Ballard discredited as DA and columnist

John Munford's picture

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?

Hmmmm.

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.

happynottobeasnob
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Get over it already

For the God Lord's sake, you people need to get over it already. It is very obvious that this paper has never like Ballard. Guess that's the owners perogative. But, have any of you ever really gotten to know Mr. Ballard. A man that cares about the circuit. Instead of Christian attitudes, you know, let he who is without sin cast the first stone, a certain few are trying to keep the pot stirred. Let it go. It seems all of the judges in this circuit, in one way or another, had self serving interests going on. These are the people who hand down the sentences. There are remedies if convicted persons feel wronged. Let's move on to more pressing issues of proverty and the loss of moral by our country.

mbest
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Don't even try to bring God in as Ballard's savior

"For the God Lord's sake"? Don't think God would be on his side on this one or other predators that Scott has championed. I've known Scott 20 years. "Self serving interests" should be his middle name.

Do you think the Lord told him to drive to south Georgia and plead for a convicted Child Molestor to be released to return to Fayette County?

To say he was reluctant to even investigate would be an understatement. From the start, he just wanted it to go away. Surely they will not make this man a Judge, and even as sure, we won't re-elect him.

DM_87
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Get over it??

I told myself I was finished posting because it really was a waste of time to argue with these people--but honestly, the ignorance is frightening.

Get over it?? Really? We should get over it when a man who has been charged with upholding our laws and deciding who to prosecute completely ignores the carriage of justice? It's scary that you--I assume--can vote in our elections. This is a very big deal and pretending that it isn't and wishing it away doesn't make it any less big.

This paper endorsed Ballard and has not been--as you suggest--against Ballard for a long time. And Ballard is not this great admirable man as you suggest. I have learned more about Ballard over the past year and a half than I would have liked due to unfortunate circumstances. I have been trying to educate people about the way he carries out his business and I am thrilled it is finally coming to light. No one is trying to stir the pot. I care mightily about this subject and have for awhile now. This man does not care about his circuit. He cares about his own political standing. He does not care about the court of justice. He cares about the court of public opinion.

This no small thing--and giving more rope in this situation only allows more for his other shortcomings. Your ignorance of this is staggering...

flitecrew
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Oh Please!

You are hysterical. Some of us have gotten to know him better than you, obviously. Yeah...he sure cares about the circuit. We see his concern here. And THIS IS about the loss of morality. Ethics are kinda important for all public servants.

The only people who would want this to just go away are those who have something to lose from the truth or have a screw loose that this is acceptable. You can not defend the indefensible....anyway you slice it and to defend wrong doing is just as bad as committing the act yourself.

You need to get your facts straight...originally this paper supported Ballard for office. http://www.voteinagawa.com/News/news8.htm

AnonRegisteredVoter
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It is so scary that this man

It is so scary that this man is the leader of our district attorney's office. What an awful example of leadership.

AnonRegisteredVoter
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Is there any proper legal way

Is there any proper legal way for Ballard to be removed from office? Do the voters have to wait until the election?

flitecrew
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Removal from Office

Disbarrment is handled by the State Bar. Contacting the Attorney Generals office and the Governor might speed things up a bit. A google search on "Prosecutorial Misconduct in Georgia" turned up some interesting links. Here is one that gives all the links to the authorities:

http://williamlanderson.blogspot.com/2010/04/ethics-misconduct-and-georg...

AnonRegisteredVoter
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Thanks & numbers

Here is the information on the Office of General Counsel, which investigates complaints against attorneys:

Paula Frederick, General Counsel (404) 527-8720
paulaf@gabar.org

Connie P. Henry, Clerk, State Disciplinary Board (404) 527-8720
connieh@gabar.org

Main Telephone (404) 527-8720

Ethics Helpline (404) 527-8741

Ethics Helpline (800) 682-9806

William P. Smith, Ethics Counsel (404) 527-8720
bills@gabar.org

positivelysouth...
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DM ...Editorial, really?

So if this piece is editorial, then Munford is Cal's puppet and these are Cal's beliefs. A staff writer does not write editorial.

The Wikipedia comment (which didn't exist when I was in Journalism school)
was used as a reference to show that even the least credible source lists basic standards.

