Dismissed public defender to go on hunger strike

Kevin Gough says he wants to bring attention to 'corruption'

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – One day after being dismissed from his job, a Brunswick public defender said he’s going on a hunger strike to bring attention to corruption in his judicial circuit.

The Georgia Public Defender Council said it’s investigating Kevin Gough after learning of allegations concerning the representation of those who cannot afford attorneys and the treatment of assistant public defenders in the Brunswick Judicial Circuit.

Gough plans to start his hunger strike at 3 p.m. on May 6. He told News4Jax it’s about more than him keeping his job at the Public Defender’s Office, but it's about bringing attention to injustices that he said have been too long ignored.

Standing in front of his Brunswick law office, Gough had a strong message for the man who dismissed him as public defender.

Gough said he told Bryan Tyson, executive director of the Georgia Public Defender Council, about issues in his circuit, and of his plans to file a complaint against a superior court judge.

“Bryan, you can step to the forefront. You can fight for these people down here. You can be a hero or you can be a goat. The choice is yours. Yes, I'm calling you out,” Gough said.

Gough said Thursday that the two were supposed to talk about the issues. Instead, Gough said he was dismissed, with Tyson citing allegations of client misrepresentation and mistreatment of assistant public defenders.

“Those who know me, who live in this community, know how hard I fight for our clients -- All our clients,” Gough said.

For those who don’t know, Gough said his hunger strike will be proof.

He said it will keep going until the 38 issues, raised by the Brunswick Chapter of the NAACP, are addressed.

Some of the biggest issues, Gough said, include the way cases are assigned and how plea deals are offered.

Rev. Zack Lyde, an activist, said he’s glad Gough spoke up.

“We responded when we saw that he was brave enough to come out and make a statement against this corruption,” Lyde said.

The Georgia Public Defender Council said it’s not making a comment.

Gough just hopes the issues will be addressed.

“I hope that the abuses that have gone on in this judicial circuit for several decades will come to an end,” Gough said.

Gough has appealed his dismissal. He expects the Public Defender Council to take up the issue on May 13.

NAACP and leaders in Brunswick said they hope the federal government will get involved.