by: Tony Thomas Updated:
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. - A high-ranking Georgia legislator is defending himself after a north Georgia woman said he is using his state office to drag out a trial for his client.
Authorities charged Walter Layson with two counts of vehicular homicide. He pleaded not guilty and is out on bond. Layson is being represented by current Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston, who is an attorney.
Ralston called Channel 2’s Tony Thomas on Friday and said he feels for the victim, but to blame the case delay solely on him is “not accurate.”
Ralston took over as Layson's defense in October 2008, just before becoming speaker. Another lawyer had the case before then and had already requested delays.
When Thomas asked Ralston why he hasn’t handed over the case, he said, “Mr. Layson hired me, and Mr. Layson has the right as a private citizen to retain who he wants to represent him.”
Ralston has admitted he can’t remember the last time he was in court. Mosher said his job is preventing her from getting justice in court.
Court records show Ralston has asked judges time after time for what's called legislative leave, saying he's busy with legislative business. Georgia law allows for such requests, but Mosher wonders how much is too much?
Mosher said she has a list of possible court dates but doesn’t think any of them will become reality.
"He's already continued all of them," Mosher said.
Mosher said five court dates have been rescheduled so far this year, including ones in July and September. Ralston said he was willing to try the case last year, but prosecutors tried other cases instead.
“Last May, I offered up six weeks from then to the end of December. They chose the cases,” he said.
Gilmer County’s district attorney said he shares Mosher's frustration, saying the family of a victim in a vehicular homicide case deserves better than what has occurred.
A representative for Ralston emailed a statement saying, in part, "Legislative leave was requested by the speaker. The District Attorney's Office did not object and the court granted leave. He hopes to try this case as soon as possible while balancing his duties as speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives with those that he has to his client."
Mosher said her message to Ralston is, "Please quit putting this off. I just want closure. I want justice."
Ralston said he hopes to get the case tried soon.
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