You did not touch on the "do no harm" part of my post. I think plenty of harm has been done from this paper in regards to Saia and others, all over one comment. What was blaringly apparent in this "editorial" was the omission of Saia's name (as he is now ill). Isn't this poor man not still ill? It is dispicable to keep on this topic with his ill health.

Discrediting Ballard's journalistic talents is ridiculous. That is not
his profession, as this is Munford's. I think Scott Ballard's writing about Munford's errors gave food for thought to readers.

I would like to see The Citizen reporting the facts and the news in an objective and unbiased way.

mbest
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Scott you really should ask your mom to stop posting for you.

It's pathetic.

DM_87
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*Shakes head*

There is so much wrong with this that it is really hard to digest it all. First of all--Wikipedia...the least credible sources as you state...does list BASIC standards. However, real, verifiable sources go into depth on these standards. The issue of ethics in journalism is a moving target. There is much more that goes into than what a Wikipedia article can address. It is far from cut and dry.

And I really hate to inform you, but you are very mistaken on the meaning of the "do no harm" standard. You can't ignore a miscarriage of justice simply because someone is ill. That's ludicrous. Further, not harming someone's reputation is mainly in reference to releasing details about an individual that has not asked to be in the public eye--for example, releasing the name of a rape victim. Ballard and Saia are what we call public officials--which means that discussions of their character or fitness to do a job are open for public debate and without a doubt open to being critiqued in an editorial in the local newspaper.

In your discussion of Ballard as a writer, you make one very fine point. Writing is not Ballard's profession. So why does he insist on swaying the public by spitting his propaganda constantly in the FDN? I am amazed that you are okay with the Ballard's writing--which is full of questionable ethical conduct--and yet still question Munford's work on this article. Munford did his job. He gave Ballard an opportunity to explain himself. Ballard instead ignored him and wrote a preemptive attack piece in the opposing publication. Which one is more professional?

And discrediting Ballard's talents as a journalist is NOT ridiculous in any way. Ballard is subject to the same ethical standards and laws that any other journalist is. Just because it isn't his first profession doesn't mean that when his article goes into print or online--he shouldn't be looked at like any other writer. If Ballard were to write libelous content--he wouldn't be given a break simply because he isn't really a journalist. You don't need a diploma or a license to be a journalist. Ballard has placed himself within that role and--whether he likes it or not--he is subject to the same scrutiny.

It's clear to most people. It appears to me, however, that you should request on refund on your journalism classes. You seem to have been misled in a few areas.

flitecrew
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Do No Harm?

Any harm done was brought on through their own actions. I doubt the prosecutor would quit prosecuting someone because they were ill or drop the charges. Their culpability is not dismissed by an illness and neither should it be for those who are held to a higher standard.

Using Mr. Saia's illness as an excuse to try and get everyone to back off of an issue that has affected 100's of lives is an injustice to all of the rest potentially harmed. Saia is in a protected environment and has his family around him to filter any thing he may be exposed to. Life has to go on for the rest of the world. It is despicable to insist that this very serious issue affecting so many be hushed up and use his illness as an excuse. Trying to use a guilt trip to stifle the discussion is just wrong.

As well, this isn't over one comment, it is over many issues that have come to light. Scott Ballard may not be a journalist but a huge part of an attorney's job involves writing and getting at the truth. He only dug a further hole for himself by insisting he was correct after listening to the tape when the whole world heard it differently.

To minimize the damage of that one comment when there were serious ethical issues is an injustice. The bigger picture here isn't just the comment but questions regarding how easily someone who has the power to change a persons life may be doing so with very shoddy investigation into the facts and perhaps twisting them to suit his position which is what it, at the very least, suggests may have happened here. Add to that disappearing evidence and the many other ethical questions that have been raised and it is a highly serious matter which needs to be kept out front until it is investigated and resolved the right way.

Keep up the great work, Mr. Munford!

justwondering
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Excuses

As for me, I never requested or suggested that anyone back off from further investigation of the facts in this matter.Nor did I say somone's culpability should be dismissed or hushed up becasue of an illness. Maybe someone else said that.
I did request backing off from the unneeded and inappropriate criticisms of Saia, the casting of guilt by folks like you, charges of unethical acts, all this needs further investigation.
In my opinion, what is despicable and scarey, is your anger , your lack of any objectivity,and your quest for some type of revenge.

flitecrew
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Just wondering

You need to quit wondering and start thinking. The response wasn't in reply to you.

