COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Curtis Lee Fletcher, 50, was arrested in January 2018 and charged with burglary.
Fletcher got out on probation in 2019 after pleading guilty to one count of criminal damage.
He ended up back in jail last year on a probation violation.
Last month, a judge terminated the balance of his probation – basically setting him free after more than 400 days in jail.
A WRBL investigative report has uncovered that Fletcher released this week – 18 days after a judge ordered his immediate release. Meaning, that he stayed in jail, 18 days longer than he should have.
Here’s the timeline:
— July 28 – Prosecutors and Fletcher’s attorney reach a deal that will allow Fletcher to be released from jail. It came during a court hearing that Fletcher did not attend.
— July 29 – Superior Court Judge Art Smith signs an order that terminates Fletcher’s probation and allows for his immediate release. The judge back dates the order to July 28.
— Aug. 1 – The probation office e-files the order with the Muscogee County Superior Court Clerk’s office.
— Aug. 15 – Fletcher calls his attorney and asks why he’s still being held in jail. The attorney calls the clerk’s office. The Clerk’s Office notifies the jail. Fletcher is released that afternoon.
Here’s what that means.
“Mr. Fletcher had a probation matter. And the court terminated his probation, effectively ending his sentence,” said Steve Craft, chief assistant Public Defender. “And he should have been released the day of the sentencing order.”
Normally a “jail card” goes back with the inmate when a change in status happens. That didn’t happen here because Fletcher was not in court.
The Muscogee County Superior Court Clerk’s office is the official record in all felony criminal cases.
Superior Court Clerk Danielle F. Forté declined an on-camera interview but in a phone conversation with WRBL she pushed back hard on calling this a processing issue in her office.
Forté says she changed the office policy for handling these types of cases. That change came in mid-July, weeks before Fletcher was ordered released.
Here’s a piece of Forté’s statement on the policy change.
“The new policy will require that, rather than filing the probation order via the general e-filing system and sending the email, the probation order must be filed in-person to the Clerk’s Office, which will allow the probation order to be acted upon immediately.”