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Gov. Perdue, please clean up District Attorney Ballard's mess

OPINION: Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard — a candidate for one of the two vacant judgeships in this district — has called out The Citizen for raising questions about his so-called “investigation” into misconduct by his long-time friend and now-disgraced Superior Court Judge Paschal English. Before we get down to cases, let’s alert Governor Sonny Perdue. Governor, if you choose Ballard to don judicial robes, you will be embarrassed.

This English sycophant has been caught in a public lie concocted, apparently, to discredit the only two remaining judges in this circuit with clean hands — Chris Edwards and Tommy Hankinson.

Far from restoring confidence in the impartial administration of justice in the Griffin Judicial Circuit, this D(istorting) Attorney has further damaged the public’s trust in its elected officials.

Additionally, he has short-circuited a full disclosure of the full extent of damage that might have occurred in dozens of cases because of the sexual relationship between then-Judge English and a state-paid assistant public defender, Kim Cornwell.

As both Judge Christopher Edwards and Judge Tommy Hankinson stated to a reluctant Ballard in the recordings attached to this document, innocent people might be in prison and guilty people might have been let go because of the unethical and unlawful relationship between a chief judge charged with strict impartiality and the public defender charged with the legal duty to represent defendants charged with all manner of crimes.

Ballard — probably the only sitting district attorney in the United States who writes a weekly newspaper column, however fraught with conflicts of interest that might be — launches his defense of the indefensible via that “special relationship” with the local legal organ.

Ballard says, “And then [the reporter] wrote an article that got everything wrong.”

Ballard is correct only in one fact: Our reporter John Munford got the date of the daylight tryst between the judge and the public defender wrong by one digit: It was 2008, not 2009, as he erroneously typed. We corrected that detail online as soon as it was brought to our attention.

Ballard also needs to correct his “correction” of Munford’s report about the letter that chief Public Defender Joe Saia supposedly received.

In fact, Saia on the recording states precisely that he never received and never saw that letter. He was speaking about a letter received by the state-level office of the public defenders council. Ballard says he reviewed the audio; he must have missed that part. So much for the D(istorter) Attorney’s veracity.

The rest of Ballard’s defense consists of his own errors, distortions and a restatement of the outright lie, the libel against Judge Edwards.

I have listened to the 1-hour-and-16-minute recording, and it is beyond belief that Ballard and his purportedly trained investigator could have mistaken the intent of an obviously distressed Judge Edwards. Any unbiased listener to that remarkable recording cannot miss the anguish of both judges. The distorted allegation is alien to and runs counter to the entire tenor of the recording.

Listen to that crucial part for yourself, in the audio-only attachment in the first 3 minutes of Part 2, attached below. Download the file and subject the entire recording to scrutiny and form your own conclusions.

Ballard and his investigator played a trick the gotcha TV reporters pull routinely: They selectively edited a quote from Edwards and left out the obvious lead-in to the allegedly “vengeful” statement. Their selective editing turned the statement upside down. What they accuse Edwards of saying is precisely what he is NOT saying, as the recording makes clear and the remainder of the recording proves beyond a reasonable doubt.

From Munford’s story: Reporters from The Citizen who listened to the same tape heard Edwards say this crucial preface: “I am NOT telling you, ah, that it is my fondest hope that Paschal English hates me for the rest of his life for doing what I’m doing ...” [Emphasis added by The Citizen.]

Yet in their press conference last week and in Ballard’s follow-up defense, both Ballard and investigator Jeff Turner spend an inordinate time on blaming Edwards’ motives, going so far as to accuse Edwards of ordering the DA to investigate English in order to protect himself. Those who listen to the recording (parts 1 through 8 in sequential order) will not find even a hint of that motive in the entire 1 hour and 16 minutes.

“That is not what the District Attorney’s Office exists to do,” Ballard sniffed in his statement last week.

No, apparently the DA’s office exists to cover Ballard’s own highly exposed rear from dozens of potentially mishandled cases involving the star-crossed lovers.

In the recording, Judge Edwards told Ballard the DA could impanel an investigative grand jury as one option to look into the sordid affair. Listen to what Ballard says: “I don’t want to.”

No, the DA apparently wishes all the shameful episodes involving his oft-praised heroes — now-disgraced and resigned Judge Caldwell and now-disgraced and resigned Judge English — had never come to light. It was just weeks before the two resignations that Ballard had been gushing over the two in his weekly “special relationship” columns.

Notice I said, “had never come to light,” not “had never happened.”

Ballard wanted nothing to do with tracking down the real truth: “Nevertheless, we were ordered to investigate,” Ballard said in his news conference.

