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PETA jumps into dog cruelty case
Banks County man already had trial date, DA says, despite flood of complaints
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The e-mails from animal lovers that flooded the inbox of Banks County District Attorney Brad Smith should subside after an action alert in a 2-year-old dog neglect case was lifted this week by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA asked its members to call on Smith to prosecute the March 2007 case of Randall Lamar Morgan, a former Jackson County Sheriff’s deputy accused of starving four Walker hounds to death on his property outside of Homer.

In an action alert posted on its Web site two weeks ago, the national animal advocacy group included grisly photographs of the dead dogs purportedly taken at the scene.

Smith, who was elected as the new Piedmont Judicial Circuit district attorney late last year, said a June 15 trial date was already set in the case when he took office in January. Banks County only holds trials twice a year, and Morgan’s attorney previously asked for a delay in the case, Smith said.

"I get 30 e-mails a day concerning this case," Smith said. "I appreciate everyone’s concern, and we’ll do our best to make sure justice is done, but we can’t get to it any sooner."

Smith did not rule out a negotiated plea in the case to avoid a trial.

PETA Cruelty Caseworker Peter Wood, after being told of the court date by a reporter, said he would remove the action alert from the organization’s Web site. Wood said the action alert was used as a last resort after PETA got no response from Smith or his predecessors in several formal letters sent to the district attorney’s office.

Wood said he also checked with the Banks County Clerk of Court’s office and was told there was no trial date set for Morgan.

PETA became involved in the case after a relative of Morgan’s complained to the group that she didn’t think authorities were moving forward in prosecuting him, Wood said.

Wood said the group wrote former District Attorney Tim Madison, who is now serving a six-year prison sentence for stealing public money, then Interim District Attorney Allison Mauldin, then appointed District Attorney Rick Bridgeman, and finally, on April 2, a letter was faxed to Smith, Wood said. No one ever wrote back, he said.

Smith said he wasn’t sure if he received a letter from PETA officials, but if he did, he did not respond.

Wood said this week that "we’re definitely pleased to know that (Morgan) will be going to trial, and that these animals have not been forgotten and at least some measure of justice can be secured in this case. Hopefully this will send a message that you can’t starve your animals, no matter who you are, and that you will be held responsible."

Morgan has an unlisted phone number and his attorney was unavailable for comment Friday.

Banks County sheriff’s officials charged Morgan with four counts of cruelty to animals. The decomposed remains of the dogs were found chained without access to food or water, authorities said.

Cruelty to animals is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

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