Hart County Probate Judge Attorneys Speak Out on Grand Jury Hearing
Attorneys for Hart County Probate Judge Bob Smith say their client never admitted any wrong doing to authorities and they are speaking out about the District Attorney’s decision not to let him testify at the upcoming Hart County Grand Jury hearing.
Smith is charged with misdemeanor simple battery and misdemeanor intent to commit sexual battery involving a woman who came to him for help with a traffic citation in May while he was still in office. The woman claims Smith allegedly fondled and kissed her without her permission.
He was arrested May 23rd and released on bond.
In a press release issued Wednesday, Smith’s attorney Tim Healy stated that his client is a constitutional officer and under Georgia law, is therefore entitled to speak at a grand jury hearing.
“The District Attorney previously offered to allow Judge Smith to give testimony before the Grand Jury and to provide Judge Smith with a copy of the proposed indictment at least 15 days before the Grand Jury hearing. This is because Judge Smith is a public official under Georgia law,” Healy wrote. “Now, the District Attorney claims that the law does not provide this right to Judge Smith. Judge Smith and his attorneys disagree with this interpretation of the law.”
However, White tells WLHR News he had offered Smith a plea deal as requested by his attorneys, but his attorneys never responded by the deadline, and the criminal investigation against Smith continued.
“Shortly after Judge Smith’s arrest, attorney Tim Healy contacted me personally and requested that the State enter into an agreement to forego prosecution of allegations contained in the initial arrest warrants in exchange for Judge Smith resigning from the bench,” White said Wednesday. “Let me be clear – Mr. Healy requested this resolution on behalf of his client. Acting in accordance with my professional obligation of diligence and expediting litigation, I met with the victim and discussed the possibility of resolving the case in such a fashion. On June 6, 2014, I then submitted to Mr. Healy a proposed agreement, offering to forego prosecution of the warrants, as he requested, conditioned on Judge Smith resigning from his position as Probate Judge for the county of Hart in accordance with the provisions and terms requested by the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) no later than 15 June 2014.”
But White said that deadline came and went.
“I agreed to extend the offer by a week. Then to the end of the month,” White said. “Mr. Healy and Mr. Moore continually stalled and claimed the delay was attributable to either each other, or the JQC. When it became apparent that they had no intention of resolving the matter in the manner which Mr. Healy had requested, the offer was withdrawn and the investigation recommenced. Since that time, additional evidence has been collected and additional witnesses have come forward.”
White said Georgia law only allows for certain elected officials to be present at Grand Jury when the State intends to present charges under a specific set of circumstances.
The code section affording such a right to elected officials specifically says, “This Code section shall not apply when a public officer is charged with any other crime alleged to have occurred while such official was in the performance of an official duty.” (OCGA § 45-11-4(d)).
The code also says, “This Code section shall only apply to a public officer holding office at the time of indictment and not to former office holders.”
“Ultimately Judge Smith tendered his resignation on July 23, 2014, one month and seventeen days after the offer Mr. Healy requested had been extended, and over a month after the deadline for acceptance,” White said.
Healy said his client is ready and willing to defend himself when the Hart County Grand Jury meets August 18.
“Judge Smith denies all the charges made against him and the ones expected to come,” Healy said. “He has not admitted to any wrongdoing because he is innocent. Judge Smith looks forward to defending himself and vindicating his name and innocence.”
Healy said Smith also denies admitting any wrong doing to the Chief Investigator for the State Judicial Qualifications Commission as stated in a motion released by the Commission earlier this month.
The Commission had motioned the State Supreme Court to appoint a Special Master to hear whether there was enough evidence to remove Smith from office.
That hearing was cancelled last week when Smith resigned.