Blitch, ex-Clinch County judge, fined $100K after fraud plea
Former Superior Court Judge Brooks E. Blitch III of Clinch County was sentenced Tuesday to three years’ probation and fined $100,000 after pleading guilty to fraud in federal court in Macon. Blitch’s crime was punishable by up to 20 years in prison but he avoided prison time under the plea agreement. Prosecutors dropped the remaining charges in a 78-page indictment that accused Blitch, among other things, of appointing friends to judgeships and other court jobs that required little or no work. In his plea, Blitch admitted releasing three criminal defendants from jail in 2006 and 2007 after improper communication with someone acting on behalf of the defendants, who were being held for drug charges, aggravated assault and violation of probation. In each case, Blitch admitted, he released the defendant without a hearing and without notifying the local district attorney. Co-conspirator Hayward Collier, accused of acting as the middleman in two of the cases, pleaded guilty in January to perjury for lying to a federal grand jury investigating Blitch. In exchange for Collier’s plea, authorities dropped charges that he had helped Blitch set up more than 100 similar meetings to provide “inappropriate assistance” to defendants. Collier was sentenced Tuesday to five years’ probation.