Federal judge charged with buying drugs from stripper

Senior U.S. District Judge Jack T. Camp Jr. was arrested late Friday night near Sandy Springs. Camp, 67, is accused of purchasing cocaine and marijuana, along with prescription painkillers, which he shared with an exotic dancer he met last spring at the Goldrush Showbar in Atlanta, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit for his arrest.

Camp met the dancer, identified in the affidavit as CI-1, when he purchased a private dance from her, according to the affidavit by Special Agent Mary Jo Mangrum, a member of a task force investigating public corruption. He returned the next night and purchased another dance and sex from her, the affidavit said. The two then began a relationship that revolved around drug use and sex.

In some cases, he bought drugs from the dancer, while in others the pair purchased them from other parties, according to the affidavit. Camp sometimes took loaded guns to the deals.

Camp’s arrest came after a buy from an undercover agent, authorities said.

Bill Morrison, an attorney for Camp, declined to discuss the specifics of the case, but he portrayed it as more of a private breach of integrity than a case of public corruption.

“It’s not about Judge Camp being a judge. It is about Judge Camp being a husband and whether he has fulfilled those duties,” Morrison said after the bond hearing before a visiting U.S. magistrate. “This is not a case about judging. ... It is a case about judgment.”

Camp was in court Monday in street clothes and left with U.S. marshals. His wife was in the gallery.

U.S. Attorney’s office spokesman Patrick Crosby referred questions to the Justice Department in Washington, saying the Atlanta office has been recused. Washington federal prosecutors Deborah Mayer and Tracee Plowell declined to comment after the brief bond hearing.

Camp, a Vietnam veteran appointed to the bench by President Reagan, presided over cases in U.S. District Court in Atlanta for more than 20 years and was the chief judge before retiring last year and taking senior status, which essentially is a former of semi-retirement in which he still handles cases.

Atlanta defense attorney Jack Martin said Camp was a well-read man who sometimes quoted Shakespeare from the bench.

“It’s almost like a Shakespearean tragedy,” Martin said of Camp’s arrest.

A 1997 AJC story featured Camp talking about his 19th century farmhouse and 175-acre farm in west Coweta County. Camp, his wife and two children, grew timber, pumpkins, sweet corn and sorghum and tended to their 14 cows. He referred to himself as a “sundowner” farmer -- someone who works a job by day and farms afterwards.

Camp found the chores a break from the daily legal grind.

“It’s regular work,” he said. “It’s something you can’t neglect. ”

Camp hails from a prominent Coweta family, and one Newnan merchant said Monday he was stunned by the news.

“The Camp family goes back a long, long, time,” said Murray Parks, owner of an interior design and art gallery downtown. “I would be very surprised if those charges were true. He’s had some right tough cases to try through the years. I would be surprised that he would allow himself to get in that position. ... I hope there is some explanation.”

As a judge, Camp had a reputation as a tough sentencer. In 2009, he sentenced former doctor Phil Astin to 10 years in prison. Astin had prescribed drugs to Chris Benoit, the professional wrestler who killed his wife, son and then himself in 2007. Camp said that the good works performed by the doctor were outweighed by his indiscriminate prescribing of drugs that caused at least two other people to die from overdoses.

Last year, Camp rejected a plea deal of an indicted pharmaceutical executive, saying the proposed 37-month prison sentence did not “accurately reflects the seriousness of the conduct.” Jared Wheat had earlier pleaded guilty to charges in connection with illegal importation of knockoff prescription drugs from Central America. Wheat later was given a 50-month sentence.

Camp’s relationship with the stripper, who had a federal conviction related to a drug trafficking case, began last spring, according to the affidavit. The two would meet when Camp paid her for sex, and they would smoke marijuana and snort cocaine and take the painkiller Roxicodone together. Camp usually gave the stripper money to buy the drugs although sometimes she provided them on her own, the affidavit said. She secretly recorded Camp discussing the drug transactions.

“In order to snort the [Roxicodone], Camp and CI-1 would use a pill crusher to create a powdered form of the [Roxicodone],” the affidavit said. “In fact Camp gave CI-1 the pill crusher for CI-1’s use.”

The affidavit details a series of drug transaction in which Camp is described as securing Roxicodone and other drugs for his personal use and describes Camp as carrying a semi-automatic handgun to protect the stripper and himself during drug deals. Federal law carries separate charges for carrying a firearm in drug transactions.

Last Friday, in recorded telephone conversation, Camp told the stripper he would try to help her because she was having trouble getting a job with her record. The judge offered to talk to a potential employer if necessary, according to the affidavit. During the conversation, the two of them discussed having a second woman join them but Camp at least initially thought it too risky to do drugs with someone he didn’t trust because he said his “situation was precarious.”

Later Friday, the stripper asked Camp if he could follow her to a drug deal to protect her because she was dealing with a dealer she did not know well. According to the affidavit, Camp responded: “I’ll watch your back anytime … I not only have my little pistol, I’ve got my big pistol so, uh, we’ll take care of any problems that come up.”

That evening, according to the affidavit, Camp and the stripper met in a Publix parking lot on Shallowford Road in DeKalb County and the two drove to the parking lot of the Velvet Room on Chamblee Tucker Road, where they met with an undercover law-enforcement agent posing as a dealer.

Ten minutes after the 7:35 p.m. drug transaction, FBI agents arrested Camp and recovered the drugs and two pistols from Camp’s car, including a .380-caliber Sig Sauer with a full magazine and a round in the chamber.

“The hammer of the gun was cocked,” the affidavit said.

–- Staff writer Tammy Joyner contributed to this report.

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