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Forsyth man from 2012 boat wreck on Lanier files petition for release
Bennett says his good behavior not recognized
Paul J. Bennett2

GAINESVILLE — A Forsyth County man, the subject of a 2013 trial involving the death of two Buford boys, filed a civil action against Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch for release, claiming his “good behavior” has not been recognized.

Paul J. Bennett was convicted in 2013 on charges of operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol and reckless operation of a vessel.

The charges related to a June 18, 2012, boating incident, where Bennett’s fishing boat collided with a pontoon. Two boys — Jake Prince, 9, and Griffin Prince, 13 — were killed.

Bennett was acquitted on eight counts of homicide by vessel and received a 2.5-year prison sentence in November 2013.

In the filing on Feb. 4, Bennett and his counsel Barry Zimmerman claim his “good behavior” days have not been awarded.

The petition is for a writ of mandamus, an order from a judge to force the sheriff’s office and the jail to release Bennett.

“To date, the plaintiff has not only been an exemplary inmate exhibiting perfect behavior, but also, he has gone above and beyond, volunteering for work and duties within the Jail,” according to the petition.

The plaintiff claims he confirmed an early release date of Feb. 6 with officers in November, adding jail officers later “desired to release [Bennett] in November of 2014 ... so that he could be reunited with his family for Thanksgiving,” according to the petition.

This changed, according to the civil action, after a call from the jail to the Hall County District Attorney’s Office, which then allegedly told the jail the “good behavior” credits did not apply.

Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh declined to comment on the claims.

“This case is currently under litigation which limits my ability to comment in detail,” Couch said in a statement. “However, I can state that Mr. Bennett has been treated fairly and within the boundaries of the law and the policies of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.”

Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Nicole Bailes said the boating under the influence conviction “where there was loss of life” excluded Bennett from the “good behavior” allowances.

In October, the petition claims Bennett was tasked to clean up the blood in the cell of Ronald Sailers, an inmate who died of blunt force trauma.

John Darrell Setchel, 24, was indicted on Oct. 8 in Sailers’ death, accused of slamming his cellmate’s head into the concrete floor and killing him.

Bennett seeks the award of the “good behavior” allowances, release from the jail and attorney’s fees.