Judge Edwards’ order is the only reason any of us knows the sorry story of a judge’s deliberate decision to place himself and the administration of justice in this four-county circuit at grave peril.

Not because the district attorney wanted to get at the truth, but because he was ordered by a superior court judge to get at the truth. And even then, Ballard failed to uncover the cases most likely to have been prejudiced: Those that occurred BEFORE the two lovers were caught parking in a failed subdivision.

Ballard specifically and pointedly investigated only cases involving the two AFTER their sexual tryst was exposed to a deputy’s video camera. (Where DID that tape go, anyway? A deputy says he entered it into evidence; the sheriff says it was not entered into evidence. Curious.) One would assume that AFTER being discovered, the odd couple would clean up at least their public court act.

Ballard’s excuse? “I felt that we had done enough.” Yeah, I guess he would feel that. I wonder how all those defendants and all those families feel about how much our DA has done? As Judge Hankinson asks Ballard in the recording, “How would they know, Scott?”

I defy any reasonable person to listen to the entire recording — available below for listening or downloading — and come to the conclusion that Judge Edwards and his fellow Judge Hankinson were anything but anguished by the mess the two had been handed.

And Ballard was there, in the same room! How could he have misunderstood Judge Edwards’ intent, unless he was blinded by his own passions that favored the departed judges Caldwell and English against all evidence?

Closing the press conference last week, Ballard washed his hands of the dirty linen: “I hope you will understand and honor my desire to refocus our office away from the disappointing and distracting choices by our judges and onto our critical responsibilities as prosecutors in the Griffin Judicial Circuit.”

Based on his actions, we could conclude that Ballard’s assertion of “disappointing and distracting choices by our judges” meant — not the real culprits, Caldwell and English — but Edwards and Hankinson, who forced the poor DA to uncover nasty stuff he would rather leave hidden.

So what is the matter with our dawdling district attorney? Is he still so star-struck by an unethical judge that he feels compelled to libel the only good guys visible in this dark pile?

Is Ballard so angry about the uncovering of the facts that he will distort the truth about the motives of sitting judges (because Hankinson was in the same room at the same time and supported Edwards’ actions)?

Remember, both judges are bound by strict judicial rules that forbid them to speak about any of this or to defend themselves against a vengeful district attorney. Their mouths are sealed shut by law. Not so our D(istorting) Attorney. He can call press conferences and write weekly self-serving propaganda pieces and shift the focus from the malfeasants and blame the ones who turned the light on the unethical behavior.

Or is Ballard really only worried about having to go back and clean up the huge mess caused by the English-Cornwell affair, and would he really rather all that stuff about justice and ethics just go away?

Gov. Perdue, on second thought, don’t just NOT name this D(istorting) Attorney to the bench. Instead, appoint a special prosecutor from far outside this circuit and impanel a state grand jury from outside this tainted district and let’s get to the bottom of this putrefying pile of lies.

State Bar rules have been breached; judicial canons of ethics have been violated; and laws have been broken.

Two superior court judges have resigned within a week of each other, both under a cloud — a unique blot on Georgia jurisprudence.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission seems to have stuck its collective head up its ... uh ... in the sand, and prefers that all this just be forgotten.

And a district attorney has libeled two upright judges and distorted the plain facts leading up to the hurried “investigation” conducted by an elected official who has admitted a two-decade-long friendship with the person he was investigating. Shouldn’t Ballard have done what any ethical judge would have done: Recuse himself?

No, Ballard creates his own cover-up and waits for the call from the governor’s office to anoint him as the new judge in town.

What a mess. In Judge Hankinson’s words: “This stinks.”

Clean this mess up, Governor.

And voters: Consider what Ballard knew and what he should have known, and what he did and what he didn’t do when this current excuse for a district attorney is up for reelection.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The attachments below are sequential parts of a recording of a meeting that involved Judge Edwards (the first person to speak), Judge Hankinson, chief Public Defender Joe Saia, District Attorney Ballard, and Assistant Public Defender Allan Adams. The first 45 minutes comprise an off-the-record discussion; the second 31 minutes comprise an on-the-record continuation of that meeting. There are slight overlaps (from 1 to 6 seconds) from one part to the next. Part 1 is 13:43; Part 2 is 8:38; Part 3 is 13:25; Part 4 is 9:05; Part 5 is 7:32; Part 6 is 8:32; Part 7 is 7:33; and Part 8 is 7:49. If you can't listen to the entire recording, at least listen to Part 2.]

