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ACLU Sues ‘Crooked’ Public Defender in Georgia

by Ed Lyon

Reid Zeh is Glynn County, Georgia’s public defender. As a lawyer, his personal conduct is far from the sterling standard expected from members of the Bar. In March 2018, he was jailed on a battery charge. He promptly made bail and hired a lawyer to represent him. In June 2018, police cited him for driving his car into a woman’s porch while he was drunk. The officers told him not to drive any more that evening. He then had a negative encounter with a woman and was arrested for intoxicated driving later that same night. He posted bail of $1,690 to regain his freedom. Not so easy for any of his clients to do, though.

Two of Zeh’s client/victims were Margery Mock and Eric Ogden. Two of Glynn County’s poor, they had to rely on Zeh, who is paid a flat fee by Glynn County to represent its poorer citizens, to help them. Zeh never met with Mock or Ogden, who were jailed for misdemeanor criminal trespass charges because they could not afford bail. Zeh never sought any bail modifications that would have allowed his clients to leave jail pending trial.

Robert Cox and his elderly mother paid Zeh $2,500 to represent Cox, as a public defender, on a single misdemeanor. They did not know Glynn County was paying Zeh, so they did not have to.

During the next two years, Cox would spend 170 days in jail on various misdemeanor charges and never saw Zeh until it was time to arrange a plea deal for Cox.

The ACLU filed suit against Zeh, Glynn County, and other officials on behalf of Mock and Ogden. The suit was amended to add Cox and his 75-year-old mother as two more of Zeh’s client/victims.

The organization seeks an “immediate and permanent change” to the cash bail system and public defender system for misdemeanors, according to a press release. 


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