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Bulloch Local News

Judge Denies Spencer’s Request to Be Sentenced as a Youthful Offender

A Superior Court Judge has denied a request by Grant Spencer to be retroactively sentenced as a youthful offender in hopes of opening more doors for rehabilitation and vocational programs.

Chief Superior Court Judge Gates Peed filed an Order on November 12, a little less than two weeks after Spencer appeared in court with his attorney, Matt Hube. Spencer had requested that adjustments be made to his sentence ordered in the death of Michael Gatto back in 2014, for which he pleaded guilty to Voluntary Manslaughter. Spencer has been incarcerated in the state correctional system since 2016 and was in the Bulloch County jail for the two years prior to that.

Specifically, the defendant had asked that the court resentence him under the Youthful Offender Act for male individuals who were between 17 and 25 years of age and were convicted of a felony offense for which the maximum punishment did not include death or life imprisonment. The program is through the Department of Corrections and is limited to individuals who “have the potential and desire for rehabilitation” with the idea of offenders having skills upon release back after incarceration. Hube argued in early November that Spencer was the ideal candidate for the program, which would be subject to GDC approval.

Hube also referenced the lengthy list of educational accomplishments Spencer has achieved over the last five years, including a number of certificates and a Bachelor’s degree. Spencer also teaches a class on investments to other inmates and works in the metal shop making furniture for prisons across the state. (More details on certificates in article on initial Motion filed) The resentencing, however, would open the door for additional programs not currently available to him as Spencer has already completed nearly every other program GDC offers.

“The fact is that Grant Spencer is going to get out of prison. Some people in this room don’t like that idea, probably. Some people in this room can’t wait for that day to get here. But it’s going to happen. It is an eventuality and it’s a certainty. So if we understand that and we know that Grant Spencer is going to be living among the rest of us, why wouldn’t we want him to be able to take advantage of every opportunity that’s going to potentially result in him being able to make that transition in a more successful way? Why would we not want that? Isn’t that what we ultimately want? Commit a crime, get punished, serve your punishment, you re-enter society and you contribute. And you live amongst the rest of us and you don’t cause mayhem,” Hube told the Court.

But District Attorney Daphne Totten, who prosecuted the case as an Assistant District Attorney, vehemently opposed the resentencing, telling the Court that in her 18 years, she had never seen the Act used in a murder case. She also argued that a resentence would mean Spencer would be eligible for parole earlier than initially dictated, seemingly unaware that Spencer had already received his parole paperwork months ago, and said the Court had no authority to act on the matter.

The mother of Michael Gatto also addressed the court, pleading that it not grant the request. Katherine Gatto said ‘an additional reward would be an insult’ to her family.

Judge Peed opted not to rule on the matter the same day and instead considered transcripts, videos, and other documents provided by the state and the defense before entering an Order last Friday.

In his Order denying the request, Peed said that the decision of whether or not to sentence Spencer as a Youthful Offender was not left open back in 2016 by then-Superior Court Judge William Woodrum and that the sentencing judge specifically declined to sentence Spencer as a Youthful Offender initially. He also wrote that “having considered the evidence in the case, the Court is not otherwise inclined to grant Defendant’s request at this time.”

You can read the Order in its entirety below.
Read about the Hearing requesting the resentencing here.
Other coverage on the Gatto case, including the lawsuit against the City of Statesboro, can be found here.

Jessica Szilagyi
Written By

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of The Georgia Virtue. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta, a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast,' and she has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers." Sign up for her weekly newsletter:



  1. Avatar

    A Sarris

    November 16, 2021 at 4:54 pm

    I would like to make two points here. One Daphne Totten is a venom filled person. As, if the truth is not bad enough she adds lie after lie to her opening and closing remarks! I am not sure how this woman sleeps at night ! Or you folks in this area want her representing you? The goal here is truth and justice!

    Second : The Gatto family appeared before a judge days before Michael Gatto incident happened in which Michael and his father agreed to this judge that one he would seek drug and alcohol rehabilitation and would not enter any bar till he was 21 years of age. Provided they had follow these recommendations he would possibly still be alive, but the Gatto’s feel that they have no responsibility for what happened to their son! The reason he was before a judge was stealing, drugs and alcohol.