— This column of opinion is written by Cal Beverly, editor and publisher of The Citizen.



positivelysouthernbelle's picture
grassroots's picture

Connect the dots with Jack Smith and Scott Ballard at :

NUK_1's picture

It is NOT illegal for two commissioners to be in the same place at the same time. In case you bozos over there at splostpoll haven't realized it yet, there are FIVE Fayette County Commissioners. Despite what the article you refer to says, it is not illegal for TWO to be somewhere together as TWO out of FIVE does not in any way constitute a QUORUM. DUH.

In case I didn't explain it in simple enough terms for you to understand, here's a link to the Open Meetings Act of Georgia:

In case anyone ever wonders why Fayette gets stuck with some real sorry elected officials, check out splostpoll and see how total ignorance potentially wrecks democracy.

probably a trainwreck. Look at the wackos involved.

grassroots's picture

Leave a comment on the web site Braveheart. I post all...negative or positive. I welcome the feedback.

grassroots's picture

Jack Smith, Plus Eric Maxwell plus Robert Horgan = 3. That's a quorum! The state attorney general's office said that's not Kosher and if they DID talk about any public matters it's ILLEGAL. And my sources told me they did. This ain't over.

NUK_1's picture

cleary says "it's illegal for TWO commissioners to be" blah blah blah.

grassroots's picture

In every County Commissioner's meeting I've ever been to, Jack Smith turns to his county attorney, Scott Bennett , to clarify, substantiate , and lawyer up to anyone he wants to act official with. Scott Bennett is covering up an illegal quorum meeting between 3 county commissioners and a secretary who met together in a public place "with discussions of official business" according to my sources. (Please read the posted information request and attorney Scott Bennett's response the the same day they rejected the public's plea and voted to approve Phase 2 of the "meandering" WFB" on June 11, 2009.
My sources tell me that real estate transactions between RB (anonymous land owner on WFB final routed path) and Eric Maxwell and Robert Horgan were relayed to Jack Smith that night as I watched them seated at the Long Horn Restaurant on that Thursday night of April 23. Robert came up to me at the bar and we talked for ten minutes. When he went to sit down that's when I was astounded at who he was sitting with. (A pitcher of ice tea and no alcohol). He sat down with Jack Smith, Eric Maxwell and either (I'm guessing) Carol Chandler, Executive Assistant, or Karen Morley , Chief Deputy Clerk) -I will verify soon-editor.
It is illegal and unethical for 2 (typo; should say 3) or more commissioners to meet in public, and especially if they are talking official business. C'mon, they weren't talking about the blooming Crepe Myrtles.

Nuk..I made a typo in last paragraph. The whole context is talking about three people. My open records which was posted was based on 3 people" 3 former commissioners and State Attorney General also viewed this as an unethical and possibly illegal meeting. I ran with their suggestions and your "harping on two " is missing the point. the fact that this "judge" and lawyer situation ever came out in public!
I believe it has occurred in every town I have ever lived, but not quite to the extent as here----two, maybe three, judges booted or resigned, and intermingled with defense lawyers and famous divorce cases nearby.

Will officeholders never learn not to mix women in any way into their business that is not totally professional. Of course that also applies in reverse. Usually the "good ole boys," can keep it under the rug but sex and love is impossible to cover-up!
Oh, well the pensions, fines, and probably questionable trials with these mixed groups will not be investigated very deeply.
It is like many such instances, the dirt dug will be worse than forgiveness and justice to all who have been tried.

<cite>I believe it has occurred in every town I have ever lived, but not quite to the extent as here</cite>

. . and the media has a heyday!! Sad. . .for all concerned.

mudcat's picture

This is about power and the abuse of power. But you are right - nothing new here. It happens everywhere.

ahavah_lachaim's picture

and i completely reserve the right to never again repeat these words but, i'm afraid i agree with Mr. Beverly on this one.

ginga1414's picture

Thank you so much for publishing this information. It might make the stink even worse but that is much better than hiding the ugliness or pretending that it doesn't exist. I am so proud of The Citizen for helping to right some of the wrongs in this county. I love Fayette County and it hurts my heart when folks take advantage of her. I'm a retired court reporter, so I have seen such foolishness in other places. Is it any wonder people have a hard time trusting public officials?

Proud of The Citizen for keeping us so well informed. In most communities we would still be completely in the dark.

I listened to the tapes. What I heard was a distressed Judge Edwards who was clearly (at least to me) also filled with personal and professional anguish. And I clearly heard the "What I'm NOT telling...". What is NOT clear is why his statement would be mischaracterized. What a shameful mess and black eye on our county.

You are right. In a whole lot of places we would never know anything about it. That kind of secrecy only promotes deception. Deception begets more deception. Thanks again, Cal.

