State seeks nominees to succeed Lee as judge

By W. WINSTON SKINNER
winston@newnan.com
Coweta Superior Court Judge William F. Lee Jr. is now officially retired, and the process to choose his successor has begun.
Lee, 69, last week announced his intention to retire effective Tuesday. His retirement brought to a close an investigation of Lee by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission. Atlanta media reports have noted Lee’s role in a case where the judge reduced the sentence of a convicted sex offender.
On Thursday, Lee submitted a resignation letter to Gov. Nathan Deal. In his letter, Lee stated it was his “desire to retire” from the judicial post after 37 years “of public service to the people of the State of Georgia.”
A report originating with the Judicial Qualifications Commission of Georgia noted “allegations of judicial misconduct” on Lee’s part. The document noted the matter “was concluded between Lee and the Commission... with a mutually agreed upon disposition” that hinged on Lee’s retirement May 1.
Four Judicial Qualifications Commission cases alleged Lee improperly communicated and entered orders without notice to all parties and/or their attorneys and that he assigned cases to himself when he was disqualified because of judicial rules. It is believed one of the cases revolves around Lee’s reduction of the sentence of Mario Lorenzo White.
White, then 19, was charged with raping a 14-year-old fellow student in the athletic field house at East Coweta High School in 2003. White was convicted in March 2004, and Coweta Circuit Superior Court Judge Quillian Baldwin sentenced White to a 10-year sentence – five years in prison followed by five on probation.
The sentence came after White entered a non-negotiated plea of guilty to statutory rape. Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring agreed to drop charges of enticing a child for indecent purposes and child molestation against White, who lived in the Moreland area, if the defendant entered the non-negotiated plea of guilty to statutory rape.

White admitted having sex with the girl on March 28, 2003.

The girl agreed to go to the field house with White. “From there their stories diverge,” Boring said in court in 2004.

White said the girl’s actions were consensual, but Coweta County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Stan Roughton reported to the court that the victim reported telling White she did not want to have sex with him, “but he continued anyway.”

At the time of the trial, Boring said, “The victim’s family is unhappy with the plea, and the defendant’s family is very upset with the sentence.”

In 2010, Lee revisited White’s case – vacating the statutory rape charge. According to a story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, White then pleaded no contest to child cruelty.

The change in charge meant White was no longer required to register as a sex offender. In April 2010, Lee vacated his ruling and reinstated the sentence given by Baldwin six years earlier.

White is not currently listed on the Georgia sex offender list, but he is still on the national list.

Michael A. Prieto, the attorney representing White’s victim’s family, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Prieto is with the Cartersville firm of Perrotta, Cahn & Prieto, P.C.

Efforts to reach Coweta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Peter Skandalakis were also unsuccessful. Skandalakis is out of the country and is not expected to return until Monday.

A notice from the Judicial Nominating Commission has been sent to members of the Georgia Bar – seeking nominations for Lee’s post. The Judicial Nominating Commission “is now engaged in the process of receiving names of persons to fill a vacancy on the Superior Courts of the Coweta Judicial Circuit created by the resignation of the Honorable William F. Lee, Jr.,” it was stated in the notice sent out by email Tuesday.

Members of the Georgia Bar may submit their own names or nominate others for the judgeship. The notice indicated the public “is also invited to submit nominations.”

Names are to be submitted by May 18. Nominations can be sent to Judicial Nominating Commission, c/o Dana McGuire, 600 Peachtree, NE, Suite 5200, Atlanta, GA 30308-2216, by fax to 404-962-6919 or by email to dana.mcguire@troutmansanders.com.

To each person nominated, the commission will send an application package to be returned for receipt on or before June 1. The commission will meet to interview applicants some time after June 11 at The State Bar of Georgia, 104 Marietta St., Atlanta.

The commission will recommend up to five people to Deal for consideration. The governor will interview those finalists and is empowered to appoint someone to the post.


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