Superior Court Judge Mack Crawford of the Griffin Judicial Circuit entered a plea Thursday to a misdemeanor theft charge under a deal in which he agreed to resign from the bench.
Crawford was sentenced to one year on probation and given first offender status, meaning his conviction will not be entered if he successfully fulfills the terms of his probation. Crawford, a former state legislator who once headed Georgia’s indigent defense system, presided over cases in Fayette, Spalding, Pike and Upson counties.
He was scheduled to go to trial next week on felony charges. But Crawford resolved his case with a so-called “Alford plea” in which he did not admit to wrongdoing but agreed the state could prove the charges against him.
He was indicted in October 2018 for theft by taking and violating his oath of office. This arose from the alleged theft of more than $15,000 in court funds from the Pike County registry.
The criminal case reached back almost two decades.
In 2002, while a private attorney, Crawford represented two clients who placed $15,675 into the court’s registry while their foreclosure case was pending. In 2009, a judge dismissed the case and ordered that the funds be returned to Crawford’s clients.
The funds stayed in the registry until December 2017, when the clerk told Crawford she planned to send the money to the state as unclaimed property. But Crawford, in a handwritten note, directed her to give him the funds, which she did.
Crawford then cashed and used a portion of the check for his personal benefit and deposited the rest in his checking account, according to court records. Only after Crawford became aware he was being investigated for theft did he return the money to the state revenue department.
As part of his plea deal, Crawford agreed not to seek reelection or serve as a judge in any court while on probation. Crawford, in a letter sent Thursday to Gov. Brian Kemp, said he was stepping down from the bench.
“I have enjoyed serving the people of the state of Georgia for the past 27 years,” Crawford wrote.
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