Thousands in Georgia getting probation again and again

Thousands in Georgia getting probation again and again
Marshall Pope tells his story with his lawyer, Dennis Scheib.

ATLANTA,None — Channel 2's Mark Winne first met him in the lock-up. But the subject of conversation was the five different cases where he got probation instead of hard time.

Marshall Pope was about to turn 22. Maybe surprisingly, considering not just what he’s accused of now, but also what he’s admitted to in his past, a grin, almost sheepish, broke out often on a face tattooed with tear drops, the word “money” over the right eyebrow and “hungry” over the left.

PHOTOS: Pope transformed from a clean-cut teen in a polo shirt to his current incarceration

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Pope is not alone. After a state official confirmed early this year that the suspect in the slaying of a state trooper was on probation in three different felony cases from two counties at the same time, Channel 2 undertook a project stretching over months in conjunction with the Guggenheim Conference on Crime in America at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The results were startling. Data gathered specifically for this project by the Georgia Department of Corrections shows Marshall Pope is one of many Georgians on probation for more than one felony case at the same time.

State Probation Director Stan Cooper says that’s true for thousands—approximately 28 percent of Georgia probationers. He says about 2 percent have five or more simultaneous cases—and a fraction of a percent even have ten or more at the same time.

Side-by-side, Pope and his current attorney, Dennis Scheib, told much of his story. But another part unfolds in hundreds—maybe thousands—of documents that Channel 2 researcher Tahnee Tangherlini and Winne poured over.

Case-by-case, here are the highlights, for want of a better term, of a criminal career:

  • Jan. 16, 2007 (Marshall Pope was barely 17)According to a prosecutor, an Atlanta Police officer responded to a shoplifting call with the suspect on the run.  Someone snatched several items from a Burlington Coat Factory and ran to a car. "The car stalled and the two men bailed and ran." After a chase through the woods, Pope, was detained wearing clothing from the store with the tags still attached. He also had crack cocaine and gave a fake name and claimed to be 15. The car in which he'd attempted his escape turned out to be stolen, with a broken steering column.

In the jailhouse interview, Winne asked Pope about what he was thinking after that arrest. “They made little threats and stuff,” he told Winne. “You know, ‘Be gone for a long time.’ ‘Throw away the key,’ all that good stuff like that. But I was just young, young and reckless."

The following month, he was back in trouble.

  • Feb. 26, 2007 A police report says, "School officials spotted Mr. Pope inside of Douglass High School. Mr. Pope advised that he was a student, but it was found that the subject did not attend Douglass High School….

“Upon placing the subject under arrest, it was also found that Mr. Pope had two hits of suspected crack cocaine in his jacket pocket on school property.”

  • Court records indicate on June 13, 2007, Pope pled guilty in connection with the January case to theft by receiving stolen property, auto; misdemeanor theft by shoplifting; misdemeanor obstruction of a law enforcement officer and one count of giving false information to a law enforcement officer. At the same hearing, he also pled guilty to charges from the February incident: possession of cocaine, giving false information to a law enforcement officer and criminal trespass. A judge sentenced him to a combination of probation and suspended sentences, with "first offender" treatment for both cases.

“Now, the special conditions of your probation will be that you complete your G.E.D.  And the ankle monitor will remain on you until your G.E.D. is completed,” said the judge.

Watch below for a discussion with Marshall Pope over whether he ever got his G.E.D:

“Additionally, you will be required to stay with your mother, at your mother’s residence, during the course of the probation until your probation is completed,” the judge continued. “You will also be required to submit to random drug and alcohol screens and alcohol and drug evaluation and treatment as determined by the probation office.”

He seemed to indicate he was able to comply with those two things. He wasn’t really a drug user, he said, but a drug dealer.

But the judge also told the teen, “You will be required to maintain gainful employment or remain in school. If, in fact, you maintain gainful employment you will be required to complete 80 hours of community service. If you decide, however, to attend school after you get your G.E.D., then you will not be required to complete that 80 hours of community service.”

Watch Pope explain how he complied with those requirements:

“You’re being given an extraordinary opportunity. You’re 17 years old. Do you understand that? If you complete all of this, you will not have a record and you can go on with your life. Do that for all of us,” said the judge.

  • Sept. 16, 2008 Pope appeared before another judge, who announced "This is going to be a guilty plea on a non-negotiated basis. That means there is no agreement. The state is going to make a recommendation. Your attorney is going to make a recommendation. Then the court is going to impose a sentence. You will have five minutes to decide whether or not you wish to accept the sentence."

Pope pled guilty to possession of a firearm by a first offender. It had to do with a traffic stop and a gun in a paper bag. The sentence: five years, do 90 days, the rest probated, with conditions. “The new conviction violates his first offender,” said the judge. So he was re-sentenced on the first two cases. Also five years, do 90 days, the rest probated. All three sentences run concurrently.

“After you do your 90 days, you’re back on probation in all three cases,” the judge says. And later: “Don’t mess up.”

  • Feb. 29, 2009 He'd messed up. "You're charged with one count of burglary, one misdemeanor marijuana and one misdemeanor loitering, how do you wish to plead?" asks the judge.

“Guilty, sir.”

Pope’s lawyer says, “Just in the interest of background, Mr. Pope never knew his father. He died before he was even born. And it looks like the trouble that Mr. Pope has been getting into recently sort of started around the same time that his mother got cancer. She reports to me how they just sort of lost control of him at that point. And also, you know, kind of blames herself because she wasn’t there to really be a mother because she was kind of too busy working in order to support him.”

The judge observed, “On his fourth felony and he’s 19. He’s had a gun. He’s had drugs. He’s in a stolen car. I think it was a car. Theft by receiving a car, I think, and now it’s a burglary. OK?

“Can’t come up with anything else really that he hasn’t done. Well, I can think of some things. I hope he doesn’t do those things. But he’s not doing well.”

The judge says he’ll have to do 120 to 150 days at a detention center. (That’s viewed as a prison alternative.)

“After the detention center, you’re back on probation,” the judge says.

“You’re running out of options. You really are. Things have got to change. That’s it.”

  • Jan. 4, 2010  Back before the judge. Theft by receiving stolen property auto. Says the judge: "It's going to 20 years to serve six months with the balance probated" with conditions. In other words, six months locked up and 19 years and six months probation.

The judge also indicates he’s revoking six months and reinstating the balance on his four probation cases.

“When you get out, you’ll be on probation in five cases in Fulton County.”

  • Sept. 20, 2010 An affidavit for arrest alleges Marshall Pope committed aggravated assault when he fired at a car and hit the victim in the head.

Click here to view an "Order of Revocation" for Marshall Pope. Take note of the circled "commute to time served" and the notation "complete IPS." IPS stands for Intensive Probation Supervision, officials said.