JULY 22, 2008
Two Georgia judges and a county court administrator have been federally charged for operating multiple schemes to defraud taxpayers, including illegally paying employees with court fees, giving friends high-paying jobs and fixing cases.
A lengthy 19-count indictment charges a veteran Superior Court judge in rural Clinch County as well as a State Court judge in the same district with extortion, conspiracy to defraud the public of honest services and making false statements, among other things.
The judges, 28-year veteran Brooks Blitch and his friend Berrien Sutton, created unnecessary government jobs, allowed others to pocket money in exchange for access to them and ordered the collection of illegal fees in criminal cases years after the county commission voted to discontinue the fees.
Judge’ Sutton’s wife, a court clerk under Judge Blitch, was also charged. Prosecutors say the trio gathered more than $73,000 in illegal court fees and distributed the cash to county employees between 2001 and 2007. The money was stashed in a bank account that was kept secret from county budget officers and the payments were never taxed.
The indictment also mentions dozens of cases in which attorneys and friends of criminal defendants sought favors from Judge Blitch outside of court. In numerous instances Blitch granted them by terminating probation sentences, reducing sentences—including that of a convicted child molester—and ordering criminals’ early prison release without even notifying prosecutors.
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