ATLANTA, Ga. -- The former prosecutor locked in a fierce race to become Georgia's top attorney on Thursday called for his Democratic opponent to take down an attack ad that claims he made a series of mistakes in a high-profile case.
Ken Hodges said Thursday that the 30-second attack ad sponsored by state Rep. Rob Teilhet's campaign for attorney general exploited the victims of the case. He also unveiled letters from his supporters that condemned Teilhet for running the ad in the days before the July 20 primary.
"We knew it was false," Hodges said at a press conference. "We knew that we had the truth on our side."
The ad at the center of the controversy features Emily Walker criticizing Hodges for failing to secure a grand jury indictment against the deputy who shot and killed her unarmed son Kenneth in a case that exposed racial tensions in west Georgia.
She said in the ad that "the officer got off because the prosecutor, Ken Hodges, forgot to swear him in, tried to hide the video and then refused to reopen the case. I could never get an answer why."
Teilhet said in a statement that his campaign would not remove the ad and that suggesting so was an "insult" to Emily Walker and her family.
"For someone running to be Attorney General to demand the silence of victims and their families is wrong," he said.
Kenneth Walker was pulled over in December 2003 after officers said they watched him leave a home that was staked out during a drug investigation. Video shows Muscogee County sheriff's deputy David Glisson shooting Walker in the head, killing him. No drugs or firearms were found in the vehicle or on any of its occupants.
Hodges, a former Dougherty County district attorney, was appointed the special prosecutor to present the case to the Muscogee County grand jury in November 2004. The panel decided not to indict Glisson, stirring racial tensions in Columbus because Walker was black and the deputy is white.
Hodges has repeatedly said that Teilhet has twisted the facts.
He and his allies said that he never tried to hide the video in the case and that he told Walker and her lawyers he would bring the case back to a grand jury if there was new evidence. Hodges also said that although Glisson should have been sworn in, the law did not require it at the time and that it had no bearing on the grand jury's decision.
Hodges' supporters in the legal community say that Teilhet is making political hay out of a tragic case.
"I am concerned that the truth is not clearly depicted and my concern is that this may have been done for selfish political gain," said Leah Ward Sears, the former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. "If inaccurate, the exploitation of this grieving mother is intolerable."
But Emily Walker said in a telephone interview that she stands by her words and that she was relieved to have the opportunity to go public.
"It seemed like an opportunity that I've been waiting on," she said. "For six years I've had to deal with this. I just could not sit back and let some of the things go that have been going on for the past six years."
The winner of the contest faces one of three Republicans also vying for the first open attorney general seat in more than 60 years. Former U.S. Attorney Max Wood, state Sen. Preston Smith and ex-Cobb County Commission chair Sam Olens are competing for their party's nomination.