Judge Robert “Mack” Crawford has pleaded guilty through an Alford plea to the charge of theft by taking in a 2018 Pike County legal case against him. The plea agreement includes Crawford’s retirement and submitting his resignation to Gov. Brian Kemp by Feb. 7.
Crawford was in Pike County Superior Court on Thursday in a hearing before Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Maureen Gottlieb, where he pleaded guilty through an Alford plea to felony theft by taking and was sentenced to 12 months of fee exempt, unsupervised probation and was granted first offender status, said R. Robin McDonald reporting for law.com.
Crawford served as superior court judge in each of the four counties of the Griffin Judicial Circuit: Fayette, Spalding, Pike and Upson counties.
An Alford plea is a guilty plea in criminal court, where the accused does not admit to the crime but instead asserts their innocence. The Alford plea is a controversial defense because it is neither a full admission of guilt or innocence. It is only used for felony cases, according to www.georgiacriminallawyer.com
A prior suspension notice signed the state Judicial Qualifications Commission by (JQC) Presiding Officer Robert C. I. McBurney noted that a Pike County grand jury on Oct. 31, 2018 returned a true bill of indictment charging Crawford with two felonies — theft by taking and violation of oath by a public officer, and relating to a July ruling from JQC where Crawford was charged with “egregious” judicial misconduct relating to the theft of $15,675 from the registry of the Pike County Superior Court.
The violation of the oath of office charge was dismissed, McDonald said in the law.com report.
McDonald reported that Crawford, whose term expires in December, agreed to retire and promised not to run for re-election or apply for, run or serve as a judge in any court during his 12-month probationary period.
According to McDonald, Crawford said he entered the Alford plea and agreed to retire because he decided when he ran in 2012 that it would be his last campaign. He said he also feared his state pension might be jeopardized if a trial led to a felony conviction.
Crawford’s plea will not be made part of the court record at this time and, once his probationary period has ended, will be sealed along with the charges, McDonald said.