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Senior judge appointed in Daniel Lee Roberts’ 2021 case
State asks for bond to be revoked in defendant’s pending cases
Dawson County courthouse

Note: Dates in this article have been updated according to a June 14, 2022 notice filed in Daniel Roberts' 2021 case.  

A senior judge has been appointed in the case of the Dawsonville man accused in the 2021 death of Kaleb Duckworth, and state prosecutors have motioned to revoke the defendant’s bonds in both of his pending cases, according to court documents filed in Dawson County.

The Honorable David T. Emerson of Douglas County will preside over the case of 21-year-old Daniel Lee Roberts, who allegedly fatally injured 19-year-old Duckworth during a fight at the Dawson County Applebee’s on July 25, 2021. 

Roberts also stands accused of allegedly threatening a teenage friend of Duckworth’s on May 13, 2022 and assaulting that teen with a vehicle on May 19, for which he was subsequently arrested the next day. He has additionally been charged with alleged aggravated assault in a 2019 case. 

Since his May arrest, Roberts has remained in custody at the Dawson County Detention Center.

Earlier last month, lawyers for Roberts requested a change of venue for his 2021 case, given the publicity on social media and in multiple DCN articles. As of now, a fall trial is still predicted for this criminal case.

Roberts third arrest

Bond motion

Documents for the oldest case alleged that after getting in a verbal disagreement with one victim, Roberts hit them while leaving a Dawson-area parking lot on Oct. 23, 2019. 

After being arrested, Roberts was charged on Oct. 24 with two counts of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during commission of a crime and carrying a concealed weapon.

On Oct. 25, 2019, Roberts was released on a $20,200 bond. He was indicted in June 2021 on those charges. As part of his bond conditions, he was not supposed to violate any laws while those charges were pending. 

Then in July, the incident with Duckworth happened. Roberts allegedly caused Duckworth’s death because of a fight at the Dawson County Applebee’s on July 25, 2021. He has been indicted on two counts of felony murder, aggravated assault and aggravated battery for that case. 

The indictment for that case alleges that Roberts punched the younger Dawsonville teen with a closed fist, causing serious brain damage. After the fight, Duckworth was taken to a hospital with severe brain trauma and died on July 27.

Following Roberts’ 2021 arrest, bond for the 2019 case was subsequently revoked on Aug. 31, 2021. Court documents from that time cited that he violated conditions of the 2019 bond by allegedly committing new offenses. Roberts was indicted for the 2021 case in October.

In December, the court reinstated his bond in the earlier case and set a $100,000 bond for the newer case. The condition to violate no laws was a bond provision in both cases. 

That bond was paid, and Roberts was released from Dawson County Sheriff’s Office custody. Five months later, though, he was booked on felony charges of terroristic threats and aggravated assault relating to the newest alleged incidents. 

The state’s motion reiterated the court’s option to deny bond for, among other conditions, posing a “significant risk of committing any felony pending trial.” 

Based on Roberts’ alleged commission of new felonies in violation of bond conditions, the state reiterated the defendant’s risk of committing more felonies and asked the court to revoke bond in the 2019 and 2021 cases. 

Judge order

The order stated that a majority of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit’s Superior Court judges agreed that extra judicial assistance was needed when requesting Emerson’s services. The document stated that senior judges are appointed to help conduct court business when other judges in a circuit are engaged in jury trials and/or other duties or are absent from the bench. 

A senior judge is a superior, state, magistrate or juvenile court judge with either 10 or more years’ experience in those offices or nine years plus one year’s tenure being chairperson for the State Board of Workers Compensation, according to state law. 

Judge Emerson worked for 31 years as a Superior Court judge for Douglas Judicial Circuit, most recently as its chief judge, before retiring in December 2021. Prior to serving as a judge, Emerson worked for 15 years as a private practice attorney. 

DCN will continue to follow Roberts’ cases as they advance through the court system.