DA Paul Howard Defends Forfeiture Fund Use, Blasts News Crew Taping His Home
4:32 pm, June 7th, 2013
The same day the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted a story online concerning Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard’s use of tens of thousands of dollars in seized money for office parties, football tickets, charitable donations and other apparently non-law enforcement related expenditures, Howard called a press conference to defend the spending and to address one specific expenditure: wrought-iron security doors installed at his home.
Howard said that a media crew’s efforts to videotape the doors at his home earlier in the day had “crossed the line,” compromising his security and placing his family at risk.
According to the story, Howard’s office spent $2,800 on the doors last year, and another $5,700 on a camera system and other security measures.
Friday afternoon, standing before a knot of reporters and cameras in the portico of the Fulton County Justice Tower as a light rain fell, Howard said that he had provided the media “hundreds of documents” and made himself and his office available for hours of questioning concerning the spending, which he characterized as “money from criminals, particularly drug pushers, not taxpayer dollars.”
After defending the spending as valuable community outreach and in line with established guidelines for spending forfeited funds, Howard turned to the security doors. Howard said he and his staff are frequent targets of threats, and read from a 2010 letter from inmate at the Fulton County Jail warning that there would be two failed assassination attempts on his life, “but the third one will be completed.”
He also read from a 2005 email signed by “The Man That’s Going to Kill You,” and said that earlier this year the FBI and Atlanta Police had warned him that a gang had put out the word to “whack” one of his senior attorneys.
Noting the murder of a Texas district attorney and his wife in March, Howard said that the efforts to videotape the doors at his home could expose where he lives.
“As a father and as a husband, I would only ask that you not expose myself and my family to unnecessary danger,” Howard said. He ignored reporters’ shouted questions as he turned and left the podium.
The AJC report said that a review of records sought under an Open records Act revealed that, between 2008 and 2012, Howard’s office spent about $344,000 in forfeited money. About $115,000 paid for an intern program, but about $39,000 “went for tickets, sponsorships and donations to functions hosted by well-connected nonprofits and churches,” it said.