MACON, Ga. (AP) - A former Georgia Superior Court judge has pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge, in a deal with proseutors that keeps him out of prison.
The plea by Brooks E. Blitch III ends a lengthy investigation by state and federal authorities who toppled him as one of rural Clinch County's most powerful politicians. The plea Friday morning came before U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson.
Blitch pleaded guilty to a single count of honest service fraud conspiracy for granting favors to defendants outside of court. He admitted to reducing sentences and bonds and terminating probations without hearings or notifying prosecutors.
The 74-year-old Blitch resigned last year to settle misconduct charges by a state agency that investigates judges.
Federal prosecutors indicted him on criminal corruption charges two months later.
ALAPAHA CIRCUIT SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE PLEADS GUILTY
Former Alapaha Circuit Superior Court Judge Brooks E. Blitch, III, pled guilty before the Honorable Hugh Lawson, United States District Judge for the Middle District of Georgia, to one count of Honest Services Fraud Conspiracy in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341, 1343, 1346 and 1349. The maximum sentence for this offense is twenty years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and a mandatory assessment of $100.00. Blitch had already surrendered his judicial position and agreed to never again seek such as the result of prior proceedings instituted by the Judicial Qualifications Committee of Georgia.
Pursuant to a plea agreement between the government and Blitch, he would receive a probated sentence and a fine, the length and amount of each to be set by the court after a pre-sentence investigation and report are completed by the United States Probation Office. The agreement will not be final until approved by the court, which announcement is usually made at sentencing. A sentencing date has not been set, but normally is scheduled approximately sixty days after a conviction or plea of guilty.
"The essence of the honest services fraud charge was that the defendant allowed his judicial decisions to be manipulated by outside influences from improper sources, such as the requests of particular individuals who had his ear regarding special treatment for some of those who appeared or had cases before him," said Acting United States Attorney G. F. "Pete" Peterman, III. "Our goal throughout this and related prosecutions has been to ensure that judicial and law enforcement decisions made in the Alapaha Judicial Circuit are properly based on the dictates of the law and basic fairness, in an open and public proceeding, rather than through favoritism and improper influence in private chambers."
In prosecutions connected with this matter one sheriff, a court clerk, and a Clinch County State/Juvenile Court Judge, in addition to other individuals, have pled guilty to criminal charges, as well.
This case was investigated by the Thomasville and Valdosta offices of the Atlanta Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The lead investigators were Special Agents Jim Grady and Tony Smith. The prosecution was handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Leah McEwen, Jim Crane and Graham Thorpe. Further inquiries should be directed to Sue McKinney, Public Affairs Specialist, United States Attorney's Office, at (478) 621-2602.