The plot of former Atlanta Hawks forward Mike Scott’s 2015 arrest just thickened considerably.
Less than a week after a Georgia judge cleared Scott of felony drug charges — calling into question the Banks County Sheriff’s Office’s actions before, during and after the traffic stop two years ago — the department fired one of the arresting deputies, raising further questions about local policing tactics.
Scott was the passenger in a Chevrolet Tahoe driven by his brother Antonn on Interstate 85 through Banks County in July 2015, when the siblings were pulled after allegedly “failing to yield to officers” and charged with possession of more than an ounce of marijuana and 10.9 grams of MDMA, or “Molly.”
Some 22 months later, Banks County Superior Judge Currie Mingledorff II suppressed all evidence and dismissed the charges on Wednesday, citing insufficient reason for the traffic stop, improper search of the vehicle, no probable cause for an arrest and a failure to “enforce the law in a racially neutral manner,” per reports from The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Via the AJC:
In his eight-page ruling, Mingledorff gutted the sheriff office’s handling of the case, singling out Deputy Brent Register, a key witness, of providing “testimony that was in contradiction to admitted documentary evidence.” Mingledorff also found it “surprising and concerning” there was no video evidence provided of the stop “in an era in which police conduct is so carefully scrutinized.”
And from Wojnarowski:
“In my 35 years of practicing law, this could be the worst case of racial profiling I have ever seen,” Steve Weiner, counsel for Mike Scott, told The Vertical. “Hopefully this will lead to Banks County, Georgia, re-evaluating their policies.”
Then, over the weekend, the Banks County Sheriff’s Office relieved Deputy Brent Register of his duties.
“Our agency’s recent administrative review of the Scott case ruling has resulted in the dismissal of Brent Register from Banks County Sheriff’s Office,” BCSO spokesperson Carissa McFadden said in a statement to Banks News Today. “We addressed an issue that was brought to our attention immediately. In the profession of law enforcement, issues will arise in every agency due to an essence of individuals being imperfect. One officer’s actions does not reflect the agency as a whole.”
According to Mingledorff’s ruling, 44 of Register’s 47 arrests on more than 1,400 traffic stops in 2105 and 2016 involved minorities in a county that is more than 90 percent white — “truly shocking” numbers, the judge said. “The court does not believe the BCSO Criminal Interdiction Unit enforced the law in a racially neutral manner when interacting with the Scott brothers,” he added in his ruling.
It does not sound as if this is the last we should hear on this story, since there were multiple deputies on scene and the public is still unclear on whether the Scotts possessed that much Molly. It seems far more grave a crime to supply faulty evidence and offer false testimony in an attempt to convict someone of a felony crime that carries up to a 15-year sentence in Georgia, if that is indeed the case.
Between his arrest and the court ruling, Scott saw his role on the Hawks severely diminished — from an average of 16.5 minutes over 68 games in 2014-15 to just 10.8 in 18 games this season. Once a key cog in Atlanta’s 60-win run to the 2015 Eastern Conference finals, the 28-year-old was traded to the Phoenix Suns for merely a top-55 protected second-round pick in February and waived a day later.
This season marked the last of a three-year, $10 million deal Scott signed in 2014. According to Wojnarowski, teams opted not to sign him for the playoff run until after his court case was settled. Now that it appears to be resolved, to some degree, Scott could be a coveted free agent this summer.
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