Griffin Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Robert “Mac” Crawford is being formally charged in the alleged theft of more than $15,000 from the Pike County court’s registry that he put in his personal account.
Back in April it was reported that Crawford was under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. While the GBI investigates, Crawford has stopped hearing criminal cases in the circuit at the request of District Attorney Ben Coker.
According to the AJC, the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the state’s judicial watchdog agency, filed formal charges with the State Supreme Court Tuesday accusing Crawford of “egregious misconduct.” The Judicial Qualifications Commission said that Crawford did not follow protocol, even if the money was rightfully his.
The disputed funds pertain to a 2002 case where Crawford served as a private attorney, where he deposited the money into the court’s registry to halt foreclosure proceedings for his clients. In 2009 the case was dismissed, and the funds were to be returned to the clients, but stayed in the registry. The court clerk was preparing to send the $15,672 to the State Department of Revenue as “abandoned funds,” at which point Crawford directed the clerk to release the funds to him. He cashed part of the funds for personal use and deposited the rest in his checking account.
“Although Judge Crawford at one point claimed that at least part of this money was owed to him for his prior representation of [Clark and Whalen], that claim was false,” the Judicial Qualifications Commission said. “The funds either belonged to his clients or were unclaimed property that should have gone to the Georgia Department of Revenue.”
The Judicial Qualifications Commission is a seven-member panel that oversees the investigation of a judge. A different three-person panel hears the case and recommends a punishment to the State Supreme Court. Crawford will now go before the hearing panel.
As part of their filing, the Judicial Qualifications Commission also accuses Crawford of failing to promptly schedule hearings, leaving some cases pending for years, and says they may pursue it later.