Criminal Justice

Feds charge ex-judge with soliciting sexual favors for reduced charges

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A former Georgia probate judge was accused Thursday in a federal indictment of soliciting sexual favors in exchange for better treatment on traffic charges, including driving under the influence.

The former judge, 77-year-old Bobby Joe Smith of Hartwell, Georgia, was charged with one count of bribery and three counts of civil rights violations, according to a Justice Department press release. The Daily Beast and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution covered the indictment.

The alleged wrongdoing involved three women and occurred between May 2013 and May 2014. Smith allegedly kissed the women when they sought his assistance in reducing or eliminating the charges and punishments. He also groped two of the women and tried to inappropriately touch the third woman, the press release alleges.

The first woman was facing charges of driving under the influence, hit and run, and driving on a suspended or revoked license. Smith allegedly told the woman that she was on “private probation” with him and she needed to report to his office and make cash payments. She complied. Smith later reduced and dropped the woman’s traffic charges, and reduced or suspended the fines, the indictment alleges.

The cases of the two other women were handled by other judges.

Probate judges handle estate settlements, traffic court and issue gun permits and marriage certificates, according to coverage of Smith’s initial arrest on a related state charge by the Athens-Banner Herald. He resigned in May 2014.

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