Missing evidence jeopardized felony case against Matthew Boynton, former GPD officer


SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Violation of his oath of office – one of two felony charges for which the Griffin Police Department in 2017 arrested Matthew Boynton, one of its own officers – was reportedly at risk of being dismissed because his sworn oath of office, the signed document, could not be located.

According to Jessica Lester, Boynton’s ex-wife who filed a police report that ultimately led to Boynton’s arrest, she became aware of this development during a meeting with representatives of the Griffin Judicial Circuit’s District Attorney’s Office.

“I actually called them. I was trying to figure out when Matthew’s court case was going before a grand jury,” Lester said.

She recounted having been put in touch with the Spalding County D.A.’s Office Victim Advocate Denise Miller, with whom she had a series of phone calls.

“Finally, she just said why don’t we set up a meeting, so you can ask about whatever you want to know,” Lester said.

A meeting with Assistant District Attorney Kate Lenhard was held April 13.

Lester said Lenhard explained the basis of the scheduling delay in presenting the case to a grand jury and addressed the violation of the oath of office charge.

“She also said that they could only charge him for one (false statements and writings) because his oath of office paperwork couldn’t be found,” Lester said. “She said she’d called and they can’t find it. I asked her who they are, and she said the Police Department. I said, ‘Oh, that figures. That isn’t the first time that’s happened.’”

Asked if Lenhard had elaborated on efforts to locate Boynton’s oath of office, Lester said, “She just said that she’d called, and they said they didn’t have it. That was it.”

Lester said she then inquired about a potential alternative to dismissing the charge.
“…..I asked her if it could be found, would she be able to use it?” Lester said. “She (Lenhard) said as long as we can prove where it came from.”

An associate of Lester’s soon contacted The GRIP, seeking assistance in locating Boynton’s oath.

Upon learning of the missing oath, The GRIP on April 24, submitted an Open Records request to Spalding County Magistrate Court, where judges swear in new officers of the Griffin Police Department by administering the oath of office.

On April 25, less than three hours after the Open Records request was received by June Rainey, The GRIP was provided with a copy of Boynton’s official oath that had been administered June 15, 2015, by Judge Brennan T. MacDowell.

That same day, The GRIP made contact with Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ben Coker, who said he was unfamiliar with the missing oath or the meeting between Lenhard and Lester.

Coker did agree with Lenhard’s assessment that a charge of violation of oath of office – a felony – would require the prosecutor to establish the oath had been administered, which would necessitate production of the oath.

When The GRIP informed Coker the oath had been obtained, he said he would research the matter and call back the following day, April 26.

Coker did not call that day, nor has he responded to multiple subsequent requests for an interview.

When asked to call, Coker instead emailed, “We have received the oath on the Boynton case.”

Asked again to call to further respond to questions pertaining to the Lenhard-Lester meeting, Coker emailed, “When ADA Lenhard met with Jessica Boynton (Lester), my office was not in receipt of the oath of Matthew Boynton. We have since received it and will respond accordingly.”

Unable to obtain further information through the previously agreed upon interview, The GRIP on April 26 submitted Open Records requests to Coker’s office and the city of Griffin.

Sought were “all email communications, notes, memos, records, reports, text messages and any additional information pertaining to providing the District Attorney’s Office with the oath of office of Matthew Boynton, formerly of the Griffin Police Department.”
Although the same information was sought from each office, different materials were produced.

The city of Griffin made available only text messages between GPD Chief Mike Yates and Coker, and text messages exchanged by Yates and Diane Martin, also of the GPD.

Coker’s office, however, produced records indicating his staff spent more than six months attempting to obtain Boynton’s oath from the Griffin Police Department.

In an email dated Oct. 20, 2017, from Coker’s Chief Investigator John Wright to Lt. Karen Yancey, who at that time headed the GPD’s Criminal Investigation Division, Wright requested not only the oath be made available, but numerous additional pieces of evidence, as well.

“Karen, I am working on Matthew Boynton’s case and according to your check list, there is a lot missing. I have a case summary and a criminal history. Please provide the following…..”

