State Court of Appeals candidate Ken Shigley. Source: Shigley Law website

The Jolt: Judicial hopeful admits to ‘political prosecution’ of black man

Ken Shigley is one of two candidates in the only contested statewide judicial contest, a seat on the state Court of Appeals.

You can expect some humor from the man. He describes his non-partisan race with former Dougherty County district attorney Ken Hodges as something of a corollary to the Democratic race for governor, but between two “pale males named Ken.”

In his TV ads, he reminds voters that “Shigley” rhymes with “Piggly-Wiggly.”

What you don’t expect is a confession of failure when he was 27 years old and an assistant prosecutor in Douglas County. Robin McDonald, a veteran reporter at the Daily Report, which covers the state’s legal doings, has found an April video in which Shigley admits to the prosecution of a young black man, never named, that shouldn’t have happened. Shigley later told McDonald the conviction was for felony drug possession with intent to distribute.

The venue was a candidate forum sponsored by Advocacy for Action, at Liberty International Church Door of Hope Ministries in Atlanta. From what we can tell, the audience is African-American. You can see the video here. The relevant portion begins at the 6:30 mark:

Shigley, a former president of the State Bar of Georgia, begins by telling the crowd that he had been assigned to the prosecution in the middle of the trial. We’ve transcribed the relevant portions:

“I recognized in mid-stream that this was a political prosecution. This defendant was a young black guy who was going to college part-time, and was working on voter registration in Douglas County, in the African-American community, and had applied for a job at the sheriff’s office.

“And it just began to smell bad in the middle of the trial. I did everything I could to lose it, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t backstroke far enough, fast enough. But when you see things that don’t smell right, get your antennae up and look a little harder. Because sometimes you get a case you really shouldn’t have prosecuted.”

His answer finished, Shigley went on to discuss another aspect of the contest. A woman in the audience wanted more, so the candidate continued the story:

“The jury convicted the guy. He appealed. I tried to lose the appeal. I couldn’t. I tried to make the weakest case for the state I could, recognizing what had happened. This was 40 years ago, and you just couldn’t lose it. And then when the remittitur [i.e., the ruling] came in from the Court of Appeals, I just filed it away.

“I hope he went on and had a good life. It was one of those really moral dilemmas. If I’d been a little more mature than I was at 27, I might have dismissed the case in mid-stream and lost my job and gone on. But at that point, I didn’t feel like getting fired that week.”

The video ends with Shigley giving a nervous laugh.

***

Georgia Gun Owners, a Second Amendment group, has sent us this video of Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston arriving at a north Georgia fundraiser for Mickey Cummings, who is challenging state Rep. Matt Gurtler, R-Tiger. GGO calls Gurtler “the most pro-gun member of the General Assembly.” House Republican leaders, who have donated thousands to his opponent, have dubbed Gurtler “Dr. No” – for votes cast against some of their most important causes.

In the video, neither Deal nor Ralston acknowledge the protesters. But they do remind one of the “flaggers” who dogged Gov. Roy Barnes after he brought down the ’56 state flag in 2001.

***

A new poll offered up on Thursday gives a starkly different reading on the Georgia race for governor.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has been in the high 30s or low 40s in most surveys. But the Fox 5 Atlanta survey by Opinion Savvy showed Cagle’s numbers at 31 percent, followed by Secretary of State Brian Kemp at 20 percent and ex-state Sen. Hunter Hill at 14 percent. Businessman Clay Tippins trailed with 12 percent, while state Sen. Michael Williams logged 5 percent.

There was an even bigger contrast in the Democratic numbers. The poll showed Stacey Abrams leading Stacey Evans by 58-19, with about one-quarter of voters undecided. 

Previous polls put the two apart by 10-20 percentage points, with Abrams leading each one. The Evans campaign fired off a press release urging supporters not to be “misled by Fox News and Republican pollsters trying to stop our momentum.”

***

Stacey Abrams will host a rally Saturday with some of the most prominent groups boosting her campaign for governor. 

The get-out-the-vote rally at her campaign headquarters includes leaders of NARAL, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood and the AFL-CIO. Former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett will also speak at the event.