I am not sure which will be more satifying, seeing this POOR EXCUSE for a public official resign in shame or have him run again for office and seeing him voted out. After personally witnessing Ballard distort the truth and work in tandem with another sorry excuse for a public official (Caldwell) to railroad a defendant, I would love to see him receive the same sort of justice he practiced. Arrest his fat lying ass, prosecute him ( be sure to tell the unprejudiced jury that he must be guilty if he is on trial, just as Ballard did in the other Fayette County rag disguise as a newspaper) and send him to jail....of course since he is a member of the elitist class in Fayette (lawyers, judges, and cops) he will get to retire with full pension and benefits. While their victims live with the results of a failed judicial system. Let's do better next time....

bringinabroom's picture

Bye, bye Ballard--- Pappy needs to pay.

Can he really lay this kind of mess on us and just take a cushy retirement?It ain't right.

Edwards and Hankinson---- they're good.

Charlie Cave--- we don't need a puppet on the school board.

"The whole thing stinks--- time for a Spring Cleaning."

grassroots's picture

Hey Cal, great English lesson:
I thought you wanted a competent assistant, not a nodding sycophant yes-man, bootlicker, brown-noser, toady, lickspittle, flatterer, flunky, lackey, spaniel, doormat, stooge, cringer,suck, suck-up.
Gentlemen, we have a scandal brewing.

Scott Ballard, Terri Smith, Janet Smola, Jack Smith, Eric Maxwell - there's a good start! Send them all packing.

grassroots's picture

Two different attorneys , same band wagon. Just speak legally.

Purple Alien Cow's picture

I know Scottie and I know Cal and Cal has never liked Scottie because Scottie is not "uptight" waiting for the sky to fall like Cal is. (Well you are) - Hyper vigilance is one thing, but you take it to a level of Def-com 4 whenever the subject of sex gets involved.
You don't think someone can have an affair with someone and not give everything the other person wants to them? You think its like a magic spell and the parties are "twitterpaited" to the point all reason and objectivity disappear? In that case, train operators, bus drivers, doctors, all jobs of civic consequence should carry a ban on love and matrimony, like the Priesthood.
Because what if their decisions were faulty because they were in love?
In which case Eleanor Roosevelt had no business working with FDR.
I think in all fairness to the reading public you aught to admit that you never liked Scott Ballard, and that your range is narrow.
I met Judge Edwards when he came looking for support when he first ran. I was scared right down to my socks that someone of his ego would be running for a judgeship. I favor Sams, he is by far the best judge I have ever seen.
Because of all of you, the one with the smallest Ego is Ballard.( Actually its Sams - but you see he wouldn't even comment on this fiasco.)
English was wrong for not stepping down before he began the relationship. I highly doubt he would send anyone to jail or prison or let them out because he was "twitterpaited".
Although look at the paper now compared to ...hmmmm. maybe you do have a point.
Oh and I wrote to Sonny Purdue too and told him not to listen to you and I told him why.

The Good Witch of the South

You really ought to stay away from terms you clearly know nothing about--you just highlight your ignorance.

Purple Alien Cow's picture

Look, I think if we want all those cases re-opened, it could set a precedent whereas any cases where the defense attorney even played tennis or golf with a judge could be called into question. What I am saying is that the real danger here would be to set a prescedent that could allow criminals to use this as a way to stay at large.

AnonRegisteredVoter's picture

Well, those are the consequences of these people's behavior. They all knew these ramifications and they all chose to take part in their games anyway. We don't just turn away because we are afraid of the outcome. This is why it is not something that should have ever taken place. The scariest precedent I could imagine setting is one where judges and lawyers feel they can stomp all over the constitutional rights of the people and it will be OK because no one will do anything and everyone will work to cover the mess up.

AnonRegisteredVoter's picture

and they were screwing...thats not golf or tennis.

AnonRegisteredVoter's picture

I hope you are not a government official or hold any type of job or office where you are in charge. People like you are what allow things like this to go on in the first place. This is a huge deal. They were funneling English his lover's cases for goodness sake. To me it sounds like Caldwell liked English's game and he tried to do the same thing with Brown. What a mess. I think with the details we have here, it would be in Purdue's best interest if the empaneled a special grand jury to hear this. If not, I will wonder why he is covering for these guys and he will lose my support.

Purple Alien Cow's picture

I would never allow people having sex to work with each other, even if they were married, it leads to crying in the office, people being fired.
She was the assistant public defender was she not? Was he not the lesser tenured sitting judge? Or do all courtroom realities get suspended here?

a government official either. You may not have come here to impress us but you don't have to come in here disrespecting us.

