Former Hart probate judge has trial date set
A former Hart County probate judge will soon have his day in court, but this time he will be on the opposite side of the bench.
Pretrial hearings are scheduled in U.S. District Court in Athens for May 7 and the trial is scheduled for June 10 for 78-year-old Bobby Joe Smith, who served 22 years as Hart County’s probate judge. Smith has been indicted on allegations he attempted to force himself on at least three women who asked for assistance in reducing or eliminating their traffic charges and punishments.
Smith resigned his position July 24, 2014 after being arrested in May of that year on simple battery charges and criminal attempt to commit sexual battery as the result of a Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe into Smith’s actions.
Smith took a medical leave immediately after announcing his resignation.
In the first alleged assault, which initially began in May 2013, the woman sought Smith’s help with three separate traffic incidents — including a DUI charge believed to be her third. Smith told the woman she’d be on “private probation” with him and required her to report to his office regularly to make cash payments to him, according to the indictment.
In several of their meetings, Smith allegedly sexually assaulted the woman. The woman’s traffic charges and fines were eventually reduced by Smith.
Smith continued with the assaults in October 2013, touching a second woman on her breasts and attempting to “put his hand underneath her shirt. During their meetings, Smith locked the door to his chambers and blocked the woman from leaving, according to the indictment.
The third victim approached Smith in May 2014 regarding a “super speeder” ticket she received in Bryan County. Smith called the Bryan County probate court and falsely told the person who answered that the victim was his granddaughter, according to the indictment. Once the conversation ended, Smith told the woman he’d contact her if he heard back from the county about the charges.
When she got up to leave, Smith leaned in for a kiss on the lips and touched the woman’s breasts, the indictment alleges. As she pulled away, Smith’s grip tightened around her.She left the office and did not meet with him again.
The sexual battery allegations are not the only time Smith had ran afoul of Georgia law. In March 2013, Smith was investigated by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commissions for inappropriate activities regarding his son, who was running for chief magistrate in Hart County. In May of that year, the commission ordered a reprimand but did not make the details public.