Wright then listed a series of 12 items he said were missing from the records Yancey had cited in her case check list. Number 12 on Wright’s list was Boynton’s oath of office.

There is no indication Yancey responded in writing to Wright’s email, but another representative of the D.A.’s Office said several D.A.’s Office employees had spoken by phone with multiple GPD personnel regarding Boynton’s missing oath.

With the Police Department reporting it was unable to locate the missing evidence, by March, efforts to obtain the oath of office had expanded beyond the GPD, with Wright seeking the assistance of city of Griffin Human Resources Director Miles Neville.

In an email to Neville dated March 27, 2018, Wright wrote, “Just wondering if you had a chance to send me the oath of office on Matthew Boynton?”

That same day, Neville replied, “Sorry it took so long. I had to go to our archives to find his file. I searched the file, looking at every page, and there is not an oath of office in the file. I have the official police file in my possession and it isn’t there.”

Despite the months the oath reportedly could not be located, once The GRIP informed Coker it had acquired a copy, the GPD reported Boynton’s original oath of office had been found.

Text messages exchanged by Yates and Martin beginning at 2:35 April 26, pertained to that day’s search for the missing evidence.

Martin wrote, “Nothing found,” to which Yates replied, “Thanks.”

Martin sent two additional messages to Yates. The first read, “I’m checking with Karen to see if in all her files she has a copy,” and the second stated, “Karen thinks she put one in the file she is checking (sic).”

Soon after, Yates sent to Coker via text message a photograph of Boynton’s oath.

A subsequent text message from Yates stated, “It was in case file sent over and original is in evidence.”

An Open Records request for the digital report on the photo Yates sent Coker indicated the photograph was taken at 3:19 p.m. April 26, less than 24 hours after The GRIP’s interview with Coker.

The following day, Martin emailed a copy of the oath to Neville for placement in Boynton’s personnel file. In turn, Neville emailed a copy of the oath to Wright and reported, “I’m not sure if it’s too late, but the PD found a copy of Matthew Boynton’s oath of office.”

The GRIP attempted to interview Yates, but little information was provided.

When asked where the oath had been located, Yates stated, “It was in evidence.”

Asked if it had been in evidence for the six months it had been sought and reported as missing to the District Attorney’s Office, Yates said, “I don’t know anything about their efforts to try to find it or anything about that, but it has been in evidence since we concluded the case.”

He said he did not know when the case was concluded.

As for when the case file was submitted to the Coker’s office, Yates said, “It was submitted after we concluded it and finished our paperwork. I don’t know what date that was. It was shortly after we concluded the case.”

Yates then abruptly ended the interview by stating he would not answer any further questions at that time, but that questions could be emailed to him.

When The GRIP attempted to schedule a time to meet for an interview, Yates said, “It won’t be tomorrow because my day is pretty much booked, and I don’t feel comfortable doing a sit down interview with you unless I have my camcorder going.”

The GRIP readily agreed to comply with Yates desire to record the interview, but Yates then said, “Like I said, you have the same offer you always have. If you have some specific questions you want to aske me, send them to me and I’ll respond in writing.”

When The GRIP said it does not conduct interviews by email, but reiterated there are no objections to recording the interview, Yates responded by saying, “I’m not really interested in doing an interview with you. If you have questions, send them to me and I’ll answer them. I would respectfully decline the interview.”

No further information was forthcoming regarding the missing oath or the potential dismissal that could have resulted had it not been located.

The GRIP is continuing to work this story and will report additional information as it becomes available.

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Comments

  1. cherrie says:

    sounds like the same ole corrupt police dept its always been either they are covering up for each other or they dont do their jobs all they worry about are drugs dont get me wrong drugs are bad but it seems like if it doesnt involve drugs they are not interested in it my mother and sister were brutally murdered 30 yrs ago and no one has ever been arrested and when we ask about the case all they want to do is ask the same ole questions we have answered over and over thdy wont tell us what has been done to find out they treated us like crap

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