Tom Owens, A Man Amok

James Burkart had a gun in his hand while he was talking to me. It took me a second to realize it.

After reading the details of the restraining order Burkart taken out against Tom Owens, I felt compelled to hear the rest of the tale. But he wasn’t answering his phone, and I couldn’t find an email address. He’s an IT guy and I find hard-to-find stuff for a living. He’s off the grid on purpose.

According to Burkart’s 2013 restraining order against Owens and his police report from Doraville, Owens had “repeatedly harassed him over the past 10 years,” from chucking the bird while jogging in front of Burkart’s home and calling him a “f—-ing fa–ot” to showing up at Burkart’s work at Home Depot to take pictures of him and his supervisor with the intent of getting him fired. The police report says Owens was literally peeping from around the corner of aisles in the store to watch him.

Ironically, I had to visit Burkart one weeknight at his home for an explanation.

When I said I was writing about Tom Owens, Burkart came to the door and stood a bit awkwardly in his front doorway to talk. He kept his right hand just out of view behind the frame. He asked some questions, intensely, about who I was and who I might be with. I offered my business card. A female friend came out to take it so he wouldn’t have to move.

Burkart said that he had given up his guns before he met Owens, but he’d had to get some more since. In a later conversation, he confirmed that he had a pistol in his hand, finger out of the trigger well, just in case I turned out to be some nutty confidant of Owens’ looking for a way to get at him.

“Tom’s not right,” Burkart said. “Tom’s a nut. He said that I tried to kill him, that I was trying to hack his computer with my database at work … I had to hire a lawyer, and get a personal protection order. It cost me about three grand.”

I asked Burkart how this began.

“He was in the store where I work and tried to befriend me, and then it was like … odd comments,” he said. “Let’s go to the shooting range, let’s go to the Falcons game, let’s go to a Braves game. It’s like, you know what? I don’t really like the n–ger speech. I don’t like that other speech. … That was the red flag. The n–ger speech, and like n–ger motherfu–er, and the f-g-ass. You know what? I’m busy. You’re busy. Thanks. Good bye.”

Burkart’s description of a flip from beckoning to hostility matches a pattern in other accounts of Owens in public record.

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  1. gcp says:

    Electing candidates with personal problems usually results in elected politicians with problems.

    Examples: Sherry Barnes Sutton domestic and financial issues, Stan Watson involved in a bizarre incident a couple years ago at a Glenwood bar where he accused a female of stealing his wallet, bankruptcy of the current interim CEO and of course Elaine Boyer and her crimes.

    Conclusion: If you can’t run your own life you should not be in public office.

  2. tomowensfordekalb says:

    “Although the author of this article has misrepresented the truth about me personally, my military service and about my intentions behind my pursuing the end of corruption and unlawfulness in DeKalb, he is correct that “…too many voters have abandoned DeKalb politics to the mendacious and the mad. The AJC and other media outlets have no spare capacity to dive into a local race. A superficially-observed local election leaves Owens with a puncher’s chance in a fight, since a five-way race could go to a thinly-attended December runoff.”

    So, I want to personally encourage everyone to VOTE on November 4th. Take a look at my website and if you have questions, please message me and I will be happy to provide truthful information about my background and intentions from the source.”

    • objective says:

      if you feel misrepresented, you have the opportunity to address the substance of the problems raised right here.

  3. DAinGA says:

    Really great piece. And it is also very true that these people drive out the sane and thoughtful from local politics and yet when they get in, they are extremely thin skinned about anything. And this happens around the metro area. Look at Morrow right now, look at East Point a few years ago with their Mayor, the current Snellville Mayor, the former Mayor of Stockbridge. Zealots NEVER make good leaders.

  4. Dave Bearse says:

    I attended a candidate forum in north DeKalb a couple of weeks ago that included the candidates for Commissioner. It was discouraging, but that’s what we’ve come to expect in DeKalb.

