Ga. Officer Sanctioned for Tardiness on Sick Day

ATLANTA --

An Atlanta police officer forced to work on a sick day is facing a charge, a fine and an apology letter for showing up late.

The accused officer, Atlanta police investigator Patrick Apoian, was scheduled to attend the trial of a man accused of attacking an elderly man in an armed robbery. The case was dismissed, and according to the presiding judge, Apoian’s tardiness is to blame. But the officer is fighting back.

The morning of the trial, Apoian woke up with an upper respiratory infection and a high fever, his attorney, David Beall said. He said Apoian followed proper procedures, alerting prosecutors that he was ill, but he was ordered to appear in court anyway.

“Sometime while he was on the way, and the judge was informed he was on the way, the judge dismissed the case against the guy because [Apoian] was not there,” Beall told Channel 2’s Richard Elliot.

When Apoian showed up three hours late, he was slapped with a $500 fine, a contempt charge and ordered to write an apology letter to the victim in the case. The victim was an 80-year-old man that was assaulted with a box cutter on Ponce de Leon Avenue more than a year ago, authorities said.

Beall said he believes this is a case of judicial misconduct.

“It’s not a case where he was faking it, where he just didn’t want to show up,” said Beall. “He woke up ill, and this judge decided that she wanted to make an example out of someone, and bottom line, she picked the wrong person.”

Apoian is regarded as a top notch police officer and sits on the board of the Atlanta Police Union. He also created a charity called Humble Heroes that assists sick and injured police officers and firefighters.

A high-ranking source inside the Fulton County District Attorney’s office told Elliot that tardy officers are not a major problem for prosecutors, and that this is the first time anyone can remember a judge dismissing robbery or assault charges because an investigator was late for court.

But Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams stands by her decision. Her staff told Elliot over the phone that she had no choice but to dismiss the robbery and assault charges against Phillips. Staff members said Adams believes too many Atlanta police officers fail to comply with court subpoenas.

The suspect, Alfonzo Phillips, did not go free after Adams dismissed his robbery and assault charges. That same day, he pleaded guilty to lesser and unrelated theft and obstruction charges. Adams sentenced him to four years in prison.

Still, Beall believes she overreacted. Apoian plans to appeal his case to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

“I think judges are elected to the bench to be fair and to administer justice for the county,” said Beall. “And in this case, I don’t think justice was served in any capacity.”

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