February 20, 2014

Appeals court won’t lift Georgia man’s banishment

By KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press

ATLANTA — A man who challenged his court-ordered banishment from many of Georgia’s counties was turned down Wednesday by a federal appeals court.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in an opinion it lacked the standing to rule on many of the issues raised in David Nathan Thompson’s appeal because he had failed to raise those issues before the district court. The appeals court affirmed the lower court’s decision not to lift his banishment.

Thompson was sentenced by a Fulton County Superior Court judge to eight years in prison after he fired a round from a high-powered rifled into the brick wall of a suburban Atlanta house where his stepmother’s sister lived. No one was hurt, but the family said they were frightened.

His sentence was eventually cut in half by a review panel, but a condition of his probation banned him from living everywhere in Georgia except Ware County, near the Florida line and about 250 miles from his family. After a subsequent arrest on a probation violation and more time in jail, his living restrictions were modified and essentially banned him from living just about anywhere in the state north of Macon.

A psychiatrist has testified that Thompson is mentally ill and mentally incapable of functioning without his parents and support system in metro Atlanta.

“We are disappointed that the court did not reach the key issues,” said Thompson’s attorney Gerald Weber, who joined the case at the appeal level. “Thompson is banished from the very places where his support network, family and health care are located.”

Thompson said he thinks the banishment is ridiculous given that other convicted offenders — including rapists, murderers and child molesters — are often released from prison without a banishment condition on their probation.

“I’ve done my time, and I’ve paid my debt,” he said Wednesday. “If I can live in other communities, I should be able to live anywhere. All they have to do is issue a restraining order.”

Georgia judges cannot banish convicted criminals from the state, but the Georgia Supreme Court has upheld the practice of banishing them from living in all but one of the state’s 159 counties.