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Corruption

Limestone judge indicted on theft, abuse of office charges

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Alabama Attorney General’s office on Thursday announced the indictment of Limestone County Circuit Judge Douglas Lee Patterson on three felony charges that he used his office for personal gain. 

Patterson, 37, was arrested Thursday morning by agents with Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office following indictments by a Limestone County special grand jury, according to a press release from Marshall’s office. 

Patterson’s charges include a charge of using his office for personal gain for allegedly using his position as judge to transfer $47,008.24 from the county’s Juvenile Court Services fund. 

Patterson over a period of years wrote about 70 checks to himself from the court services fund,  either cashed the checks or deposited the money into his personal bank account, his law firm’s account and his law firm’s client-trust account, according to the release. He spent that money on himself and his personal expenses, according to the release. 

Patterson is also charged with first degree financial exploitation of the elderly for allegedly taking all or a portion of $47,800 that belonged to Charles Hardy, now deceased, whom Patterson had become conservator for in 2010, according to the attorney general’s office. Patterson transferred some of that money from Hardy’s account after being appointed district court judge in March 2016 by former Gov. Robert Bentley, according to the release. 

The special grand jury also indicted Patterson on a charge of theft of property in the third degree for allegedly taking between $499 and $1,500 from the late Rudolph Allen, whom Patterson had previously served as conservator for. 

“To ensure the integrity of Alabama’s judicial system, Alabama judges swear an oath to faithfully and honestly perform the duties of their office,” said Attorney General Marshall said in a statement. “The allegations contained in this indictment shock the conscience and illustrate a callous and selfish disregard for the law as well as the welfare of Alabama’s most vulnerable citizens: children and incapacitated seniors. If proven, Patterson’s actions debase the judicial system. I call on the trial court to hold a trial as soon as possible to begin the process of restoring the Limestone County community’s faith in its judicial system.”

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Jonnie Sharp Jr., FBI Birmingham special agent in charge, said in a statement that when public officials misdirect money for personal gain they’re breaching public trust and breaking the law. 

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“Such corruption must not go unchecked. The public can be assured that no matter how long it takes, the FBI and our partners will investigate and work to hold accountable unscrupulous public officials,” Sharp said. 

Upon his indictments Patterson was removed from his judgeship, according to the release. If convicted, the first two charges are Class B felonies punishable by two to twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $30,000 each. The theft charge is a Class D felony punishable by a year and one day or up to five years in prison and a fine up to $7,500.

 

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