Superior Court Judge Mack Crawford of the Griffin Judicial Circuit was indicted Wednesday for the alleged theft of $15,675 in court funds.
A Pike County grand jury, acting on a request by a prosecutor from the state Attorney General's Office, indicted Crawford on one count of theft by taking and one count of violation of oath by a public official. Crawford, a former state legislator who once headed Georgia's public defender system, presides over cases in Fayette, Spalding, Pike and Upson counties.
Crawford’s lawyer, Virgil Brown, expressed disappointment with the indictment. “I feel confident Mack didn’t steal any money or have any criminal intent, and I believe I can prove that in court,” he said.
Then a private attorney, Crawford represented two clients who placed $15,675 into the Pike County court’s registry in 2002 while their foreclosure case was pending. In 2009, a judge dismissed the case and ordered the funds be returned to Crawford’s clients.
The funds stayed in the registry until last December when the clerk told Crawford she planned to send the money to the state as unclaimed property. But Crawford directed her to give him the funds, which she did, and the new indictment alleges that was theft.
This summer, the state's judicial watchdog agency filed an ethics complaint against Crawford over the court funds. Under the Judicial Qualifications Commission rules, a three-member hearing panel can now decide whether Crawford should be suspended from the bench while his case is pending.