State senator’s 'impermissible' contact led to judge’s departure in theft case

Not quite two years after the fact, Jeff Mullis, the Republican chairman of the powerful state Senate Rules Committee, has suddenly found himself cited as the reason a local judge recused himself from a case of theft by receiving that involved a friend of the north Georgia senator.

“No good deed ever goes unpunished,” Mullis told us this afternoon.

Here’s the background, as best as we can piece it together:

Mark Lindsay was a Fort Oglethorpe building inspector until 2010, when he was arrested by the GBI. According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Lindsay was having an affair with a married woman – a bookkeeper -- who used forged checks from her employer to buy her lover (also married) at least $50,000 in gifts.

The romantic tokens? A Yamaha Rhino, a 16-foot trailer, a 40-inch, flat-screen television, an electric smoker, and a .44-caliber pistol. As we said, this is north Georgia.

Lindsay’s case still had not gone to trial in October 2013. We’ll let Mullis pick it up from there:

“I was asked by a friend of mine who was concerned that he hadn’t had a trial in three years and didn’t know why. When I ran into the judge, I asked him if I could talk about the case,” the senator said.

Mullis said Superior Court Judge Brian House told him to proceed. The senator said he told the judge that he felt his friend was being “railroaded” – and that prosecutors were using delaying tactics to pressure Lindsay into a guilty plea.

"I never asked [the judge]" for anything," Mullis said. "I have a right as a citizen to speak my mind."

Days later, House recused himself. But only in a court filing submitted by the local prosecutor last month was it revealed that House separated himself from the case "as a result of the contact on the Defendant's behalf by Senator Mullis."

Lindsay’s case finally came up last January. In a bench trial, another judge found Lindsay guilty on seven counts of theft by receiving. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The new judge, Ralph Van Pelt Jr., referred to Mullis’ contact with Judge House as “impermissible communication.”

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About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.