Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Judge Brooks Blitch III Receives Probation & Fine, avoids Jail Time

Former Alapaha Circuit Judge Brooks E. Blitch III has been sentenced to three years probation and fined $100,000 in federal court.

Blitch pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud on Sept. 11.

The charge alleges that he had deprived Georgia citizens of their entitlement to his honest services as judge by engaging in unethical meetings with litigants and deciding cases based on information learned during those meetings. Before his sentence was read, Blitch said, “I am truly sorry for the embarrassment this has caused in the Alapaha Judicial Circuit.”

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson expressed concern as to why the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to a plea agreement with Blitch considering the extensive nature of the investigation.

Blitch was one of four people sentenced Tuesday in connection with the Alapaha Judicial Circuit case, including his former law partner, Homerville attorney Berrien Sutton, who resigned as a state court judge shortly before being indicted.

Sutton pleaded guilty to one count of honest services fraud conspiracy earlier this year. He was sentenced to six years probation, $255,000 in restitution and a $10,000 fine.

For Blitch’s plea, the U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped several other charges, ranging from fixing cases to making illegal payments to courthouse employees, according to court documents.

The Blitch investigation has affected the lives of numerous Alapaha Circuit officials and residents during the past several years. The probe into Blitch indirectly led to a sheriff, court clerk, and a Clinch County state/juvenile court judge pleading guilty to federal charges. Yet, it also led to indictments against other officials and individuals who were eventually acquitted or had their charges dismissed.

Blitch served as a judge for nearly three decades in the Alapaha Judicial Circuit of Clinch, Lanier, Berrien, Cook and Atkinson counties.

He is part of a South Georgia political dynasty stretching back decades. His mother, Iris Faircloth Blitch, served as a Georgia legislator in both the General Assembly’s House and Senate in the 1940s and ’50s. She also served as a Georgia representative in Congress from the mid 1950s through early 1960s.

Blitch’s wife, Peg Blitch, served as a state senator throughout the 1990s until 2004. She recently defeated Carol Chambers in the race for the City of Homerville mayor and is expected to take office next year.

Malynda Fulton of the Valdosta Daily Times 12/1/09

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