Newton neighborhood watch, day 3: Don Samuel, superlawyer

The soap opera that is the Newton County neighborhood watch case continues. Now the Newton neighborhood watch dudes’ attorney, Mario Ninfo, is blaming/crediting attorney Don Samuel with turning the case around. He says that his clients are scapegoats—in essence, claiming that they were arrested and charged to cover the Newton County Sheriff’s Department’s assets after lawmen’s faux pas.

What happened to change things? “Don Samuel happened,” Ninfo said.

Here’s how it went down. Jean-Joseph and Angelica Kalonji, originally from Zaire, showed up one evening at the vacant house their son had purchased, intending to change locks. (White) neighbors Robert Canoles and his son Brandensaw them and, assuming they’re burglars, rushed over armed with assault rifles, held them at bay, and called the sheriff’s department. Deputies responded, arresting the couple after what appears to be minimal or no investigation. They also tell Canoles, “Ya done good.”

The Kalonjis were booked. They made a phone call and got in touch with attorney Don Samuel, whose skill as a defense attorney is on par with the legendary Denmark Groover of Macon. (In other words, the go-to guy for people in deep trouble with deep pockets.) They had done a kindness for Samuel once upon a time, and he returned the favor by representing them in this case.

Everything chnaged after that. (It’s fun to watch him at work with an innocent client.) Burglary charges against the Kalonjis were dropped, and the sheriff decided that the neighborhood watch dudes were the bad guys, after all. And the publicity … bravo. Bravo. We need to be reminded of the folly that lies at the intersection of vigilantism and racial profiling (as if 100 years of lynching weren’t enough).

The neighborhood watch dudes’ lawyer is left to sputter about what a game-changer Don Samuel is, and to grouse about the sheriff’s department 180-degree flip in the case after having apparently failed to do due diligence in the first place.

Here’s the latest update from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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