If you have gotten that out of what I have had to say then you need to take a few logic classes and perhaps learn a little critical thinking.

It is pretty unethical to accuse someone of something they didn't do when there is proof and then be so stubborn to actually defend your wrong acts.

At least Judges Caldwell, English and Kim Cornwell had the grace and enough ethics & sense left to walk away quietly.

The facts are out there for anyone with the brain of an asparagus seed to see the unethical acts and there really is no defense.

Frankly, it is people like you that have no critical thinking that have gotten our country into the mess we are in by giving passes to politicians for their wrong doing and being swayed by the veil of "niceness".

And if you call desiring to see a wrong rectified as someone who is seeking revenge you very misguided.

Davids mom
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Clarification please

Who are you addressing as DM? Oh - sorry, I see you're addressing DM_87.

Davids mom
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Deleted by Poster

.

jackmehog
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Munford is doing a great

Munford is doing a great service to the citizens of this county in exposing these scoundrels. It's time for Fayette to get rid of their Dukes of Hazard ways and enter the 21st century. Boss Hog Cauldwell is toast and now Ballard and the rest of his cronies must go...Keep up the good work John, and Cal -- you are da man!

positivelysouth...
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Journalistic ethics lacking-Munford discredited

Where did you attend college? You obviously missed a few courses.
I have lost all respect for The Citizen
and especially its so-called "writers" with this biased and patronizing
post.

Here's a quick lesson from Wikipedia(right up your alley)

While various existing codes have some differences, most share common elements including the principles of — truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability — as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public.
Like many broader ethical systems, journalism ethics include the principle of "limitation of harm." This often involves the withholding of certain details from reports such as the names of minor children, crime victims' names or information not materially related to particular news reports release of which might, for example, harm someone's reputation.

rockstar
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Why shoot the messenger?

Positively south.....why are you so intent on shooting the messenger?

Mr. Ballard made his own bed (well, I guess you could kinda argue that others made the bed while he looked the other way!) and now he has to go and lie in it. Nice job trying to point the fingers at others to take the heat off of your good ole' buddy Scott, but seriously, calling into question Mr. Munford's ethics is ridiculous.

DM_87
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Wikipedia? Really?

This is a laughable--at best--critique of Munford's handling of this story. You question his knowledge on the subject and then--to my complete and utter amazement--quote WIKIPEDIA??? Seriously? I happen to be a journalism student in my fifth year at the University of Georgia...and if I were to EVER use Wikipedia as a source, my paper/article would be returned to me with a "0" written at the top and my credibility as a writer would forever be shot--much like yours as a commenter has been.

Let me educate you a little on journalistic ethics that come from educated, verifiable sources. In regards to "objectivity, impartiality, fairness..."--that does not mean that giving an opinion is against the rules. It is called an editorial. It is understood that this column is not hard, solid fact. It is a man's INTERPRETATION of hard, solid fact. As a reader, you should read it critically and decide for yourself whether to believe Munford's account--or Ballard's...which might I add is slanted FAR worse than anything Munford has written on the matter. As Munford said, Ballard twisted a simple typo in a date into an entire bashing of Munford as a writer--whereas Munford provides a number of questionable actions on Ballard's part to solidify his point. Munford did his job in writing as a journalist. He called the "offending" party a number of times in an attempt to give him an opportunity to rebut what was being said about him. That is called being objective and unbiased. Unlike Ballard who wrote his column without doing any research whatsoever.

I have kept up with Ballard's editorials for the Fayette Daily News for awhile now...after I read a statement about a year ago where he said: "[Citizens] have every right to be confident that when they appear for jury duty, we'll be prosecuting guilty people..." Talk about ethical problems--that prejudices any future jury in favor of the prosecution. His columns have been packed full of these types of statements over the past year. They are all propaganda--simple attempts to gain the public's favor.

His column against Munford was--as Munford said--a cheap attempt to discredit him. Ballard is a politician...concerned little with the carriage of justice when compared to his political standing within the district and beyond.

I appreciate your attempt in this comment, but Munford is far from discredited. He did his job admirably--something you and Ballard can both strive for in the future.

mbest
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Way to go DM_87...

I doubt they will come back at you. Don't think they could handle you. Well said.

Davids mom
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DM_87

You're a credit to the University of Georgia!!

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