An admitted member of the Aryan Brotherhood criminal street gang recently pleaded guilty to multiple counts of violating the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act.
Christopher Scott Copson pleaded guilty Monday to aggravated assault, criminal damage to property, theft by receiving stolen property, making a false statement and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Copson waited until the day the trial was set to begin in the Meriwether County courthouse in Greenville to accept a negotiated plea agreement with the State.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Robert Peterkin prosecuted the case, and Superior Court Judge Dennis Blackmon imposed a sentence of 30 years to serve 20 of those years in confinement with the Georgia Department of Corrections.
On Sept. 18, 2016, Copson and his two co-defendants encountered the victim on North Depot Street in Greenville, after he inadvertently blocked the driveway with his car while the defendants were trying to leave.
After driving by the victim, the defendants stopped about 50 yards away and Copson fired two rounds from a .380 pistol at the victim.
The victim, who is African-American, called 911 and followed the defendants’ vehicle, during which time Copson fired additional rounds that struck the victim’s vehicle.
When law enforcement intercepted the defendants’ vehicle and made arrests, Copson repeatedly uttered heinous racial slurs directed toward the victim, making clear that the victim’s race was the defendant’s only motivation for the act of violence.
In the defendants’ vehicle, officers found a stolen .380 pistol, which Copson eventually admitted to purchasing from another member of the Aryan Brotherhood.
The rapid response of the Meriwether Sheriff’s Department and thorough investigation led by Investigator Gary Wood allowed for justice to be achieved in this case, according to District Attorney Herb Cranford Jr.
In June 2016, prior to his arrest on Sept. 18, 2016, Copson admitted to members of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office that he was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, which was consistent with his tattoos that indicated his membership in that gang.
Copson also admitted to the Georgia Department of Corrections in 2010 to being a member of the Aryan Brotherhood in order “to better (his) race and (his) heritage.”
Prior to the plea, the state expected to introduce testimony from Ryan Foles, district attorney’s office investigator and western region vice president of the Georgia Gang Investigators Association, to testify the Aryan Brotherhood is a criminal organization with a white supremacist ideology.
The criminal organization began in the prison system and developed a reputation for responding to any insult or aggression with at least twice the amount of violence as received.
Foles said Copson has been on the radar for local law enforcement for several years and was brought up in the Aryan Brotherhood as a child.
In his opinion, Foles said the level of intensity brought against the victim in the case was directly because of his race. In addition, Copson would have increased his own rank in this gang by committing this act of violence toward an African-American.
“He reported the incident with pride in letters to gang members in jail in prison using code language,” Foles said.
Foles believes the case is a perfect example of how powerful the Georgia Street Gang and Terrorism Prevention Act is. Without the law, Copson would have only faced a punishment of several years in prison.
“With the Gang Act, he was looking at 100-year sentence if found guilty,” Foles said. “I believe that scared him into a negotiated plea.”
Cranford said Copson’s successful prosecution proves the DA’s office is committed to protecting the public from criminal gangs in whatever form they come.
“This case is a reminder that “the State of Georgia is in a state of crisis which has been caused by violent criminal street gangs,” Cranford said. “We must not wish away this crisis, but recognize it for what it is and dedicate the resources necessary on the local level to empower law enforcement and prosecutors to remove violent gang members like Christopher Copson from free society.”