***

Notes from an answering machine in west Cobb County:

-- “Republican leaders are supporting Ken Shigley for the Georgia Court of Appeals.” The Judicial Qualifications Commission has already warned Shigley of bringing partisan identity into a non-partisan judicial contest. The robo-call doesn’t identify the party footing the bill for the call.

-- State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, endorses former state Rep. Rick Jeffares in the GOP race for lieutenant governor. One of Tippins’ colleagues in the Senate, David Shafer of Duluth, is also in the Republican contest – so this counts as news.

-- WSB Radio host Erick Erickson endorses Jay Florence in the GOP race for insurance commissioner noting (without naming him) that another Republican candidate, Jim Beck, has “a troubled history and was forced out of the department.”

-- Former Georgia congressman Phil Gingrey endorses Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a former state Senate colleague, in the GOP race for governor.

***

Eight months after Randy Evans was tapped by the Trump administration to be ambassador to Luxembourg, the Georgia mega-lawyer will finally see a Senate confirmation vote. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a key procedural step on the longtime GOP official’s nomination yesterday, teeing up a confirmation vote for later next week.

Evans’ nomination has been stalled for months in the chamber, a victim of the partisan rancor over White House nominees. Democrats have also voiced concerns about Evans’ advocacy for a voter ID law when he served on the State Election Board a decade ago.

Evans recently announced plans to leave the Dentons law firm, where both he and former House speaker Newt Gingrich had been employed.

***

An emotionally charged scene involving U.S. Rep. David Scott of Atlanta unfolded on the House floor on Wednesday evening. The Democrat, a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, delivered a searing speech calling the farm bill “racist.” He cited the legislation’s lack of funding for agriculture scholarships at historically black land grant universities, an issue he’s sought to advance over the last few years.

“Not every black person wants to necessarily play football or basketball. They also want to be scientists and feed the future,” Scott said, ending his speech in tears. 

After House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, countered, Scott shouted from across the well of the chamber, “You took (the money) out... You know it!” Watch the exchange here

***

The bulk of the fighting over the farm bill this year has been over food stamps and new work requirements endorsed by GOP lawmakers and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Few if any Democrats are expected to back the legislation, which means it must advance through the chamber with only Republican votes. Most of Georgia’s GOP lawmakers are expected to back the $867 billion measure, but at least two seem to be on the fence. 

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice of Monroe on Wednesday night followed the lead of several of his colleagues on the House Freedom Caucus, who are seeking a promise for a vote on a conservative immigration proposal in exchange for backing the legislation. Hice said he’s still looking to “get to a yes” on the bill. 

Also unclear at the moment is the position Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville. A spokesman said the former Freedom Caucus member will make a final decision based on the last-minute changes being made via amendment but that he’s overall been pleased with some of the changes that have been made so far. 

***

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, now has competition in his quiet bid to lead a high-profile House panel with jurisdiction over hot-button issues such as immigration, gun access and voting rights. Ohio Republican Steve Chabot announced he’ll also seek the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee. In an interview with Politico, Chabot highlighted his experience helping run the chamber’s impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton in 1998. The Judiciary panel would be ground zero for such activity once again should Democrats win the House majority and choose to begin removal proceedings.

Allies of Collins think the Gainesville Republican’s close relationship with party leaders and recent victories advancing legislation overhauling the music business’ royalty payment system and a prison reform package. He’s the No. 5 House Republican and serves on a powerful panel that determines GOP committee assignments.

The race for the chairmanship (or ranking member position, should the GOP lose control of the House) won’t truly heat up until after the November elections.

***

Speaking of Collins’ prison reform initiative, it picked up a prominent Georgia opponent on Thursday. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, signed a lengthy letter aimed at stopping the legislation in its tracks. First reported by Politico, the letter calls the legislation “flawed” and a “step backwards” and warns its training programs could put policies in place that are unfair to people of color. Read the letter here. The House could vote on the bipartisan proposal as soon as next week.

***

Both of Georgia’s U.S. senators backed Gina Haspel to be CIA director on Thursday. Johnny Isakson said Haspel’s “dedication is unparalleled,” while David Perdue said she is “uniquely qualified to lead the CIA and defend the American people.” All but six Democrats voted against Haspel, many citing her role in controversial CIA interrogation programs following 9/11. The Senate ultimately confirmed her nomination 54-45.

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