Former Clinch County Superior Court Judge Brooks E. Blitch III faces numerous federal charges for various alleged public corruption activities, ranging from fixing cases to making illegal payments to courthouse employees. Last Monday, two of the charges, involving retaliation against witnesses, were thrown out by the U.S. District court.
The federal statute that was the basis for those charges protects witnesses and victims from retaliation in criminal cases. The indictment in this federal criminal case accuses Blitch of attempting to influence officials in two Georgia towns not to hire an applicant for the police chief position in both cities. That applicant was a former agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation who helped prosecute and convict Blitch’s son in a 1996 arson case.
The District Court ruled that the prosecutors misinterpreted the language of the statute when using it to charge Blitch. His ruling stated that “The statute is intended to protect from retaliation the private citizen who comes forward to provide law enforcement with information about a federal crime.” However, the law does not “protect the law enforcement officer who receives the information.”
Berrien Sutton, Blitch’s former law partner and a former State Court judge who was appointed by Blitch, has been indicted in this case, as well.