How does the Columbia County DA handle repeat offenders?

Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 6:04 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Parents are left with concerns and questions over repeat offenders in Columbia County.

A Columbia County man is accused of exposing himself in public for years.

Court documents show Michael Stephens’ allegations of public indecency date back to 2018.

He’s been charged or convicted of public indecency at two different Walmarts and a car wash.

In the latest incident, he’s charged with exposing himself at a Dollar General. Now he’s behind bars without bond.

Michael Scott Stephens
Michael Scott Stephens(Contributed)

How was he able to get out of jail so many times?

The Columbia County District Attorney couldn’t say much on specific cases, but what he could say is it all comes down to how the court prosecutes the case.

But for parents, that’s not much comfort.

“I remember thinking, ‘Wow, number one that’s really close to home. Number two, like, how was he able to do that again,’” says a Columbia County mother, who wishes to stay anonymous.

She wants her concerns about cases like Michael Stephens heard.

“Public indecency, lewd exposure, for instance, of sexual organs, if done in a public place, is generally a misdemeanor. However, upon a third conviction for that activity, it can be a felony,” said Christine.

But in certain cases, quote prosecution issues can determine who ends up on the sex offender registry and who doesn’t.

“You can’t enhance the subsequent or the third conviction to a felony if all three are sentenced on the same day, that’s a prosecution issue,” said Christine.

That’s how it went for Stephens.

Even though in his past offense, he acted at three different places on three different dates, he was sentenced for all three at the same time in 2019, making the offense at that time ineligible for treatment as a felony.

“You see in these cases, sometimes that the offenders are typically quite intelligent. Some might even say some of them are sophisticated, such that while on supervision, they don’t re-offend. But when supervision ends, they do,” he said.

According to court documents, Stephens had to follow strict probation rules like having a curfew and avoiding schools. He also had to attend a sex addiction program.

Christine says these programs don’t always show success, causing stress on parents.

“The rehabilitative aspect of the criminal justice system has its least positive impact on cases involving sexual deviancy and sexual criminality. So that’s something we pay a great deal of attention to,” said Christine.

The concerned mother said: “The scariest thing as a mom is to know that somebody like this gets put back out on the street for just a technicality in the case. You know, and that this could happen to our kids or happened to anybody, anywhere.”

Christine assures the community that his office is working with the law to keep these offenders off the street.

Christine said: “What I would tell the community is your district attorney’s office, taking the law and the facts and making an appropriate determination will seek the longest period of incarceration followed by supervision as possible. These are simply problems that if not addressed, will get worse with that individual offender.”

Christine says he can’t speak to how many cases they see like this, but they are there and don’t always make headlines. Along with the administration in Atlanta, they are all working together to stay after violent and sex crimes.

As for Stephens, he remains behind bars. His next court date hasn’t been scheduled.