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DA Disputes Sheriff’s Claim She’s Not Prosecuting Cases

District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez.

Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez said on Friday that Oconee County Sheriff James Hale was incorrect on Monday when he said that she is unwilling to prosecute cases in the county.

Gonzalez was responding to a news release circulated by the Oconee County Republican Party after its meeting on Monday that claimed that Hale had said “he has a stack of cases that District Attorney Deborah Gonzales refuses to prosecute.”

According to the news release, Hale said, “Those cases range from shoplifting to more severe crimes that could carry a sentence of more than 30 years.”

Gonzalez said that “if Sheriff Hale believes there are a significant number of cases this office is declining to prosecute, he is mistaken.”

Gonzales said there is a backlog of cases as a result of the pandemic and underfunding of her office, but that her staff is “working hard to process all cases brought before us in as timely a manner as possible.”

Hale said on Friday afternoon that the news release accurately quoted him with one exception. He said he had not said anything about 30-year sentences.

The Oconee County Republican Party changed its policy on June 21 to ban all outside recording of the its sessions and has not released any recording of the meeting, so it is impossible to know exactly what Hale said on Monday.

Gonzalez also said she found Hale’s comments surprising given that her office had just obtained two guilty verdicts on two Oconee murder cases.

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