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Charges dropped against ‘tough love’ judge Amanda Williams

Fulton County prosecutors have dropped felony charges against Amanda Williams, the former chief judge in Brunswick who resigned from the bench in disgrace after being slapped with a dozen ethics charges.

Almost two years ago, a Fulton grand jury indicted Williams, 70, of making a false statement while being interviewed by the state’s judicial watchdog agency and for violating her oath of public office. The charges stemmed from Williams’ answers to questions about her decision to lock up Lindsey Dills, a drug court defendant, in solitary confinement for 73 days.

In a recent motion, prosecutors noted that since Williams was indicted, voters approved a constitutional amendment and the General Assembly enacted legislation to change the operation and configuration of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. The stated purpose of the changes was a “concern with a lack of due process protections for judges appearing before the JQC,” the motion said.

“Such concerns included the use of statements made by judges during purported confidential interviews being later used against that judge in a criminal proceeding,” the motion said.

Because of those changes, the DA’s office has changed course, the motion said.

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“Judge Williams has expressed regret regarding the conditions of Ms. Dills’ detention and … disputes the charges,” the motion said, adding it was filed after “consultation and with the consent of Ms. Dills.”

The motion to dismiss the case signed by District Attorney Paul Howard, was approved last week by Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk.

Dills was ordered detained by Williams in 2008 with no access to mail, phone calls and visitors, except for a drug counselor, according to court records. Dills, who had previously been flagged for having suicidal tendencies, tried to commit suicide by slitting her wrists after being in solitary confinement for 61 days, court records said.

Williams’ courtroom practices were the subject of the public radio show “This American Life” in a broadcast called “Very Tough Love.”

The Fulton indictment said Williams made a false statement when she told the JQC she had given no direction to the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office regarding Dills’ incarceration.

But in a statement after the indictment, the Fulton DA’s Office said there was a recording of Williams’ direct order to have Dills incarcerated.

Williams, who could not be reached for immediate comment, resigned from the bench in January 2012, agreeing to never seek or hold judicial office again. She is now a practicing attorney in Brunswick.

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