Long attacked two spas in Fulton County, along with one in Cherokee. Because his violent rampage spanned jurisdictions, prosecutors in Fulton County, home to Atlanta, say they are also preparing a case against Long.
Williams said that Fulton County is probably going to wait and see how the Cherokee County case proceeds before pursuing its own case.
“When you have two jurisdictions that can both charge crimes, oftentimes one will go first and the other will wait, go second or not go at all,” Williams said. “Oftentimes, the county who goes first has initial jurisdiction and basically has the case until they are finished.”
Jeff DiSantis, a deputy district attorney in Fulton County, said that the case is “under investigation” and that a decision about indictment is “forthcoming.”
“Our office will make a decision on charges shortly,” DiSantis said in an email. “The next phase of matters here would be a presentment to a grand jury of any charges that the [district attorney] may decide to bring.”
What’s happening in the case right now?
Although Long confessed to police, he pleaded not guilty during his first appearance in Cherokee. That plea is only preliminary and could be changed by Long to guilty at a later date.
“This is the initiation of the proceedings,” Williams said. “At that point, you and your lawyer haven’t done any discovery yet, most likely. You haven’t looked at what the government has against you. It’s just a formal initiation of the process.”
Even though there are no formal court dates set in either jurisdiction, Williams said the process is moving forward, with Long, his attorney and prosecutors collecting information about the case. Technically, a trial should begin within 70 days, but several events can effectively pause the timeline.
Will Long be charged with a hate crime?
“The hate crimes enhancement is a penalty enhancement. It would be only two years in this case,” Williams said. “So there’s an argument that sweeping that into the case to get an extra two-year bump at sentencing for a guy facing multiple [murder charges] might not be a wise use of time and resources.”
However, Williams said the symbolic impact of the hate-crimes enhancement could be significant and powerful.
“Evidence strongly suggests his motivation may have been driven by both race and gender,” he said. “The enhancement is tremendously meaningful, not just the amount of time he serves.”
“The concept is that you cannot target people based on their race or gender,” Williams added. “To vindicate that belief or principle amounts to more than just a penalty enhancement.”
Shannon Wallace, the district attorney who oversees Cherokee County, did not respond to requests for additional comment. Long’s assigned attorney, J. Daran Burns, also declined to comment.