Former DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Becker was indicted Thursday on charges that she lied to state officials, then tried to obstruct their investigation into her handling of the 2013 case involving DeKalb’s one-time school superintendent.
Becker is charged with six felonies and one misdemeanor — four counts of making false statements, two counts of false writings and one count of misdemeanor obstruction. Each of the felonies carry a maximum prison sentence of five years, while the maximum for the misdemeanor is 12 months in jail.
Becker, who retired from the bench in March, pre-negotiated bond of $1,000 on Thursday for when she turns herself in. It wasn’t known when she will surrender to the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office.
“Indicting the honorable Judge Becker is wrong,” said her attorney, Brian Steel. “She committed no crime whatsoever. We look forward to trial.”
The indictment says Becker lied when asked why she did not grant bond for Crawford Lewis after she sentenced him to 12 months in jail, rather than the 12 months probation that was part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
The case against Becker is based on an interview conducted by the Judicial Qualifications Commission in a Marietta law office last September, when the judge said she “never got a call. Never got a text” about bond for Lewis. Becker repeatedly said Lewis did not ask for bond until she had left town for a long-planned trip to attend the Army-Navy football game in December 2013.
But in an exchange of emails between Becker and others the day after Lewis was sentenced, the judge wrote that releasing Lewis on his own recognizance required a hearing. She said she could not hold one until the next week, eight days after Lewis was taken to jail.
Special prosecutor Parks White — the district attorney in Hart, Elbert, Madison, Franklin and Oglethorpe Counties — was picked to prosecute the case after Cobb County district attorney recused himself because three of his top prosecutors once practiced in Becker’s courtroom.
Becker is now one of two judges now under indictment for allegedly lying to JQC investigators.
Lewis was indicted in 2010. He, DeKalb schools’ chief operating officer Pat Reid and her husband Tony Pope were charged with racketeering for allegedly conspiring to send tens of millions of dollars in school construction projects to Pope’s architectural firm. The superintendent was facing the possibility of 65 years in prison when he agreed to testify against his co-defendants.
Just a few days before the trio was set for trial, Lewis’ lawyer and prosecutors briefed Becker on the agreement — that Lewis would testify truthfully in exchange for a sentence of 12 months on probation for his guilty plea to obstruction.
Though prosecutor said at Lewis’ sentencing that he had kept his end of the bargain, Becker ordered that he be taken to jail immediately. She said she didn’t believe that Lewis’ testimony was truthful.
The next day, Dec. 10, 2013, Lewis’ attorney filed a motion for reconsideration of the sentence or, if that was denied, that Becker allow Lewis to withdraw his plea and that she recuse herself from the case. There also were emails about the bond for Lewis, which Becker never granted.
Five days after Lewis was jailed — while Becker was out of town — the Georgia Court of Appeals ordered that a reasonable bond be set. The court later said that Becker had to honor the plea agreement.
Next month, the Georgia Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether Becker, or any judge, can ignore sentencing agreements after signing off on them. An on Oct. 1, the JQC is scheduled to begin an administrative case against Becker. Though she is no long on the bench, she could still be assigned to preside in cases as a “senior judge” when there is no sitting judge to hear specific cases.
Earlier this summer, a Fulton grand jury indicted former Chief Judge Amanda Williams from the Brunswick Judicial Circuit on one count of giving a false statement to the JQC and one count of violating her oath of office. Williams resigned in 2012 after she was accused running her courtroom under tyrannical rule and indefinitely locking up drug court offenders.
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