Western Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez on Monday offered an apology in a criminal case in which the victim felt her rights were violated by the DA’s office. On the same day, Athens-Clarke police obtained new criminal warrants against the suspect.
The apology came in the wake of a hearing held May 19 in which Gonzalez’s office was accused of violating the victim’s rights under the Georgia Crime Victim’s Rights known as Marsey’s Law.
Gonzalez then recused her office from prosecuting additional charges against the defendant, Michael Lareco Daniel, 42, of Lawrenceville.
Western Circuit Chief Superior Court Judge Eric Norris determined the office had violated Marsey’s Law in its handling of the prosecution of rape and child molestation charges.
“We want to extend our sincerest apology for any actions that might have resulted in the victim and their family feeling as if they were not heard and their rights were violated. We are taking appropriate measures to improve our office protocols so that we address communication requests with victims in a timelier manner,” the DA noted.
Norris has not said what consequences will occur as a result of the Marsey’s Law violation. Watkinsville attorney Kevin Epps, who represented the mother and victim, has urged a public reprimand of the office.
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During the Marsey’s law hearing before Norris, the mother of the victim, who was 14 at the time of the alleged crimes in 2021, testified as to e-mail messages that Daniel was sending her.
Daniel was under a court order to refrain from contacting the victim and her family, but testimony at the hearing alleged he contacted the mother three times by e-mail. She testified she never responded to his messages.
The mother said she informed a victim’s advocate at the DA’s office about this conduct by the defendant.
However, the DA’s office did not inform police about the matter, according to the testimony.
Athens-Clarke police detective Dara Deckert, who investigated the sexual assault charges against Daniel, obtained additional warrants on Monday charging Daniel with violating a family violence order and aggravated stalking. Daniel is also facing pending charges of cruelty to children and battery against the same young female. Those charges are on the Aug. 8 trial calendar.
The case file does not yet reflect who will prosecute the charges.
Daniel is currently serving time in the state prison system for a drug conviction.
The Marsey’s Law accusation was filed against the district attorney after rape and child molestation charges against Daniel were dismissed soon after a jury was seated in April to hear the allegations outlined in the indictment. The mother had testified she was “very frustrated” by the dismissal and she was more angry than hurt.
This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: DA give apology in Athens assault case, police seek more warrants