DeKalb County prosecutors say Superior Court Judge Cynthia Becker coordinated with defense lawyers before overturning convictions in a school corruption case, according to court filings.
Prosecutors are asking for Becker’s removal from the case because her impartiality could be questioned, according to legal documents filed Wednesday afternoon.
Becker called attorneys for Pat Reid and Tony Pope, who were found guilty a year ago of manipulating construction contracts, on Oct. 27 to tell them she planned to grant their clients new trials, said a motion by Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Leonora Grant.
During the call, Becker agreed with Pope’s attorney, John Petrey, when he said he needed to withdraw his appeal so that Becker would regain jurisdiction in the case, Grant wrote in the motion.
“Judge Becker stated that she would give Petrey time to file a withdrawal of Anthony Pope’s notice of appeal before she filed the order granting Pope and Reid a new trial and ordering their immediate release,” Grant wrote.
Prosecutors had previously said in filings with the Georgia Court of Appeals last week that Becker tipped off defense attorneys during a conversation that excluded the district attorney’s office.
The legal filings Wednesday go a step further by alleging Becker worked with defense attorneys to alter the course of the case.
The Georgia Court of Appeals stopped Becker’s order to release Reid and Pope from prison.
Becker has already removed herself from future proceedings in the case involving Reid and Pope, but she said in her Oct. 27 order that her experience during the trial required her to continue overseeing the fate of former DeKalb schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis.
Becker has said she didn’t think Lewis told the truth when he testified against Reid and Pope under a plea deal with prosecutors. The plea deal called for Lewis to receive probation, but Becker sentenced him to 12 months in jail. The Georgia Court of Appeals threw out Lewis’ sentence, and Becker scheduled a Jan. 9 hearing on the matter.
The motion filed Wednesday by the district attorney’s office seeks Becker’s removal from Lewis’ case, saying her recent actions call for her to be disqualified. The motion also requests that “an impartial judge” decide the question of whether Becker should be removed from handling Lewis’ case any further.
Becker said in a statement Monday she plans to resign, and she confirmed she’s under investigation by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission.
“Judge Becker revealed the JQC investigation, and that’s her right,” said Lester Tate, chairman of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission. “I cannot talk about the substance of that, but I can say that a press release does not stop an investigation by the JQC.”
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