Court orders new trials because of judge’s undisclosed affair

The Georgia Court of Appeals has ordered new trials for five men convicted of serious crimes in Fayette County because their trial judge was having an undisclosed affair with defendants’ public defender.

The ruling stems from revelations in 2010 that Paschal English, then the chief Superior Court judge, was having a romantic relationship with assistant public defender Kimberly Cornwell. English resigned from the bench that year amid an investigation by the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission. Cornwell no longer works for the public defender’s office.

District Attorney Scott Ballard said he will appeal the court’s decision to the Georgia Supreme Court.

The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel said English violated the code of judicial conduct by not disclosing the affair and that the five defendants were tried before a judge whose impartiality was compromised.

The court ordered new trials for Christopher Wakefield and Travion Willis on charges of armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and other crimes; William Nutt for aggravated child molestation and aggravated sexual battery; Rashad Arnold for burglary; and Calvin Boynton for armed robbery, aggravated assault, possession of a sawed-off shotgun and drug possession.