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Georgia State Senator Seized at Airport with Marijuana, Pays $500 Fine


January 1998

Georgia state Senator Ralph David Abernathy III (D-Atlanta) was seized at Hartsfield International Airport in Clayton County (Atlanta) after authorities discovered 6.9 grams of marijuana in his underpants. Abernathy is the son of Rev. Ralph Abernathy Jr., who became head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968 (Associated Press, "Abernathy arrested with drugs," Las Vegas Sun, December 3, 1997; "Georgia," USA Today, December 4, 1997, p. 8A).

Airport authorities stopped Abernathy after he drew the attention of a drug-sniffing dog. The Senator was returning from Jamaica. Abernathy was not arrested, but agreed to pay a $500 civil fine. Clayton County did not press charges against the Senator, Abernathy's office told NewsBriefs. Abernathy issued a statement in which he apologized for his actions, which he called "stupid." Georgia Governor Zell Miller issued a statement saying, "I think it's outrageous. What kind of example is this for our youth? If he worked for me, he'd no longer be working in the executive branch" (Michael Weiss, "Governor outraged by senator's pot incident," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 5, 1997).

On December 17, five Republican members of the Georgia House said they will sponsor a resolution calling for Abernathy's impeachment. On January 14, the Georgia Senate voted 51-2 to censure Abernathy (Joan Kirchner, "Abernathy Facing Calls For Impeachment After Marijuana Bust," Associated Press Wire, December 19, 1997; Charles Walston, "Senate Votes to Censure Abernathy," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 15, 1998).

Sen. Ralph David Abernathy III - (404) 656-0056.