Former Brunswick Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Amanda Williams was indicted Wednesday by a Fulton County Grand Jury for allegedly lying about a drug court sentence during a 2011 investigation by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission.
The indictment comes more than three years after the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office was asked to investigate Williams for potential criminal charges.
Williams resigned from the bench in January 2012 amid allegations of ethics violations by the commission in a 12- count report released in November 2011. Among other things, the report accused Williams of acting with “tyrannical partiality,” failing to remove herself from cases in which her lawyer family members were involved, showing favoritism from the bench and giving drug court participants unlawful indefinite sentences.
Williams did not return phone calls from The News on Wednesday. John Ossick, a Camden County lawyer who represented Williams before the qualifications commission, also did not return a phone call from The News Wednesday.
In February 2012, a little more than a month after her resignation and on the heels of the qualifications commission’s allegations, state Attorney General Sam Olens appointed the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office to investigate Williams.
That investigation resulted in an indictment Wednesday on one count of making false statements and one count of violating her oath of office as an elected Superior Court judge.
Williams was indicted in Fulton County because that is where the alleged lies were told.
Williams is accused of giving false statements to investigators when asked about alleged indefinite sentences, one she handed down to Lindsey Dills in particular, in August 2011, according to the indictment obtained by The News Wednesday from the Fulton County Court Clerk’s office.
Dills was sent to the Glynn County Detention Center by Williams in October 2008 for an unspecified amount of time and was not allowed contact with family, attorneys or drug court counselors, according to a release Wednesday from the Fulton County District Attorney’s office.
“Dills eventually became depressed and attempted suicide by slitting her wrists,” the release said.
When questioned about Dills’ incarceration in August 2011, Williams allegedly denied providing instructions to prohibit Dills from seeing family, attorneys and counselors, according to the indictment.
The commission had a copy of a recording with Williams’ direct instructions, the district attorney’s office said.
Mary Helen Moses, a Brunswick lawyer who ran against Williams unsuccessfully in 2010, said if laws were broken, then Williams should pay the price.
“If what she did constitutes a crime, then she should be prosecuted,” Moses said.
But hearing about the indictment was not necessarily good news for Moses.
“I feel badly. This is not a happy day,” Moses said, adding that she would rather not see a former judge facing charges like this. Moses would be happier if none of this had ever happened in the first place.
Ironically, it was a complaint made by Williams against the 2010 campaign of Moses that prompted the state ethics investigation. Williams had claimed that allegations made by lawyer Doug Alexander, who was backing Moses, in a letter to other lawyers violated the ethics of judicial elections.
Alexander told state investigators after Williams’ complaint that he could document all of his claims against her and turned over what he had. No ethics charges were brought against Moses, but a year-long investigation into Williams was launched.
Jim Stein, a Camden County lawyer who appeared before Williams when she was a judge and who has worked with her on cases in her law practice, said he believes there are other forces behind the indictment and its timing.
The statute of limitations was set to expire on criminal charges against her in August, he said.
“I think it’s politically motivated,” Stein said.
He called Williams a competent judge and an excellent lawyer who oversaw the rehabilitation of many drug court participants. Stein applauded Williams for getting drug court going in the judicial circuit to offer nonviolent offenders a chance to avoid incarceration.
“As a judge, she never failed to do what the law required her to do,” Stein said.
Under Georgia law, a conviction for violating the oath of office and making false statements carries a prison sentence of one to five years. A $1,000 fine could be tacked onto a false statement conviction.