.
Augusta District Attorney Jared Williams speaks during a press conference on the steps of the Richmond County Judicial Center on Tuesday, Oct.  

"I think it's just the perfect example of when you take a big city approach to big city crime, you get big city results," Williams said. "To the gang members and people who do gun violence - we've got a gang too. To the child molesters and sexual predators, we're watching and we're ready. To the community, we're in this fight with you and we're not backing down."

As of Aug. 30, 7,404 incidents of domestic violence were reported to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, while 447 incidents of domestic violence were reported to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.

'The numbers are high': Domestic violence is on the rise statewide

The number of domestic violence incidents are underreported everywhere, so the true number of incidents occurring in Richmond County, and statewide, is likely higher, according to Jennifer Frantom, development director for SafeHomes of Augusta.

Nationally, the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide by 500%, according to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.

Previously: Family of slain security guard suspects killing was an act of domestic violence

The new Major Crimes Division

The DA's Office began working on the new Major Crimes Division in 2021 and officially launched the two new units in December.

The dual-threat team of prosecutors was modeled after the most successful units in the nation and the state to address violent crimes, according to Williams.

Augusta District Attorney Jared Williams speaks during a press conference on the steps of the Richmond County Judicial Center on Tuesday, Oct.
Augusta District Attorney Jared Williams speaks during a press conference on the steps of the Richmond County Judicial Center on Tuesday, Oct.  

The division encompasses two units - the Violent Crimes Unit and the Special Victims Unit. The Violent Crimes Unit, headed by Chief Assistant District Attorney Kevin Davis, combats gangs and gun violence. The Special Victims Unit, headed by Deputy Chief ADA Deshala Dixon, focuses on sex cases, crimes against the vulnerable and elderly, and crimes against children.

Gun violence: Two Richmond County juries deliver guilty verdicts in separate 2017 shootings

"The first step was the specialization because there's so much institutional knowledge that goes into how you try one of these cases - and if you don't do it often, it's easy for it to get rusty," Williams said. "By having a group of attorneys who do nothing but sex crimes, domestic violence, crimes against the elderly and crimes against children, it helps them have a firmer foundation of knowledge to work off of."

The DA's office has tried 24 violent felony cases before a jury so far in 2022, passing pre-pandemic numbers for jury trials on serious violent felonies.

'We hear you': Richmond County Sheriff's Office seizes guns, drugs off the streets

Williams recognized DA's Office employees, Richmond County Sheriff's Office investigators and the community for their part in keeping the community safe.

"We are all in this together," he said. "We stand with you in this fight to win back our city from violence and depravity, and from those who seek to do harm."

This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Augusta forms new Violent Crimes Unit, Special Victims Unit

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