    I thought Jester made the best impression, but her touting involvement with Americans for Prosperity precludes a vote from me for her.

  5. PegM says:

    For years, I have watched the damning duo of Owens/Newton on any variety of topics they get a wild hair about. They switch off their roles depending on the mood they are in…one day Newton is the rabble rouser, with Owens doing the flyers, and vice versa. Both are odd ducks, who serious people don’t take seriously….but do so at some peril. Neither of them have any redeeming social value, but they think they are doing something for a cause….their’s. You can’t win with fanatics. And you can’t even suffer them gladly….they just piss you off.

  6. Cinderella says:

    Mr. Newton, this information is supported by documentation and statements from witnesses (or should I say “victims”). What part of this do you think Mr. Chidi is lying about??

    And Mr. Owens, you know that there is more, much more, that could be said about your unacceptable behavior. You should have known that when one chooses to run for public office, very little is off-limits, and is fairly accessible. So you shouldn’t be surprised about being exposed as a hypocrite, claiming to be a dragon slayer of corruption when your own behavior is criminal and repulsive.

    Actually, I think Mr. Chidi was rather easy on you. Personally, I wish the both of you would disappear.

  7. ChuckRozenkranz says:

    I am posting here due to the great piece regarding Mr. Owen’s lunacy that was printed in Sunday’s AJC. Bells, whistles, sirens and grenades went off when we saw “Joe Newton” mentioned in the article, which led me to this posting. Just an FYI to DeKalb voters, we know Joe quite well in Gwinnett County. I believe him to be one of the vilest pieces of political scum that I’ve met in my many years in Gwinnett. Several years ago we worked with the campaign of a County Commissioner against the incumbent Chairman for his seat. We had seen some sleaze in our political lifetimes, but nothing like this. Joe had a one-person PAC (later declared illegal by the state) that was apparently (note: he had filed for bankruptcy in the past, was living in a not lavish neighborhood and claimed to be retired) funneling cash into Joe’s campaign efforts by way of a well-funded “the opponent is evil incarnate” strategy. His actions were reprehensible, underhanded and disgusting at best. When Joe attacked the County Sheriff for making TV spots on behalf of the candidate, it was discovered that Joe had a 62 page (publically available) “rap sheet” spanning everything from speeding tickets to misdemeanor petty crimes to felony assault.

    The aftermath of these particular efforts of Joe’s included a re-elected but now “resigned in lieu of grand jury perjury charges” Chairman and another Commissioner “currently vacationing in federal prison for bribery.” My bet here is that Joe is again acting as a paid political hit man and that the utmost care should be exercised here. Basically, he will do just about anything, and sometimes his filthy tactics work. I rarely judge people by the company they keep, but in this case I cannot help but to be quite certain that Mr. Owens is either incapable of recognizing evil or has welcomed it as a means of winning an election. In either case, I’d suggest voting for a doorknob if he is your only choice.

  8. Buncy says:

    I got into this fascinating 6-page article by surfing around after reading about the restraining order, obviously unconstitutional, against Mr. Chidi. So my point of entry was at Volokh Conspiracy.

    I live in Western North Carolina and we have a few of those Owens/Newton characters here. What is particularly troubling to me as a retired lawyer with First Amendment experience (and being myself the victim of the ubiquitous frivolous and malicious restraining order) is that the judge awarded a temporary restraining order to Owens against Chidi, based on a complete lack of allegations which would cause one to conclude that Owens was being stalked within the meaning of Georgia law. This practice of legislating from the bench and issuing a sort of judicial bill of attainder without cause may be trendy. But it is dangerous to our Constitutional democracy; and it goes on everywhere, as if the judiciary believe they have that power and are intent on micro-managing speech and communications, something forbidden by the Bill of Rights and ample caselaw from the appellate courts.

    It seems to me that the entire citizenry of the county should apply for and receive a protection order against Tom Owens. He is a dangerous wack.

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