A Fulton County, Georgia grand jury has indicted a former judge for making false statements and violating her oath of office.
Amanda F. Williams spent 21 years on the bench in the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, eventually ascending to chief judge. While serving in that position she created and oversaw the state’s largest drug court. Her “tyrannical” behavior in that court, however, led to her downfall.
That was the conclusion reached by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission, which began an investigation after Williams filed an ethics complaint alleging campaign violations by her opponent, Mary Helen Moses, during a 2010 election. The complaint claimed a letter written by attorney David Alexander, who was backing Moses, violated the ethics of judicial elections.
Alexander told investigators he could document all his claims involving Williams, and turned over what he had. The subsequent ethics charges filed against Williams accused her of sending defendants to jail for indefinite terms, cutting off their access to lawyers and relatives.
Williams denied such claims, but the Commission had a copy of a recording in which she gave direct instructions to that effect when ordering the incarceration of Lindsey Dills, who had a history of suicide attempts, in August 2011. Dills spent over 70 days in solitary confinement; Williams had ordered her jailed with “no mail, no phone calls, no visitors.”
“Dills eventually became depressed and attempted suicide by slitting her wrists,” according to a press release from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, which pursued an indictment against Williams because she allegedly made false statements in that county.
The Judicial Qualifications Commission also found Williams had used “rude, abusive, and insulting language” in some of her drug court statements. Her harsh treatment of drug court defendants was profiled in a March 2011 episode of the popular radio show This American Life; in one case, she reportedly jailed a defendant for using the term “baby momma.”
Additionally, the 14-count ethics complaint alleged Williams had presided over cases where her husband and daughter (both attorneys) represented defendants, and accused her of placing a non-drug offense defendant in her court as a favor to another lawyer.
In December 2011, Williams agreed to step down from the bench and not seek other judicial offices to resolve the ethics complaint. She resigned the following month and went into private practice as an attorney.
Her indictment on June 3, 2015 came just two months before the statute of limitations was to expire. Williams faces one to five years in prison if convicted, as well as disbarment and loss of her state pension. The charges against her remain pending.
Sources: www.ajc.com, www.thebrunswicknews.com, www.thisamericanlife.org
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