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More details revealed on Blitch Investigation

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February 27, 2008

Lowndes County - A discovery case in Lowndes County Wednesday revealed that numerous officials in the Alapaha Judicial Circuit were wire tapped by the FBI. 

Then they went to District Attorney Cathy Helms for help.  "Miss Helms was asked to listen to tapes taken through electronic surveillance.  She was asked to identify the people involved," says Richard Malone, an attorney for Helms.

The wire taps are part of the FBI's year long investigation of Superior Court Judge Brooks Blitch.  Blitch's attorney, former Governor Roy Barnes and the Judicial Qualifications Commission want to know what was said. 

But Helms, doesn't want to answer. "I have the right to inquire, what did the FBI ask you about that, what did you tell the FBI?" says Roy Barnes, former Governor and attorney for Judge Blitch.

"What I understood is the questions had to do with conversations she's had with the FBI and Judge Blitch," adds Josh Archer, a representative for the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Barnes says the information could help his case and allow him to possibly subpoena FBI records.

The JQC says the information could allow them to add to the misconduct charges they already filed last fall.

Judge Harry Jay Altman appealed to both parties.  He said Helms needs to answer questions relating to all conversations she may have had with the FBI, expect what was heard on the sealed wire taps.

"She will not be asked what she heard on those tapes!  She can, however be asked what has been asked of her otherwise by the FBI," Judge Altman said in his ruling.

Roy Barnes hopes this brings him one step closer to closing the case against his client.  "We think Judge Blitch has served long and honorably for 30 years and he's going to be completely exonerated by all these proceedings."

Helms will now have to answer questions from both parties on a later date.

The misconduct charges filed against Blitch accuse him of collecting illegal court payments and ordering the early release of criminals.

If proven, he could be removed from power.

The charges are not criminal and separate from an FBI Investigation looking into the judge and his actions.

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