Criminal Justice

Former Judge Is Federally Indicted in Hurricane Ike Fraud; Defense Cries Foul, Says He Is Innocent

A former Texas judge has been indicted, along with a Liberty County official and a contractor related to the judge, on charges alleging he used Hurricane Ike as an opportunity to profit from government contracts paid for with federal emergency funds.

The grand jury indictment in Beaumont this week accuses Phil Fitzgerald, 51, of raking in over $600,000 in kickbacks through his awarding of cleanup contracts, as well as commandeering a generator paid for with federal funds for use at his own businesses while he was a Liberty County judge KFDM 6 News reports.

However, his defense lawyer, Joseph “Lum” Hawthorn says Fitzgerald did nothing wrong and expects to be vindicated at trial. He also blames political opponents of Fitzgerald—who was defeated at the polls in November—for the prosecution in a written statement reprinted in the article.

“Had the government allowed us the opportunity to present our side of the story before seeking an indictment, we are confident there would be no indictment. However, because of their refusal, we will now have to have a trial in this case, at considerable expense to Judge Fitzgerald and the taxpayers, in order for us to tell our side of the story,” Hawthorn says in the statement.

“We are confident after the jury hears our side, Judge Fitzgerald will be acquitted of all the charges.

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