COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A Marietta City Councilman charged with obstruction after he refused to obey police orders following a traffic accident has entered a plea in the case and will be treated as a first offender.
Reggie Copeland, 57, entered a negotiated “Alford plea” Jan. 20 to one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct, according to Cobb County State Court records. The Alford plea allows a defendant to say he or she is innocent, but admits that the prosecution has enough evidence to obtain a conviction.
In turn, prosecutors dropped the three charges of misdemeanor obstruction and sentenced Copeland as a first offender. Cobb County Solicitor General Barry Morgan said first offender status, which is available to defendants who have no prior convictions, allows a judge to issue an order restricting their records. Only law enforcement would be able to see the previous charge, but it would not be available to employers or come up on credit inquiries or housing applications, Morgan said.
As part of the agreement, Copeland was also required to get treatment for anger management. Copeland also petitioned State Court Judge Maria Golick to seal his case records from public view, which she did.
“This court finds that the harm resulting to the privacy of the defendant outweighs the public interest in the criminal history record information being publicly available,” Golick wrote in her order on Jan. 23. Judicial and law enforcement officials can still view information about the case.
Copeland and his attorney, Sandy Wallack, did not respond to requests for comment.
Copeland, 57, was charged in May with three counts of misdemeanor obstruction after Marietta police say he refused to provide a driver’s license or get out of his truck when police asked him to. Officers eventually removed him from the truck and handcuffed him.
According to police, Copeland’s 2017 Ford pickup truck was struck May 24 by a woman making a U-turn at South Fairground and Haley streets. Body camera footage obtained from the Cobb Solicitor General’s Office under the Open Records Act shows Marietta officer Ryan Lukaszewicz asking Copeland to move the truck into a parking lot at Fairground Street and South Marietta Parkway.
Copeland hesitates, and calls a 9-1-1 dispatcher to report the accident. Lukaszewicz also asks Copeland for his driver’s license.
“Can you grab your driver’s license for me? Like now, please? Like right now?” the officer asks.
When Copeland doesn’t respond, the officer tries to close the door. Copeland continues to talk with the dispatcher, and the officer tells Copeland he’s wasting the dispatcher’s time by reporting an accident officers were already trying to investigate.
Copeland eventually pulls into the parking lot, closes his door, rolls up his window and calls Deputy Chief Marty Ferrell. Meanwhile, the officer repeatedly taps on Copeland’s truck and asks, “are you going to keep ignoring me?” and asks for his driver’s license. Copeland tells Ferrell about the traffic accident and says Lukaszewicz “closed the door on my foot.” He holds onto the phone and remains in the truck.
When two additional officers arrive and Lukaszewicz repeats his request for him to come out of the truck, Copeland hesitates, and the officers reach in to grab him. Copeland tells the officers, “you don’t have to put your hands on me.”
The officers continue to struggle with Copeland, and one tells him to “step out or you’re going to get tased.”
According to an incident report, Copeland anchored himself to the console inside the truck. Officers forcibly pulled him from the vehicle.
“This is terrible,” Copeland says. “I’m in a car accident and you’re going to handcuff me.”
One officer responds, “I agree, you’re acing like a child.”
According to an incident report written by another responding officer, “The entire time Copeland was resisting, officer Lukaszewicz and I were constantly telling Copeland to stop resisting. Copeland responded that he wasn’t resisting, that he was just in a car accident and that he was a council member.”
Copeland was allowed to leave the scene, but Marietta officers on May 29 got a warrant to arrest him on three counts of obstruction. He was booked into the Cobb County jail and released on bond.
Copeland, who was elected to his first term in November 2017, was not injured in the crash. The woman, who had a passenger in the car at the time of the incident, was also not injured but was cited for the collision.
This article written by Kristal Dixon with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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