A Fulton County prosecutor has dropped all charges against former Brunswick Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Amanda Williams.
In a phone interview, Williams said she felt vindicated when her lawyers contacted her Thursday afternoon with the news.
“To be indicted with two felonies, that was pretty stressful,” she said. “No judge wants to be in this situation. It’s been a struggle.”
Williams was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury nearly two years ago on charges of making false statements during an investigation by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. The charges were related to comments the Fulton district attorney’s office claimed were made during a conversation about a drug court sentence she handed out in 2011.
The conversation, Williams said, was secretly recorded.
“I was not under oath,” she said. “A lot of what was said was inaudible. In my opinion, it was all political.”
Williams resigned from the bench in 2012 after she was accused of failing to remove herself from cases in which her lawyer family members were involved, showing favoritism from the bench, acting with “tyrannical partiality” and giving drug court participants unlawful indefinite sentences.
Williams said changes in the structure of the commission “changed the complexion” of her case, which was heard by four different judges. Prior to the changes, one person was responsible for investigating a case and making a final decision.
“The prosecutor was judge and jury. It’s like the district attorney being the judge,” she said.
When she was judge, Williams said she had conflicts with some law enforcement officials over the way she ran a drug court in Camden and Glynn counties. They accused her of “leaning over backwards” to help criminals avoid a jail sentence.
“I had an obligation to protect the public and help defendants with a drug problem,” she said. “When we started drug court, we didn’t have much treatment in the area. I tried to do the right thing.”
Williams said she learned who her friends were after she stepped down from the bench. Surprisingly, she said some of the people who called to express their support were ex felons she sentenced to jail and people from her drug court.
“When you’re in the fox hole, you know who you were in there with,” she said.
Williams said she also dealt with sexism as a judge by some lawyers and defendants.
“I’ve had judges say there is a clear difference how women are treated in the system,” she said. “The lack of respect is still out there. Male judges can say more and do more than women without any recourse. There is a difference.”
Williams said she worked hard to become a judge, starting as a law clerk and assistant district attorney.
“There were times police didn’t want to talk to me because I was a woman,” she said.
Williams said she has established a thriving private law practice since stepping down from the bench.
“I don’t advertise,” she said. “I’m very careful about the people I represent. I do a selected practice.”
Williams, who said she never had a traffic ticket or any brush with the law until her indictment, said the experience has made her a better lawyer because she knows firsthand how it feels to be accused of a crime.
“It’s been nearly two years since the indictment,” she said. “There was no need to go further with it.”
St. Marys lawyer Jim Stein and said the ruling was an example of “justice delayed, justice denied.” He spoke on her behalf following the June 2015 indictment, saying he believed the charges were politically motivated.
“I have appeared before Judge Williams as much as any attorney in the Brunswick Judicial Circuit and I never had a regret,” he said. “I became a better attorney because I knew Judge Williams was going to insist on you doing your job and doing it within the rules of the court and the law. If you didn’t, you knew you would be held responsible for your breach.”
Stein described Williams as a passionate, dedicated lawyer and jurist.