Days before a criminal trial, Georgia state Sen. Jeff Mullis called the judge who would decide whether Mullis' friend went to prison.
A recent court filing shows that Mullis contacted Superior Court Judge Brian House on Oct. 8, 2013. Three days later, House was scheduled to preside over the trial of Mark Lindsay, a former Fort Oglethorpe building inspector. Mullis was supposed to testify on Lindsay's behalf.
Lindsay's attorneys had asked for a bench trial, meaning there would be no jury and guilt or innocence would be decided by the judge.
It's unclear what Mullis said to House. But the phone call alone was enough to make House recuse himself, the court filing shows, "as a result of the contact on the Defendant's behalf by Senator Mullis."
Lindsay's case then languished for more than a year. In January, Judge Ralph Van Pelt Jr. convicted him on seven counts of theft by receiving stolen properties. Lindsay's mistress, Deborah Holt, testified that she forged checks from her employer, Gateway Mall on Cloud Springs Road, and bought $50,000 to $70,000 worth of gifts for him. Lindsay and Holt both were married to other people at the time.
Van Pelt sentenced Lindsay to 10 years in state prison.
The conversation between Mullis and House, however, came to light just two weeks ago, when Van Pelt denied Lindsay's request for a new trial. In his order, Van Pelt recounts the history of the case and how it was supposed to go to trial more than a year earlier than it actually did.
The case was delayed multiple times at the request of the defense and the prosecution for several reasons, including Mullis' conversation with House. Van Pelt wrote that Mullis' call was "impermissible communication."
Mullis and Lindsay have known each other for at least 16 years. In January 1999, when Mullis applied for a job as a Fort Oglethorpe zoning administrator, Lindsay interviewed him. The city hired Mullis, and the two men worked together until 2001, when Mullis resigned to become a state senator.
In August 2010, in the weeks before an election for a Catoosa County Commission seat, incumbent Bobby Winters said Mullis stabbed him in the back by endorsing his opponent. Days later, Lindsay also endorsed Winters' opponent, who would ultimately lose the election.
Back then, Lindsay told the Times Free Press that he opposed Winters because Winters spoke ill of Mullis. He said he and the senator were close friends.
Lindsay remained with the city of Fort Oglethorpe until he resigned in November 2010, when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested him. They said Lindsay knew — or at least should have known — that his mistress could not buy him expensive gifts on a bookkeeper's salary.
According to the GBI, Deborah Holt bought Lindsay a Yamaha Rhino, accessories for the Rhino, a 16-foot trailer, a 40-inch flat-screen TV, an electric smoker and a .44-caliber Magnum revolver.
Mullis did not return multiple calls seeking comment Wednesday. Neither did House, nor Larry Hill, one of the attorneys who asked for a bench trial instead of a jury trial.
Lindsay's other attorney, William Hentz, was indicted last month on a charge of possession of a controlled substance.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at email@example.com or at 423-757-6476.