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Atlanta-area DA in Rayshard Brooks case ousted in runoff

Atlanta-area DA in Rayshard Brooks case ousted in runoff

The Atlanta district attorney who handled the case of the police killing of Rayshard Brooks was defeated in a runoff Tuesday after serving as Fulton County’s top prosecutor for 23 years.

Paul Howard, who also handled the Ray Lewis murder case and the Atlanta school cheating scandal, lost to Fani Willis, who worked for Howard for years in the county district attorney's office. Neither candidate garnered 50 percent of the vote in the June primary, leading to Tuesday’s runoff.

Tuesday’s results were more definitive, with Willis routing Howard with over 73 percent of the vote, compared with roughly 27 percent for the incumbent. No Republicans were on the ballot for the job. 

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Howard conceded defeat Tuesday night, calling the results the culmination of “the most heated [race] in America” and promising to help Willis transition into the role of the county’s district attorney. 

“What is important to me is protecting the people of this community, and I want to make sure that when her first day in office is a reality that she's able to continue to protect the people who live in Fulton County,” he said. “I came with pride and I'm leaving with pride.” 

Howard touted his work to reduce the population of the Fulton County Jail, curb violent crime and homicide and prosecute police officers charged with killing Black men.

One of Howard’s most famous decisions was his call to prosecute ex-Atlanta police officers Devin Brosnan and Garrett Rolfe, hitting them with murder charges for shooting Brooks in the back as he fled from officers in the parking lot of an Atlanta Wendy’s. Critics said the decision got ahead of a state investigation and was intended to boost his own political campaign, but Howard deflected such allegations, saying he’d been prosecuting officers since he took office in 1997. 

Howard will likely leave office with a mixed legacy, leading the successful prosecutions of teachers and administrators in the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal and efforts to reduce recidivism in Atlanta. However, he was also considered to have failed to get a jury to convict then-NFL player Ray Lewis and two others with murder, and he paid $6,500 to settle a case with the state ethics commission over allegations he did not disclose his roles in nonprofit organizations, according to WSB.

Three woman have also come forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct and discrimination, claims he’s dismissed. 

Willis thanked her supporters Tuesday for having “the courage to stand against an incumbent and for what was right.” 

“I want to thank the voters of this county for believing in me. Tonight's a good night. We made 'herstory.' I am just humbled, and thank you," she said.