Georgia: Vines quits as judge; state drops charges

Georgia: Vines quits as judge; state drops charges

May 2nd, 2009 by Todd South in Georgia

After suspended State Court Judge Carlton Vines resigned Friday, his defense attorney repeated his opinion that the case against his client was "entirely political."

Lead defense attorney Bobby Lee Cook, of Summerville, Ga., said Friday was "at best a sad day for a free society" after Mr. Vines agreed to resign and not seek a judicial post in the future.

Lead prosecutor Joseph Burford said in a telephone interview he was satisfied with the arrangement.

"I think that outcome is pretty much what we would have gotten had we gone to trial and convicted," Mr. Burford said.

Mr. Vines could not be reached for comment Friday.

He was charged with unlawful possession of ballots, conspiracy to commit election fraud and making false statements in connection with a 2006 election for the State Court bench.

He was losing that election by more than 150 votes to Sam Finster, but when absentee ballots were counted he won by 125 votes.

Cherokee Circuit Court Judge G. Carey Nelson declared a mistrial when jurors deadlocked 10-2 after a four-day trial in early April. A retrial was scheduled for this summer.

Throughout the trial Mr. Cook characterized the investigation of his client as a "witch hunt." He also likened investigators to Nazis because they asked witnesses for personal information and asked for whom they voted in the 2006 election, which was nonpartisan.

Gov. Sonny Perdue swore in Judge Finster to the State Court bench in February during Mr. Vines' suspension.

Secretary of State Karen Handel released a statement on her Web site Friday morning.

"Voter fraud undermines the integrity of our elections processes and the public's trust, and will not be tolerated," she said. "Carlton Vines' resignation is a victory for Georgia's election laws and Chattooga County voters."