Cobb County attorney, Richard Merritt, was disbarred this last week after admitting to pocketing $75,000 of his client's settlement suit. He was arrested later in the week on separate charges including felony elder abuse, theft, exploitation, and check fraud.
Breaching the trust of a client is behavior we cannot condone, and as lawyers, we are disgusted by Mr. Merritt's behavior.
The Cobb County Sheriff's Office and the Smyrna Police Department have not released any further information regarding his most recent charges, except that Merritt is being held for the Fayette County Sheriff's Office where they received a bench warrant for an “indirect criminal attempt.”
The theft, exploitation, and check fraud charges seem reasonably straightforward, especially considering the fact that Merritt is currently the subject of multiple civil suits in Cobb County filed by his clients. His clients are claiming that he allegedly forged signatures, names, agreed to handle cases but never pursued action, failed to disburse funds, and failed to render an accounting of money.
But what about the felony elder abuse charge?
The Georgia Code defines elder abuse as: “The abuse, neglect, or exploitation of any disabled adult or elder person shall be unlawful.” O.C.G.A. §30-5-8.
Elder people tend to be abused or neglected due to their lack of ability to take care of themselves and sometimes mental incapacities. The state of Georgia also protects the elderly from neglect. Neglect is not giving proper care or ignoring a person's needs, where abuse is cruelly treating a person either physically or mentally.
The Georgia Code defines neglect to an elder person as: “A guardian or other person supervising the welfare of or having immediate charge, control, or custody of a disabled adult, elder person, or resident commits the offense of neglect to a disabled adult, elder person, or resident when the person willfully deprives them of health care, shelter, or necessary sustenance to the extent that the health or well-being of such person is jeopardized.” O.C.G.A. §16-5-101.
A conviction for either elder abuse or neglect to an elder person in Georgia is considered a felony conviction. The convicted person is looking at anywhere from one to twenty years in prison and fines up to $50,000. Another interesting penalty is for someone who knows of the abuse but fails to report it to a state agency. This failure to report abuse or neglect carries a misdemeanor charge and can result in up to twelve months of imprisonment and fines.
Contact us: If you or a loved one has received an elder abuse or a neglect to an elder person charge in Georgia, the time to contact a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney is now.