Lawsuit says Georgia officials covered up fatal hit-and-run

ATLANTA (AP) — The father of a bicyclist who died following a hit-and-run crash in Georgia has filed a wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit against the driver, as well as against a state House member and a police chief chief who the father says caused his son’s death by not reporting it.

The federal lawsuit by Manfred Keais was filed Sept. 13 in federal court in Rome, seeking damages in the Sept. 11, 2019, death of Eric Keais.

Ralph “Ryan” Dover III hit Eric Keais that night in the northwest Georgia town of Cedartown with his SUV. Instead of calling 911, he called his friend, state Rep. Trey Kelley. The Republican official in turn called Cedartown Police Chief Jamie Newsome at home, according to authorities. An officer was sent to the area, unaware that someone may have been injured, and eventually found Keais lying in a ditch, gravely wounded. Keais died from his injuries soon afterward.

“Defendants Dover, Kelley and Newsome conspired to cover up the seriousness of the hit-and-run by manipulating the police investigation,” the lawsuit states. “These defendants acted in concert to put Mr. Keais’ life in further jeopardy by recklessly and intentionally delaying and depriving him of lifesaving medical treatment.”

Manfred Keais also sued the city of Cedartown and its police department. He is demanding money damages for pain and suffering, medical and funeral expenses and compensatory and punitive damages.

Kelley, a Cedartown resident and lawyer, represents all of Polk and parts of Floyd and Haralson counties in northwest Georgia. He was indicted in December on a charge of reckless conduct, alleging he wrongly didn’t report the crash. Dover has been indicted on charges of felony hit-and-run and reckless conduct.

“You don’t just go and look. You dial 911 first. None of them did that,” Aaron Keais, Eric Keais’ brother, told WAGA-TV.

Lester Tate, Kelley’s lawyer, said his client “completely” disputes the allegations. Kelley told police that night he wasn’t sure whether Dover hit a person or a deer. He has said he cooperated with police.

“I am confident that Rep. Kelley acted in full accordance with Georgia law,” Tate wrote in an email Thursday. “He had no knowledge or legal duty that required him to do anything more than what he did.”

Kelley has asked a judge to throw out the indictment. But a judge has yet to rule on a motion to quash that has been pending since July.

Kelley this year stepped down from his post as House majority whip after he was indicted and his wife filed for divorce.

The lawsuit also claims that Kelley used his political office to “obtain an improper personal favor” and accuses Newsome of violating the department’s procedures.

City attorney Carey Pilgrim told WAGA-TV that the city and Newsome “deny the material allegations in the complaint and will be defending against the same.” Dover did not immediately respond to a Facebook message seeking comment.


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