AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A Richmond County man is walking free, after spending more than a year in jail for a case he says he had nothing to do with.
“Now I know God is real, if I never knew before,” said Maurice Franklin, in his first sit-down interview after being released from jail.
600 days. That’s how long Franklin sat in jail, accused of a crime, he denies committing. Prosecutors gave Franklin a plea deal, but the 29-year-old still maintained his innocence.
Franklin says, “First from a young age, I was always taught that the truth will always protect itself, and I’m a firm believer in Jesus Christ, so my faith was God, you gotta show these people that I’m innocent no matter what they make it seem like, I can’t be that to my son.
Franklin’s emotional words stem from a drive-by shooting back in 2019. It happened at a home on the 3600 block of Alene Circle in Augusta.
No one was hurt, but Franklin was facing more than 50 charges, including aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. With those charges, Franklin was looking at up to 1100 years in prison.
“I don’t think they really cared about the time, I think the time was just a defense mechanism to get a conviction. When I seen 1100 years I was like wow, that’s all I could say, it was a punch to the chest,” he said.
Franklin believes he was charged because law enforcement thought he was in a gang and didn’t base it on the crime.
“They continued to ask me questions about my gang affiliation,” he said. “Not once did they say, well what about this piece of evidence, why is this person saying you were here and this person is saying, they never once asked me those types of questions, it was just my gang affiliation, my gang affiliation, the whole time, they never really asked me how I knew the witness, you asking more questions then they did,” Franklin added.
Franklin turned himself in after seeing wanted ads with his picture. He says that day he brought in cellphone records.
He explained, “Really, I went to clear my name, and I had it printed out, I had my google location printed out for the whole day and I gave it to them, they looked at it once, they didn’t even flip through it, closed it and put it to the side, I gave them my phone they asked for the code I gave it to them, signed all the paperwork, they flipped it open once and put it to the side.”
NewsChannel 6 also spoke with Franklin’s defense attorney, Robert Homlar.
“Looking through the evidence the cellphone data was crucial, the cellphone was in custody, I had an independent forensic auditor look at the cellphone data that we could obtain from Google. I asked for the cellphone data to made available and never heard any response from it,” says Homlar.
While Homlar says the victim was encouraged by someone else to identify Franklin through Facebook photos, he says his client’s case rested on the cellphone records.
Homlar says, “If it’s turned off at one location and then turned on at the same location 5 minutes after the crime happened, but the crime location is 20 minutes away that just doesn’t really add up.”
District attorney Jared Williams told us the victim in the case made a number of conflicting statements that ultimately led to franklin being let go.
Homlar says the victim recanted and changed her story several times. NewsChannel 6 reached out to District Attorney Jared Williams for comment. In a statement, he said, “the victim made a number of conflicting statements which irreparably damaged our ability to prove the case.”
We also reached out to the former District Attorney Natalie Paine to ask about the exculpatory evidence Franklin provided when turning himself in, and she has not reached back out for comment.
Franklin says he’s focused on being a father now to his 1-year-old son. His wife Lynnette gave birth to him while Franklin was in jail. Het him for the first time after being released. Franklin and his wife are hoping to start a non-profit organization for children. They have not decided whether or not they will press charges on the city.
Below is the full statement from District Attorney Jared Williams:
“As a prosecutor, my ethical duty is not only to enforce the law and promote safety in my community, but also to safeguard the process by administering justice fairly and without prejudice. As District Attorney, I do not pursue charges I do not believe the State can prove. We reviewed this case with an openness to the possibility of innocence, which my administration will always do. However, I do not wish for the dismissal of Mr. Franklin’s charges to be misinterpreted as a blindness to his activity. He is a self-proclaimed Crip, with connections to several gang members listed in the indictment. The law says that association alone is not a crime, and there must be a nexus between the gang affiliation and a criminal act. After a thorough investigation and review of the facts, we found that the listed Victim made a number of conflicting statements which irreparably damaged our ability to prove the case. As a result, my office determined we no longer had a good faith basis to pursue the charges arising from her accusations. I want to commend the hard work of many people in this office who aided this effort, most notably Assistant District Attorney Ryne Cox for his diligence in pursuing justice in this case. I hope Mr. Franklin makes the best of this opportunity, completely leaves the lifestyle and associations that resulted in his arrest, and uses that time to provide and be there for his children.”