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Ga. bill looks to stretch prosecutors’ reach against gangs

Atlanta police investigate after a 6-month-old was shot and killed in a gunfight in January 2022.
Atlanta police investigate after a 6-month-old was shot and killed in a gunfight in January 2022.(CNN)
Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 9:00 AM EST
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ATLANTA (WGCL/CBS46) - Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis testified to the state Senate Judiciary Committee to offer her support for a bill that would strengthen prosecution of street gangs.

It’s called the Safe and Secure Georgia Act.

“I think it’s extremely important not only to urban district attorneys,” Willis said Tuesday, adding that rural prosecuting offices will benefit, as well.

The bill sponsored by Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, aims to bring down a heavy hand against gang members, holding them responsible in one county for gang-related crimes committed in another county.

“It’s not that you’re a gang member and every single act that you ever do we are going to prosecute you; however, if you are in a gang then you can be responsible for all the crimes you commit in furtherance of that gang,” Willis said.

Supporters of the bill argue that by joining the gang, the courts can consider the individual member as part of the larger gang conspiracy to commit other crimes in other counties, this making that participating member responsible for cross-jurisdictional crimes of that gang.

“A gang by its nature is a special kind of criminal conspiracy,” said John Floyd, a prosecutor and expert on conspiracy and racketeering law. “If a person joins a conspiracy they are tried in any place where that entity commits that conspiracy.”

The bill would direct courts to enforce minimum prison sentences for felons convicted of firearm possession. It would also prohibit sentencing courts from suspending or deferring a sentence for violent domestic offenders and felons with guns. It would also more seriously punish repeat abusers of children, the disabled, and elderly.

Earlier, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced support of House Bill 1134 that would allow his office the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute criminal gang activity across the state.

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