AnonRegisteredVoter's picture

No, I am not a government offical. And sorry you find it disrespectful. If it matters that much, I will surely change it just for you.

not just me. You seem like you should be intelligent enough to know when you come on here making that kind of comment you're insulting yourself as much as you are the people your saying that to.

AnonRegisteredVoter's picture

I hope this one is appropriate for you.

Cal Beverly's picture

Actually, I thought enough of Scott to endorse him for election the first time he ran and for reelection when his opponent was Mr. Hayes. But he has become a real disappointment of late. If for you that equates to "never liked," then you have a most peculiar notion of "liking."

As for serial adultery by a sitting judge with other officers of his court, I admit I have less tolerance than you on this specific matter (you know, I worry some about minor issues like ethics and law and the appearance of undue influence). I also admit I have no experience with serial adultery, but I defer to your more extensive knowledge in that area.

As for having Sonny's ear, I imagine you have a better shot at that than I do. I have to make do with what I have in that regard. Sonny never much liked me, either.

(DEFCON is an old SAC term for "Defense Condition." Yeah, I was uptight in those days, too.)

Cal Beverly
The Citizen
Fayetteville, Ga. 30214

Purple Alien Cow's picture

I have to say that.

mbest's picture

Aliens are a big turn off

Cal, though I have been out of the business since 2001, I believe "Defense Condition--DEFCON" to still be an accurate term. And it was never isolated to SAC-it was DOD wide.

Cal Beverly's picture

Oh, my aching ORI -- You are correct, sir. It's just that back in the days of Chromedome, we in SAC had a front-row seat to Armageddon and just assumed DEFCON had been invented for us. Call it a thermonuclear conceit.

Cal Beverly
The Citizen
Fayetteville, Ga. 30214

grassroots's picture

You could just hide under your school seats and be safe. remember?

mbest's picture

not sure

it's SAC terminology! (Sorry Cal, couldn't resist!)

mbest's picture


AnonRegisteredVoter's picture

What I want to know is why Ballard is throwing his career away to cover for these guys. They must know something pretty damning about him.

Ballard thought he was helping his cause. Protect everyone from this mess getting any worse and he'll get rewarded with a judgeship. Too bad it backfired on him thanks to Cal.

AnonRegisteredVoter's picture

I guess you are right. No other newspaper is daring to question anything.

Purple Alien Cow's picture

Edwards did what he thought was right. Scottie said he just did not want to make it worse, you see I don't know if you can have an appeal of a case and say, well, you can't sentence the defendent to any more than he or she has already been sentenced in the original trial. If you could than an appeal would be a way to go. But with the case loads that judges typically handle, most often the judge hears of the case for the first time in the court room. So only the highest profile cases where there was a trail, because you know 90% of all cases never go beyond a hearing and plea, so then only the cases of trial, and it seems to me though they were all thoughtful and respectful of everyone's rights and I think they are all doing a great job. Even Chris.
Now if Paschal and Kim were to be able to pin-point the date of their affair beginning, then only those cases that happened after would have to be looked at. - But prior to the affair beginning there could have been favoritism towards Kim because Paschal may have "liked" her. What if all cases defended by female attorneys should be in question here?
Perhaps only women should be judges going forward. You see how broad you can take this? After listening to the tapes I have to say I trust whatever the conclusions were and I look forward to the movie!

mbest's picture

A woman was involved in this affair. I have no opposition to female Judges but that was just a stupid post.

Purple Alien Cow's picture

To draw attention to how broad you can take this situation and that is the seriousness of it! It is serious. But attacking Scottie and I was there - okay, without revealing too too much, I was there and Cal did not support Scottie - and I talked with Scottie about that at the time. Cal, and this in reply to you too, you thought he was too liberal.
I didn't dream that.

mbest's picture

Scott, or Scottie as you refer to him (he's not that endearing to me) was the most liberal DA the Griffin Judicial Circuit has ever seen. Soon after he was elected he drove to south Georgia to testify on behalf of one of his convicted child molestor clients (Jeff Allen) to help him be released on parole. No other DA in the United States would even consider that.

AnonRegisteredVoter's picture

It makes you wonder about him, doesn't it?

Gene61's picture

Ballard is a joke. I kmow of one case where a 36yr old female drugged a 16yr old male and then forced sex with him. When the sheriffs dept was called, she then tried to OD on presecription medication. Even after the young male submitted to drug testing and said over & over I feel like I was drugged, Ballard would not press charges against her for sexual battery. All this is public record,Ballard is a joke and often fails the people of Fayette County.


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