Ballard discredited as DA and columnist
For all of the job duties of a prosecutor, turning a blind eye to a potential crime is not one of them.
Yet that is exactly what our District Attorney, Scott Ballard, has done in his “investigation” into a physical affair between a then-sitting Superior Court Judge and a defense attorney.
Ballard should have probed the cases leading up to the moment the couple was caught in the throes of passion. Do you really think they would dare be caught doing such judicial tomfoolery AFTER they were caught?
Yet Ballard only reviewed the cases between Judge English and attorney Cornwell on dates after they were caught.
The evidence ran one way, and DA Ballard ran the other.
Even Ballard has admitted his investigation was short-sighted in this regard. He did so in a column published last week in the Fayette County News.
“I agree that much of the misconduct likely began before an eyewitness discovered it,” Ballard wrote of his investigation. “I felt we had done enough.”
Well, I guess “enough” counts if you mean “attempted to besmirch a sitting judge’s reputation.”
Ballard’s investigative summary, released nearly two weeks ago, included a “quote” from Judge Christopher C. Edwards that would lead one to believe he despised Judge English.
However, the recording of that conversation reveals just the opposite: Ballard chose to twist Edwards’s words.
If Mr. Ballard is this quick to railroad a sitting judge, it makes you wonder what shortcuts he’s willing to make to secure the conviction of a “common criminal.”
I am not saying Mr. Ballard has ever done such. But as with all ethical dilemmas, even the appearance of impropriety is enough to taint the reputation of the accused.
Ballard, for his part, asserts that the quote was legitimate, according to his column in the Fayette County News.
As of this writing I have been waiting six days for Mr. Ballard to return the very messages I left on his cellphone prior to our paper going to press. I suppose his cellphone might have fallen in the toilet, or the ocean, or the pool. Maybe.
Yet in the time he was ignoring me, he authored the newspaper column in an attempt to discredit me.
I guess if he can divert attention to my error, no one will notice his inappropriate and unethical slam on Judge Edwards.
Ballard’s column honed in on the fact that I got one date wrong in last week’s article about his investigation into the Cornwell-English affair.
Yes, the date in which attorney Cornwell and Judge English were caught in the heat of passion was back in Oct. 13 2008, not 2009 as I erroneously reported.
It does not change the fact that DA Ballard’s “sifting” investigation failed to even take a peek at the cases prior to the affair.
This, even though Ballard has admitted to knowing that Judge English and attorney Cornwell “spent time together,” according to his statement in the June 11 press conference.
Ballard’s column mentions no review of those cases for a potential crime. He said his job is done simply by proving the misconduct.
Of all the possible permutations between a judge and a defense attorney “rolling in the hay” so to speak, numerous possibilities come to mind, some of which could possibly be considered criminal.
Let’s consider some hypothetical scenarios involving any judge and defense attorney who might have been caught in such a sticky situation.
The most significant — and horrifying — possibility is that the judge and defense attorney might have been in cahoots. Let’s presume that instead of one person trying to influence the other, perhaps they were working together.
Perhaps the judge, every once in a while, wanted a few defendants whom he could easily strong-arm into guilty pleas with long sentences. He pads his tough-on-crime stats and the defense attorney doesn’t mind because the judge was magnanimous enough to spare her clients from the maximum sentences for each of the multiple counts the DA had lodged.
And maybe the defense attorney, every once in a while, came across a client who was railroaded by the cops. Prosecutors are hungry for a conviction and prison time for the defendant. Somehow, the case is “steered” to the judge’s courtroom and the defendant’s guilty plea gets a gentle probation sentence, or maybe a week in the local lockup that will be pared down to a few days with good behavior.
Any of the above such activity COULD have taken place prior to the date on which the English-Cornwell affair was confirmed (Oct. 13, 2008). How likely is it? I’d like to think not much, but we’ll never know, at least not if Mr. Ballard is the final authority.
At the press conference DA Ballard insisted his two decades’ working relationship with Judge English was not enough for him to pass the investigation to an unbiased authority.
Yet judges ARE required to recuse themselves from cases in which an attorney appearing as a defendant in their court is called into question. District attorneys aren’t held to the same standard?
It may be important, maybe not, that DA Ballard was one of the many candidates who sought one of the two Superior Court judgeships currently vacant. Perhaps the thinking was that the media would buy the manufactured quote from Edwards, at least Ballard’s version, hook, line and sinker.
Headline: “Judge Edwards out to get fellow judge.”
Or maybe DA Ballard wanted to steer attention away from English’s transgression because he didn’t want to alienate the folks in Upson County who have supported Judge English. Remember, DA Ballard needs a collective majority of the votes in all four counties in our circuit to be re-elected.
Or maybe DA Ballard didn’t want to deal with numerous cases having to be retried.
Maybe there were other motivations at play. I can’t tell you for sure.
Mr. Ballard, the opinion columnist and prosecutor, still hasn’t returned my phone calls.
I will, however, eagerly await his next column.