Fired Brunswick public defender threatens hunger strike

The former Brunswick Judicial Circuit public defender is threatening to begin a hunger strike.

Kevin Gough was fired Thursday by the Georgia Public Defender Council.

He was appointed to that position in 2012.

The firing came two weeks after he sat down for an exclusive interview with Action News Jax and accused District Attorney Jackie Johnson of holding cases hostage.

Gough said that interview contributed to his firing, but he doesn’t regret doing it.

Johnson’s office said the district attorney had no comment on Gough’s firing.

Gough hasn’t packed up his office and is threatening a hunger strike.

“I was praying on it and it came to me,” Gough said. “On Friday, May 6, at 3 o'clock, I will begin a hunger strike unless and until the issues raised by the Brunswick chapter of the NAACP are addressed to their satisfaction and mine.”

He was referring to a 38-point list of issues with the district attorney’s office put together by the NAACP Brunswick chapter’s Legal Redress Committee Chairman, the Rev. Zack Lyde.

Lyde said those steps will help fix what the NAACP sees as prosecutorial injustice for indigent defendants -- people charged with crimes who can’t afford an attorney.

Lyde said he’s backing Gough.

“They made a clear decision that what they were going to do is fight for the indigent and not bow down to the district attorney’s office by forcing the indigent to plea bargain on a daily basis,” Lyde said.

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Gough fired a warning shot Friday at the man who fired him, Georgia Public Defender Council Executive Director Bryan Tyson.

“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.

Tyson’s office said he was not available for an interview.

“He has questioned my integrity. He has questioned my legal ability. He has questioned my resolve. He has questioned my ethics. And I am deeply offended,” Gough said.

A statement from the Georgia Public Defender Council said Tyson fired Gough after learning this week of allegations about the representation of his defendants and the treatment of assistant public defenders in his office.

“I don’t know exactly what they’re about. I know this: I fight for all our clients,” Gough said.

Gough has filed an appeal and said he’s confident that he’ll be reinstated.