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Former police officer sentenced to 60 years

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Friends and family painted Jay Dailey as a Jekyll-and-Hyde figure deserving of leniency -- a loving father and husband pulled into malaise by alcoholism and depression that's haunted his bloodline for generations.

A judge ruled that the Hyde side of Dailey should answer to his actions.

Superior Court Judge Dawson Jackson on Tuesday sentenced Dailey, a former Duluth police officer, to 60 years in prison for his bizarre attacks on citizens and a fellow officer two years ago.

After more than two hours of emotional testimony from victims, Dailey's supporters and the defendant himself, Jackson sided with prosecutors in giving Dailey twice the prison term he declined in a plea deal before trial.

The sentencing hearing provided glimpses into Dailey's psyche the day he went off the rails and shocked law enforcement across Georgia. He offered no explanation and claimed to remember only flashes of the ordeal.

Dailey's attorney, Jeff Sliz, plans to appeal. He called a plea deal of 30 years offered by prosecutors "unreasonable" and tantamount to a life sentence for the 45-year-old Dailey. Sliz said his client had a clean criminal record prior to the attacks.

Married with a 6-year-old son who bears his full name, Dailey has co-authored a children's book in the Gwinnett County Jail while awaiting trial, his attorney said.

Sliz asked the court to consider a 12-year-sentence.

"For all the good things he's done in his life, he deserves to have some life left (after prison)," Sliz argued in court.

Should Dailey be paroled, he'll face 15 years probation and mandatory alcohol treatment. Under current parole guidelines, inmates in Georgia are serving about 85 percent of the 20-year maximum sentence Dailey received for aggravated assault convictions, said District Attorney Danny Porter.

Last month, jurors convicted Dailey of aggravated assault upon a peace officer, aggravated assault (two counts), possession of a firearm (three counts), terroristic threats, battery and simple battery.

"Realistically, he's looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 years or more before he's eligible (for parole)," Porter said.

In court, Porter, who co-prosecuted the case, called into question the likelihood that Dailey could ever be fully rehabilitated. His attempts at sobriety had always been half-baked, Porter argued.

"(Dailey) is a walking, talking time bomb," Porter said. "All it takes is a drink and a gun and we're right back out on Level Creek Road" where the attacks happened, he said.

Jurors found that Dailey shot off-duty Fulton County police Cpl. Paul Phillips in the left arm, pointed his handgun at two passing motorists and pepper-sprayed motorist Leresa Graham during a drunken rampage on Feb. 1, 2008.

The shooting effectively ended Phillips' law enforcement career. Jackson took into account Phillips' extensive surgeries and the limpness of his arm in meting out the sentence, he said.

Aside from family, Sliz called four character witnesses, mostly supporters in Celebrate Recovery, Dailey's Christian 12-step program. They painted the car salesman-turned-cop as a morose figure who leaned on alcohol as de facto medication.

"He was generally sad," recalled George Robinson, Dailey's sponsor in recovery.

Dailey's wife of 11 years, Mikaela, said her husband's deplorable actions shattered her comfortable suburban existence. She begged the judge to show mercy.

"He's a human being who made some terrible decisions," she testified. "I'm still here because I know my husband is not a criminal in the sense that he has malice in his heart."

Dailey's mother, Janet, said her third-born son had aspired to be an officer since age 3, like his uncle on the Englewood Police Department in California, but genetics may have accelerated the demise of that dream.

Through two generations, Janet Dailey said she counted 27 people in her family who suffer from alcoholism or depression.

"It is something we just can't seem to escape," Janet Dailey said.

But Jackson, the judge, showed little sympathy, calling Dailey such a danger to society that he would have considered a life sentence, if such punishment was available.

That notion sent tempers flaring between Jackson and Dailey's camp.

The judge threatened to find Sliz in contempt of court after the attorney guffawed and voiced his stance that the sentencing was already unfair.

"Those remarks are not going to be tolerated," Jackson warned the attorney.

Dailey sighed, hunched his shoulders and mouthed "I love you" to family as deputies led him away.

Outside the courtroom, a fuming Sliz said he plans to appeal Jackson's ruling and take action to have him removed from the bench.

Face to face again

Courtroom tensions were high when Phillips and his wife, Stephanie, read victim impact statements asking for maximum sentences.

The shooting prevented Phillips from holding his son, now 3, for months and will continue to hamper games of backyard catch, Stephanie Phillips testified, dabbing tears at the witness stand.

"Our family has suffered physically, emotionally and financially (because of) action which should never have been committed against a brother in blue," she said.

Paul Phillips, electing to stand at a podium, reminded the court of an incident in 2003, when Gwinnett police say Dailey lashed out in a drunken rage against neighbors and was involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluations.

"This time he nearly killed me," Phillips said. "He has tarnished the badge ... worn by law enforcement everywhere."

Choking back sobs, Dailey addressed the court for the first time, reading from a six-page letter in which he apologized to each witness and the entire community near the shooting.

He singled out Phillips and Graham in the gallery and asked their forgiveness, even thanking Phillips for defensively shooting him in the hand -- a "daily reminder" of his actions, he said.

"You're the type of police officer I always wanted to be," Dailey said, addressing Phillips. "You did a hero's job."