A district attorney is a misogynistic sexist who denied an assistant a promotion because she feared she would become pregnant and take maternity leave, a lawsuit says.
Shalena Cook Jones, the prosecutor for Chatham County in Georgia, is being sued by former assistant district attorney Skye Musson for sexual discrimination.
The lawsuit was first filed in April 2022, when Cook Jones was harshly criticized by Judge R. Stan Baker earlier this week over claims that she had made slow attempts to have her deposed.
Judge Baker of the Southern District of Georgia found Cook Jones delinquent for her failure to appear at the deposition, claiming the Democrat intentionally avoided asking questions, reports said the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Cook Jones took the lead prosecutor role in a rape trial that was scheduled to begin the same day she was to be deposed in the plea, Judge Baker said.
The judge said the prosecutor did not inform those involved in the lawsuit about the scheduling conflict until the day before their appearance.
Prosecutor Shalena Cook Jones was elected to the Grantham County office in 2020. She is now accused of promoting a “bro culture” in her office
Prosecutor Skye Musson says she was denied a promotion to the office’s firearms and gang division because of her gender
The judge also said Cook Jones tried to avoid testifying for months before agreeing to a date. When that appointment came, Cook Jones said she was unaware of the conflict and did not show up.
Cook Jones took over the Georgia office in January 2021. That same month, Musson said she expressed interest in taking over the office’s Guns and Gangs division.
The role went to a “less qualified, heterosexual male” named Christian Stolfe, the lawsuit says.
When Musson complained, she was told that even though she had the same resume as Stolfe, they were “taking a different path.”
Musson, a military veteran, also said Cook Jones told her that the Guns and Gangs unit needed to be led by someone who would not take extended leave, including maternity leave.
Musson continued to plead for the role, but was told they needed a man in the office who could deal with “male officers, their demeanor and behavior.”
Musson said Cook Jones fired her in April 2021 and portrayed her departure as a resignation. Musson now practices defense law in Savannah, Georgia.
In another section of her lawsuit, Musson said another prosecutor was fired because of her ongoing friendship with the plaintiff.
Judge R. Stan Baker of the Southern District of Georgia found Cook Jones in default because of her failure to appear at the deposition
Musson, a military veteran, also said Cook Jones told her that the Guns and Gangs unit needed to be led by someone who would not take extended leave, including maternity leave
In his ruling, Judge Baker Cook described Jones as making excuses for failing to prove himself to be “utter nonsense based on forgeries”.
According to a report by the Savannah Morning News, Cook Jones’ tenure as prosecutor was fraught with problems, including the loss of 25 prosecutors and convictions in just 32 percent of murder cases, one of the lowest in the state.
Multiple reports suggested her office was struggling to deal with a backlog of Covid-19 cases.
Among those who have called for her removal is Republican Jesse Petrea, a state lawmaker who helped pass a state law that would create an oversight board to remove underperforming district attorneys.
In an act of political symbolism, Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law in Chatham County.
Musson is not the only former assistant district attorney to file a lawsuit against Cook Jones. Former prosecutor Anthony Burton identifies as a gay man in his lawsuit and said he suffered in Cook Jones’ office because of his sexuality.
He was reportedly fired for gossiping about other prosecutors in text messages Savannah now. Burton will appear as a witness in the Musson case. Burton plans to face Cook Jones in 2024.
Cook Jones won her seat after a fierce partisan battle with Republican incumbent Meg Heap.
Cook Jones made headlines in May 2022 when she announced that her office would stop prosecuting marijuana offenses involving possession of less than an ounce of the drug.
Like other prosecutors, police chiefs and sheriffs who have halted marijuana enforcement, she pointed to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s refusal to test for small amounts of marijuana unless other crimes were involved.
“Without a verified test, the state cannot prove that the defendant violated the law,” Cook Jones said in a statement at the time.
Jones said she would continue to prosecute people with more than an ounce of marijuana, those who sell the drug, those who possess it near children or in school zones and those who drive while impaired.
State lawmakers, mostly Democrats, have introduced a number of bills in the Georgia General Assembly aimed at legalizing marijuana or reducing penalties for possession, but none have advanced.