The Union Recorder

January 17, 2014

New faces

Baldwin gets new assistant DAs

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Baldwin County hub of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s office has new blood.

Shifting amongst eight counties in the criminal felony and misdemeanor circuit including Greene, Hancock, Jasper, Jones, Morgan, Putnam and Wilkinson opened up slots for two assistant district attorneys (ADAs).

Leonard Myers, 47, and Skye Gess, 26, are just settling into the Baldwin County courthouse this month.

“We’re expanding the Baldwin office,” District Attorney Fred Bright said. “We’ve got a lot of new faces.”

Baldwin has four ADA positions under Bright. Chief Assistant District Attorney Stephen Bradley serves with Myers and Gess.

Former ADA Chase Guerin is departing to join his wife’s private practice in Macon, leaving the county with one of 12-funded state paid Adult Treatment Court Collaborative (ATCC) prosecutor slots to fill. Guerin spent a portion of his efforts in ATCC with the other spent on a regular circuit case load.

Bright said interviews should wrap up in a month or so.

Myers, a Mercer Law grad, has 17 years of law experience the last four of which came as a Jones County public defender. 

The legal world runs in the family for Myers, as both a sister and brother-in-law practice in Macon.

Five years of United States Navy service leaned the new ADA toward undergraduate law study at the University of Georgia.

“I wanted to be in a courtroom,” he said. “I tell the preacher side of my family that I have a 12-member congregation. That’s where I belong.”

Myers described a comfort level coming back to a district attorney environment.

A fellow Mercer Law student, Gess, made her way to the Ocmulgee Circuit through the Coweta Circuit. She passed the bar in November 2012.

Gess completed a clerkship under Judge John Simpson. 

“My fiancée bought a farm in Sparta. This just kind of all fell into place,” Gess said.

Since 12 years old, Gess wanted to live the attorney life.

A Mercer criminal law profession captivated the 26-year-old.

“That’s all I focused on,” Gess said. “I enjoy the interaction with people. That’s what this job gives you.”

An always-evolving criminal law landscape keeps the young ADA interested and focused. 

Myers said the DA job is a “calling.” A fancy name and publicity don’t come along in this line of work.

“We are always in the trenches and not in a position where we are recognized for our years of service,” Myers said. “When you help a family and take someone that ought to scare us off the streets and make Baldwin County safer, it’s the reward knowing we are serving our community.”

Prosecutors invest their hearts into cases as if the victims are family.

With the help of a jury, these lawyers operate on a truth finding mission.

Personal investment can be burdensome when a verdict comes back a certain way. It can tear the heart out.

“A jury’s job is to speak the truth, and if that truth is a person is not guilty, then that person should be let free and if they are guilty there should be punished,” Myers said. 

Attorneys on this side of law attempt to instill a family’s faith in the 12-man jury for justice to run its course.

Gess construed reading a case file to painting a picture.

“I go through the facts and try to build the best picture possible,” she said. “It’s hard to talk to the victims. You aren’t trying to pry into what happened to them, but you have to do this job. I put my whole heart into each case.” 

The new ADAs said they are fortunate to have quality law enforcement in the Ocmulgee Circuit, making the prosecution’s job easier.

Investigators help fill holes a defense could dive through.

“We don’t have people making rookie mistakes. They are all well trained,” Myers said. “Rest assured an officer will go out and get the answers if it’s within their power.”

Asking tons of questions doesn’t disturb local detectives, according to Gess. 

“They are a great bunch. We all appreciate their effort,” the 26-year-old ADA said.

Both ADAs recognize Bright as a quality leader in criminal prosecution.

“I wouldn’t have considered working for him if I didn’t think (Bright) was a good upstanding person,” Myers said. “I also think an awful lot of Stephen Bradley. I felt like I’d learn from both of them following in their footsteps.”

Gess said Bright’s passion feeds into the DA’s office.

Though both ADAs are just beginning in Baldwin County the public can rest easy knowing they are qualified to protect them.

“We are seeking justice not vengeance,” Myers said.

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