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April 5, 2011

"Felony to misdemeanor: How Jack Camp did it"

The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy article from the Daily Report, which carries the subheading "DOJ may have been 'outlawyered' as plea deal fell apart for gun-toting former jurist caught in cocaine deal." Here is how the piece starts:

Prosecutors who missed charging opportunities, a loosely crafted plea agreement and defense lawyers who excavated a little-known Michigan case that turned on the difference between "a" and "the" allowed former federal Judge Jack T. Camp Jr. to walk away with a misdemeanor last month even though he pleaded to a felony after the FBI snared him in a cocaine deal.

Camp's sentence, which the government said it will not appeal, amounts to a new legal precedent in Georgia affecting whether a felon's prior convictions may be used to enhance criminal charges against anyone helping that felon commit a crime.  The Michigan opinion and prosecutors who may have been wary of relitigating a decade of Camp's cases would prove critical in the surprising outcome.

Camp could have served four years in prison under his original plea deal, which included a felony and was made with prosecutors from the Department of Justice in Washington after local prosecutors and judges recused. Instead, U.S. District Senior Judge Thomas F. Hogan from Washington, sitting as a visiting judge in Atlanta, reduced the 67-year-old Camp's felony plea to a misdemeanor, then gave him a 30-day sentence plus a good scolding for criminal behavior that combined cocaine, narcotic painkillers, a prostitute drug felon, a stolen government laptop, and loaded guns he brought to a drug deal.  Camp also will serve 10 weeks of community service, pay a $1,000 fine, and reimburse more than $13,000 to the government for the cost of his prosecution.  As part of his plea, Camp also resigned his judicial post and surrendered his law license.  He will begin serving his sentence on April 15 at a minimum-security federal prison camp in El Reno, Okla.

For Camp, the biggest relief likely was avoiding more prison time and the stigma of a felony conviction.  As a misdemeanor offender, he will not be stripped of his civil rights —including the right to vote and carry a firearm (once his probation is complete) — and could even apply for reinstatement to the State Bar.

Criminal defense lawyers who have followed the case were stunned.  Arthur W. Leach, a former federal prosecutor in Alpharetta who now does defense work, called the conversion of Camp's pleaded felony to a misdemeanor "absolutely amazing."  The downgraded plea, he said, creates "the perception that because [Camp] was a district court judge, he was treated differently."

"The consensus among criminal defense attorneys in this district is please bring in a prosecutor from Washington whenever we have a case," said Atlanta criminal defense attorney Steven H. Sadow.  The government was "outlawyered," defense attorney Wilmer "Buddy" Parker, another former federal prosecutor in Atlanta, concluded.

Related prior posts (which have generated lots of notable comments):

April 5, 2011 at 10:19 AM | Permalink

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Comments

"criminal behavior that combined cocaine, narcotic painkillers, a prostitute drug felon, a stolen government laptop, and loaded guns he brought to a drug deal."

We should all know that any Johnny Q. Defendant whose conduct fell within the above description would NEVER have walked away from this prosecution with Mr. Camp's slap-on-the-wrist sentence and misdemeanor conviction. Shame, Shame, Shame on DOJ.

Posted by: anon | Apr 5, 2011 11:36:01 AM

Anon nailed it. And shame on the sentencing judge, too.

Posted by: snapple | Apr 5, 2011 1:14:05 PM

If I had concluded a felony plea bargain with the defendant and his counsel, and as it started to go down the judge said he was going to reduce it to a misdemeanor, I would have told him that this was not the agreement the government made, that the whole thing was off, that there would be no further negotiations, and that the case should be set for trial at the court's convenience. I then would have packed up my briefcase and left the courtroom.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 5, 2011 1:55:26 PM

If we ignore the fact that Camp was a federal judge, the only thing about this case that would make it likely to end up in federal court is the stolen laptop. It's only because he's a federal judge that it became the big deal that it did. I don't believe the judge got off any more lightly than any other guy salving his mid-life crisis with hookers and drugs would have. In fact, had he been prosecuted in state court, he might have gotten off worse--simple possession of cocaine tends to be a felony in most states, though I don't know if Georgia makes it a felony. But there's nothing ambiguous or confusing about felony simple possession, so no amount of "lawyering" could have made it less than a felony.

Posted by: Anonymous | Apr 5, 2011 5:25:17 PM

good for you bill. of course i think the defense should do the same thing when the prosecution wont' state up front the amount of time the defendant is to receive.

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 5, 2011 5:50:06 PM

Georgia should prosecute Mr. Camp under its laws. Camp should be a deemed a felon and should receive at least a year jail time.

Calling Georgia state prosecutors...you are needed to seek justice where the DOJ dropped the ball.

Posted by: anon | Apr 5, 2011 9:59:06 PM

Bill Otis:

If I am a defense lawyer, my integrity is questioned, because I would like to see the same type of sentence even "considered" for my client, and object to it being received by Judge Camp.

You, and Kent and even Doug, continue to operate on the the ignorance of the publicly educated voters who would most likely constitute a jury pool.

As a real scientist, almost all forensic science is junk science. Too bad that most lawyers, (and law professors) are not intelligent enough to understand true science.

Posted by: albeed | Apr 6, 2011 12:17:50 AM

Thank you for sharing,it is very helpful and I really like it!

Posted by: Big pony | Apr 11, 2011 6:03:52 AM

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