EXCLUSIVE: DA explains decision not to prosecute lawmaker arrested for knocking on governor’s door

ATLANTA — The Fulton County District Attorney is speaking only to Channel 2 Action News about her decision not to prosecute a state lawmaker arrested at the governor’s office.

Cell phone video of Rep. Park Cannon’s arrest went viral last month. The video showed her being dragged away by Capitol Police after knocking on the governor’s door while he held a televised statement about signing Georgia’s new election law.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray spoke exclusively Thursday with Fulton County DA Fani Willis about her decision not to charge Cannon.

Willis said she’s not going to second guess the state troopers who made the arrest. She wanted the public to understand that she and those officers are looking at different burdens of proof.

To prosecute a case, Willis said she’s looking for proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But to make an arrest, those officers are tasked with a lower standard -- probable cause.

Cannon was facing two felony charges stemming from the arrest.

“We all saw the cell phone video, but you saw a lot more video than any of us have seen?” Gray asked Willis.

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“Yes, absolutely,” Willis said. “I don’t think it was the wisest decision to arrest her. Certainly, was not a case that we could have prosecuted in the grand jury. Was not going to happen.”

Willis said she not only examined multiple surveillance cameras and cell phone videos, she also interviewed witnesses face to face who watched Cannon knock on the door to the governor’s office, then get arrested and hauled out of the capitol by state troopers.

“I am not going to stand in their place, but I do think this is a case where the chief of police may want to speak with his officers. We know that temperaments are high and there may need to be additional training,” Willis said.

In an incident report, one of officers said Cannon stomped on his foot. The DA said there is no evidence of that but she plans to meet with the troopers involved face to face to explain her decision.

“I spoke to the capitol chief of police today. I plan to go speak to his officers tomorrow at 7. I stand with the police. I have been criticized for that. I am not going to stand for citizens attacking police officers. I’m not going to do it,” Willis said.

The district attorney also said Cannon’s role as a state lawmaker did not affect the charging decision.

“If this was a regular citizen, not a state representative, would the situation have been different?” Gray asked Willis.

“Not for me. We would have done the same analysis,” Willis said.

“Come to the same conclusion?” Gray asked.

“Absolutely, because the facts and the law are either there or not there,” Willis said.

Willis said she’s going to the capitol on Friday to explain her decision not to prosecute the case directly to the state patrol officers.

In a statement, the Georgia State Patrol sent Gray a statement Thursday, saying:

“While the Georgia Department of Public Safety is aware of the Fulton County District Attorney’s prosecutorial discretion and decision not to pursue charges against Representative Park Cannon, the Department also supports the lawfulness of the arrest and the Trooper’s judgment.  In anticipation of a civil lawsuit, the Department cannot offer further comment.”

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