Investigation into judge started by jewelry theft

Investigation into judge started by jewelry theft

June 22nd, 2010 by Ben Benton and Andy Johns in News

CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. -- The GBI investigation into Catoosa Magistrate Anthony Peters was sparked at least in part after he was questioned about a burglary at the house of his girlfriend's mother.

According to a police report filed with the Chickamauga police on May 26, Judge Peters was questioned but not considered a suspect when more than $90,000 in jewelry and a pistol went missing from the home of Vickie Carpenter in Chickamauga. Nichole Thomas, 32, of Chickamauga, is listed on the report as a suspect and 48-year-old Judge Peter's girlfriend.

A spokesman with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said last week the agency was investigating Judge Peters and two incidents in Walker County based on a request from the Lookout Mountain Judicial District.

The investigation came to light along with others by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission and the Catoosa County Commission after Judge Peters and Chief Magistrate Judge Sonny Caldwell got into an argument on Wednesday at the county courthouse. More than a dozen law enforcement officers were called to resolve the "administrative incident" which ended with Judge Peters being taken away in handcuffs and held at the Catoosa County Jail until he was released without charges.

On Monday, Judge Peters filed applications for warrants against "various Magistrate Judges and Sheriff's Office personnel," including Sheriff Phil Summers, according to a release from the sheriff. The sheriff defended his deputies in the statement, saying the deputies had "no choice" but to act the way they did because of the magistrate's actions.

Attempts to reach Judge Peters were unsuccessful Monday.

Chickamauga Police Chief Micheal Haney said Ms. Carpenter dropped the charges from the jewelry incident when most of the stolen items were returned. Ms. Carpenter told police her daughter broke into her home and stole the jewelry because of an ongoing civil dispute, the report says. The investigating officer wrote that he spoke with Judge Peters at 1:01 a.m. on May 26 and the judge denied involvement and said Ms. Thomas had not taken the items.

When police asked about Ms. Thomas' red Jeep Cherokee, which was spotted at the scene of the burglary, Judge Peters told them he later parked it behind a barn at her house so Ms. Carpenter and other family members would not see it.

Judge Peters is separated from his wife.

Chief Haney said the GBI came to investigate the next day and has handled the case ever since. The Walker County Sheriff's Office and LaFayette Police Department didn't have any records of incidents involving Judge Peters.

On Friday, Mr. Peters filed a report with the Fort Oglethorpe police, saying he was being stalked. In the report, he claims a suspicious black Ford F-250 truck had driven back and forth in front of his home about 3:30 a.m. Friday morning. No one was arrested and the report lists the case as cleared.

GBI agent Greg Ramey said Monday there were no new developments in the probe and agents have not yet interviewed Judge Peters. When agents approached the judge to talk, "he deferred to his lawyer, which is his right," Mr. Ramey said.

Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission Director Cheryl Custer refused to confirm or deny whether a complaint has been filed on either Judge Peters or Judge Caldwell. A copy of the Judge Peters' complaint obtained by the Times Free Press raises questions about Judge Caldwell's campaign finances and use of county equipment and time.

Ms. Custer also refused to say whether any investigation is pending or if the commission is considering suspensions.

Chad Young, the Catoosa County attorney, said Thursday the qualifications commission was investigating Wednesday's incident.