Fortner found guilty, will serve jail time
Former coroner Ronald Fortner was found guilty on dozens of charges of felony theft by deception and violation of the oath of public office Friday evening at the Lumpkin County courthouse.
He was sentenced by state judge Martha Christian to 15 years with three years to serve in a state penitentiary and the remainder to be served on probation.
The verdict came after five busy days of testimony in which District Attorney Jeff Langley laid out the case that Fortner investigated numerous natural deaths at Gold City nursing home and then billed the county, a total of just over $3,000, for his services.
He argued that a coroner's investigation was unwarranted and uncalled for in each instance.
"Don't let him get away with this," said Langley to the jury. "Don't put a stamp of approval on corruption because it's not $3 million, it's $3,000."
Fortner's attorney Jeff Wolff had argued that his client was investigating rumors of abuse at the local home.
"Mr. Fortner was doing exactly what he should have done," said Wolff.
In the end the jury appeared to disagree, as the verdict was handed down after more than three hours of deliberation. The case came to a close as Fortner was led from the courthouse by Lumpkin County deputies and placed directly into custody.
For an in-depth story on the Fortner trial look for Wednesday's edition of The Dahlonega Nugget.