Tokars attorney takes stand himself Rare tactic used to rebut
Reprinted from The Atlanta Journal Constitution Wednesday,
March 12, 1997
LaFayette – The murder trial of former Atlanta prosecutor
Fred Tokars was rocked Tuesday by the surprising testimony of a
defense attorney who said he was compelled to testify after
prosecutors misrepresented Tokars’ federal conviction.
Jerry Froelich testified that he also wanted to set the
record straight about the prison sentence of star witness Eddie
Lawrence. While Tokars will “die in prison,” Froelich said,
“Lawrence will not spend a day in prison. He’s in the federal
witness protection program, and the U.S. Marshal’s Service is
not going to allow him in state prison.”
Froelich, who unsuccessfully defended Tokars in federal
court, said that in exchange for testifying against Tokars,
Lawrence received a 12-year federal prison sentence he is
serving concurrently with a state life sentence for his role in
arranging Sara Tokar’s murder.
But Cobb County District Attorney Tom Charron challenged
Froelich’s characterization of the plea bargain, saying that the
U.S. Marshals have been told that Lawrence should be transferred
to state custody when he finishes his federal sentence.
Tokars received multiple life terms without parole on federal
convictions for money laundering and racketeering.
Froelich downplayed Tokars’ appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court receives 15,000 or 20,000 appeals a year,”
Froelich said. “I think they rule on about 100.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joe Whitely said Froelich’s decision to
testify was “unique in my experience.” In coming to the witness
stand, the defense attorney could have been forced to reveal
client confidences, Whitley said.
Froelich said he felt compelled to testify after Charron read
the federal indictment describing interstate cocaine
trafficking, money laundering, torture and murder to the jury.
“They read parts of the indictment that were not related to Fred
Tokars,” Froelich said. “There’s no way I could stand by,
allowing such misleading testimony to go in.”
Froelich said charges in the indictment that did not pertain
to Tokars included allegations that Atlanta police cadet Michael
Jones was tortured by drug dealers associated with Tokars; a
$40,000 Lexus was purchased with drug money that he said Tokars
knew nothing about; and money laundering through several night
clubs that he said occurred long before Tokars met the other
Whitley said Charron can blunt Froelich’s ploy and other
attacks on Lawrence’s credibility by appealing to jurors to make
their decision on the case before the. “Tom Charron could tell
jurors they have a separate sovereign obligation under Georgia
law to consider this case in isolation from what might have
happened in another jurisdiction,” Whitley said. “No one can
ascertain what may happen in the federal case.”