Fed prosecutors: Toss S. Ga. judge’s guilty plea
By JIM WALLS
Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, a south Georgia judge soon will no longer be a convicted felon.
In court filings, federal prosecutors say a 2010 ruling by the high court leaves no choice but to vacate a 2009 guilty plea by former Alapaha Circuit Superior Court Judge Brooks E. Blitch III. According to a Sept. 6 filing by U.S. Attorney Michael J. Moore of the Middle District of Georgia:
The government concedes that Petitioner Blitch’s plea to Count Nine of the indictment must be vacated under Skilling. The government does not oppose the entry of an Order of this Court vacating the conviction to the plea of guilty a to Count Nine.
But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2010 that the relevant language in the federal “Honest Services” law applies only to bribery and kickbacks. The court’s decision came on an appeal by former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling.
Neither crime applied to the conduct that Blitch admitted. In his plea, Blitch acknowledged releasing three drug defendants from jail in 2006 and 2007 after improper communication with someone acting on their behalf. In each case, Blitch admitted, he released the defendant without a hearing and without notifying the local district attorney.
Federal prosecutors charged those actions deprived taxpayers of Blitch’s “honest services,” since he was acting beyond his authority.