    I am really sorry they lost their son. But, they could have made better choices too !

    • Avatar


      November 18, 2021 at 9:38 am

      A. Sarris, your information is incorrect and way off base. Michael Gatto’s “theft” was a $5 cheeseburger and the waitress was in possession of his debit card at the time, indicating he had attempted to pay. It was a bogus charge and there was never any drug charge involed. You know absolutely nothing and yet you have gone out of your way to smear someone who is no longer alive to defend his reputation. That says more about you than about Michael. Also, it is worth noting that the City of Statesboro designated Rude Rudy’s as a restaurant, where less than 50% of the eatablishment’s sales was from alcohol. That is why 18-year-olds, including Michael Gatto, were legally allowed inside. If Michael Gatto consumed alcohol, it played zero role in his murder. Stop victim blaming. Also, if this reporter really wanted to shine some “sunlight” on small town corruption,
      she should start by investigating why a bar was purposely mischaracterized as a restaraunt by the city. She should investigate
      why the City of Statesboro looked the other way while young people were repeatedly injured at this establishment. She should investigate why, despite multiple repeated violations, the City never held any hearings and continued to issue a license to this establishment. When an entire city government enables an illegally-run establishment that served minors nightly and repeatedly endangered the young population, money is always the reason. So the question is, who was actually profiting from Rude Rudy’s? By law, this place should have been shut down years before this tragedy. If the City had enforced their own alcohol ordinances, both the victim and Grant Spencer would be in different places. That is actually the only story here. Follow the money trail.But doing so would involve actual investigative journalism, something I am guessing would not fit this reporter’s narrative. This reporter might also want to include the word “falsely” when she so repeatedly and enthusiastically reports that Michael Gatto was accused of stealing money from a tip jar. There is video evidence and police testimony that proves that this was a false accusation yet this reporter continues to leave that information out of her reports,which makes me question her agenda.

      • Avatar

        A Sarris

        November 19, 2021 at 9:47 am


        I am going by what the judge in Athens ruled on and if you would like I will be happy to post the court findings which has all the facts clearly stated? There is a pattern here, that you guys didn’t address. If you like I will be happy to state it again ? Stealing / Drug / Alcohol

        Everyone in the bar was screaming for him to return the money and it does show he took the money there again he has a reputation for doing this? He had been over served before arriving at the bar as well? No one is shaming any one…look at his Twitter page the days before? There is many things we could address if that was the goal! Clearly not my goal! My heart breaks for this family. The only point is this, Michael should not have been there! Michael shouldn’t have been in the bar and he shouldn’t have been in Statesboro!

        The Gatto’s could have served their son and the grater good by going after the owner of the bar. Which he still owns many other bars and is still doing the same things. This owner has had other underage kids killed due to fights, DUI, MIP, wrecks and everyone turns a blind eye to it. Hello Ms DA do your job and make a real difference in the Community??

        I for one, love this writers approach she is the first person that stated some real facts about this case and community!

        • Avatar


          November 22, 2021 at 9:23 pm

          A. Sarris, the tip jar accusation has already repeatedly been proven false through visual evidence and police testimony. Why do you continue to state otherwise? You seem to feel it necessary to push this false narrative as if to desperately give some twisted rationale for this brutal murder. And the only “pattern” here is Grant Spencer’s behavior, though his prior incidents are clearly of no interest to you.I think you are forgetting that the victim (Michael Gatto)is not on trial here, nor is his character or prior behavior or his past tweets. Those things are simply not relevant to this tragedy and do not somehow justify his untimely and violent death. How could you possibly imply that is does? It is like blaming a rape victim because she dressed provocatively or walked alone at night. I am not sure why you think Michael Gatto had no right to be in Statesboro. That statement is absurd. He was a student at Georgia Southern. Statesboro is a corrupt little city, not a private club. Anyone can go.
          If you are familiar with Statesboro, then you must be aware that the owner(on paper) of this bar was likely not the real owner,but that’s a whole different area of this city’s long history of corruption. I don’t wish to keep engaging with you, as we clearly disagree on who the victim is in this case. I think it’s the dead kid, and you don’t.

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