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Mayor Of Town Where Laken Riley Was Murdered Is Trying To Quash Recall Effort Against Him

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Jason Hopkins Immigration Reporter
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The mayor of a Georgia town where Laken Riley was brutally murdered is trying to derail a recall effort against him.

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz filed a petition with the county’s superior court on Wednesday, requesting the court suspend a recall effort organized against him, according to the Athens Banner-Herald. In the petition, Girtz argues that the recall effort has been mishandled by county elections officials and is in need of review by the court.

“I’ll let the text of the filing speak for itself,” Girtz said in response to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The mayor of the small college town has been embroiled in criticism since the killing of 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley, allegedly at the hands of a Venezuelan migrant living illegally in the U.S. The killing  sparked national debate over “sanctuary cities” and the consequences of local governments that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. (RELATED: Trump Meets Family Of Laken Riley At Georgia Rally)

A campaign to oust the mayor and other local government leaders began not long after Riley’s murder. Organizers of the effort earlier this month were able to reach the threshold of signatures needed to move forward. The recall effort is targeting the mayor, Sheriff John Williams and Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez

However, in the petition Girtz filed to suspend the campaign, the mayor is asserting that the recall application did not meet the standards for sufficiency because the form did not specifically identify the circumstances surrounding the grounds for a recall, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

The mayor has reportedly hired private counsel, as such no taxpayer dollars will be used to fund his petition to suspend the recall campaign.

GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA – MAY 29: An ICE agent with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), watches as Guatemalan police investigate the scene after detaining a suspected human trafficker on May 29, 2019 in Guatemala City. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Riley was abducted and murdered while jogging near the University of Georgia campus on February 22. The coroner confirmed that she died from blunt force trauma to the head. José Antonio Ibarra, a 26-year-old from Venezuela, was subsequently arrested for her murder.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials later confirmed that Ibarra had unlawfully entered the U.S.

While Girtz and other Athens-Clarke County leaders have said repeatedly that they are not a sanctuary city, critics have pointed out that it’s local policy to not be fully cooperative of immigration detainers — which are requests by ICE that formally asks local law enforcement to hold an illegal alien in their custody long enough for a deportation officer to arrive and make an apprehension.

Current Athens policy dictates that these detainer requests be accompanied with a judicial warrant. Federal immigration authorities say no such stipulation is legally required.

In an email exchange with the Athens sheriff in the wake of Riley’s murder, Girtz said he personally supported current policy.

“As you note in the email below, your predecessor modified the Sheriff’s Office’s prior stance to eliminate detainer holds. While the community is experiencing deep trauma right now, and emotions are understandably raw, I support the detainer policy as one that is both humane and following the well-documented propensity of immigrants in the U.S. to be less criminally inclined than the native-born population,” Girtz wrote in an email on February 24, and obtained by the DCNF.

When the mayor spoke publicly with reporters for the first time since Riley’s murder, protesters in the crowd repeatedly called him a liar and demanded he resign.

Along with challenging the sufficiency of the recall application, the mayor is also alleging procedural irregularities, according to the petition.

The recall campaign is accusing Girtz and the two other Athens officials of failure to perform duties prescribed by law, malfeasance in office, violation of oath of office, and misconduct in office, among other complaints.

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