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Bond granted for DA threat suspect

LAWRENCEVILLE - A Duluth man accused of threatening Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter's life was granted $40,000 bond on Thursday under strict conditions.

Robert Ashley Walker agreed to pay for an ankle monitor equipped with a Global Positioning System to track his every move, and he will be under a curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. He will only be allowed to leave his home for work or to meet with his attorney.

Walker also negotiated a deal with prosecutors to turn over his firearms collection to the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department for safe keeping until his case is disposed. He can have no contact with Porter, Porter's family or the District Attorney's Office except through his attorney.

Walker also cannot contact attorney Jeff Sliz, who represented him two years ago on disorderly conduct charge, or Sliz's paralegal, Janie Deal. They are both witnesses in the case, said Chief Assistant District Attorney Sandra Partridge.

Partridge was brought in from Forsyth County as an independent prosecutor at the request of the Gwinnett District Attorney's Office. Porter recused himself and his office because there is a conflict of interest with Porter being the alleged victim.

Investigators believe Walker made threatening statements to his probation officer on March 23 when he learned that two handguns and a knife confiscated from him in an unrelated criminal case had accidentally been destroyed. The property was worth $2,000, and Walker claimed a judge had ordered the items to be returned to him.

During the meeting with his probation officer, Walker also had a telephone conversation with "a member of the criminal justice system" in which he allegedly continued to make menacing remarks.

"The threat made to Danny was that he would get his guns and then go and slit Danny Porter's throat," said Assistant District Attorney Dan Mayfield in a prior interview. "He also made generalized threats that blood would spill and he would fill body bags and there would be bodies in the street."

Walker, dressed in a green prison jumpsuit and shackled, was polite and spoke little during the preliminary hearing Thursday. His attorney, Rob Greenwald, said Walker had no qualms about giving up his guns temporarily.

"Hopefully they won't destroy them this time," Greenwald said.

Walker even agreed to let sheriff's deputies search his house to make sure there were no firearms hidden away, Greenwald said.

Denice Walker said her husband is a good father and bread-winner who is not dangerous. She believes his remarks were blown out of proportion by police.

Part of the reason prosecutors took Walker's threats seriously is that he has two prior gun-related convictions during separate confrontations.

Walker pleaded guilty in December 1996 to a charge of pointing a pistol after he chased down and confronted three Duluth High School students who egged his wife's school bus. In July 2005, Walker pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge for pursuing a drunk driver who struck a car that he and his wife were riding in. Walker fired two gunshots at the impaired driver's tires in an attempt to stop the man from fleeing.

In both of those convictions, felony charges against Walker were reduced to misdemeanors. He was not sentenced to serve any prison time; instead he was placed on probation for a year.

Walker's next-door neighbor for more than a decade, Ray Rutledge, said he deserved a medal instead of an arrest for confronting the teenage vandals, who Rutledge claims were responsible for destroying 37 mailboxes that weekend in Cardinal Lake subdivision in Duluth.

He also praised Walker for standing up to the drunk driver and trying to help police make an arrest. "If you had more people like Ashley in this world, things like that wouldn't happen," he said.

And as for the alleged threat against Porter, Rutledge was dismissive.

"My wife's threatened to kill our kids a hundred times, and they're still alive," Rutledge said. "They're in their 50s."

Partridge declined to discuss details of the case after the preliminary hearing on Thursday. However, Gwinnett prosecutors last week said they are justified in taking Walker's threats seriously.

"I don't know that you can really say this was blown out of proportion when you have someone who's been arrested for discharging firearms on prior occasions," Mayfield said. "I would say there is a realistic danger."