Charges of drug trafficking and criminal gang activity were dismissed for Anthony Joe Starks of Ellijay. Magistrate Court Judge Kellie Hill found insufficient probable cause to bind the case over to Superior Court for trial.
According to Officer Adam Cirillo of the Cobb County Police Department’s Precinct 3, Starks told him that he was a member of the Ghostface Gangsters when Cirillo asked about Ghostface tattoos on Starks’ face.
Cirillo testified in court that he was on foot patrol in the Araamada Inn on South Cobb Drive on January 21 when the desk clerk reported a smell coming from a room. The officer noticed the strong odor of burnt marijuana coming from a first-floor room, and he and Officer McTier, who was also on the scene, questioned the three occupants of the room: Nathan Madison of Blue Ridge, who was the registered guest in the room, Tiffany Patterson of Blue Ridge, and Starks.
In the course of questioning the occupants, Cirillo noted that both Madison and Starks had Ghostface tattoos. Starks told him he was a member of that gang. Madison denied membership. Cirillo’s initial incident report stated, “It was later determined that Mr. Madison and Mr. Anthony Starks were members of the Ghost Face Killer criminal gang organization.”
After receiving a search warrant police found large quantities of marijuana, ecstasy, LSD, and methamphetamine in various closed containers in the room. Madison told police the drugs were his. Starks and Patterson denied knowledge of the drugs.
All three suspects were booked on drug trafficking charges and “violation of street gang unlawful acts.”
During the probable cause hearing in Judge Hill’s court, defense attorney Mitchell Durham argued that Madison had said the drugs were his and that since the drugs were out of sight in closed bags and containers there was no reason to believe that his client, Starks, was aware of the drugs. He cited three cases in which charges were dismissed under what he said were similar circumstances.
Cobb County Assistant District Attorney Marc Cella said that all three of the suspects were traveling together from North Georgia, staying in a motel room where illegal drugs were present, and that created sufficient probable cause to send Stark’s case to trial.
A press release from the U.S. Department of Justice issued last March during the indictment of 23 members describes the Ghostface Gangsters as follows:
According to the indictment, the Ghostface Gangsters is a whites-only prison gang formed in the year 2000 in the Cobb County, Georgia jail system. The gang has since expanded outside the prison system, and its membership is now estimated to include thousands of members throughout Georgia. The gang is highly organized into different positions of leadership, including, for example, the founding “Pillars” of the gang, those having a “seat at the table,” “First Lady” and numerous state-wide positions of governance. Members follow written gang literature, use violence to enforce gang rules, and facilitated the gang’s criminal activities from within prisons using contraband cell phones.