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November 19, 2010

Federal judge cutting deal to avoid prison time for drugs, guns and stripper activities

As reported in this piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which is headlined "Federal judge to plead guilty in drug case," senior U.S. District Judge Jack Camp appears to have worked out a sweet plea deal following his arrest on various drug and gun offenses.  Here are some of the specifics:

Senior U.S. District Judge Jack Camp, whose arrest on charges of buying drugs and his relationship with a stripper shocked the state's legal community, will plead guilty Friday to federal charges, his lawyer said.  “We’ve reached a mutually agreeable resolution of the case,” Atlanta attorney Bill Morrison said Thursday.  Morrison would not disclose the specific charges the judge would plead guilty to.

Camp, 67, is scheduled to enter his plea in Atlanta before Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, a judge from Washington who was assigned the case.  On Thursday, Hogan disclosed Camp's decision to enter a guilty plea in an entry on the court's online docket sheet.

In a court filing Thursday, federal prosecutors indicated Camp will plead guilty to at least one felony charge -- aiding and abetting a felon's possession of cocaine, a painkiller and marijuana.  The filing did not disclose whether Camp will enter pleas to other charges.

Camp could avoid prison time if, as expected, his agreement with federal prosecutors does not require him to plead guilty to the most serious charge against him — being an illegal drug user who was found in possession of a handgun — said Steve Sadow, an Atlanta defense attorney who is not involved in the case.  Federal sentencing guidelines recommend at least five months in prison for that charge, Sadow said. If Camp pleads guilty to lesser charges, he could receive probation, home confinement or time in a halfway house, he said.

Camp, a member of a prominent Coweta County family, was appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.  He was serving as chief judge when he took senior status at the end of 2008.

Camp was arrested in early October, and a detailed affidavit by an FBI agent accused the judge of buying cocaine, marijuana and prescription painkillers.  The affidavit said Camp shared the drugs with an exotic dancer he met last spring at the Goldrush Showbar in Atlanta.

Camp, who is married, met the dancer when he purchased a private dance from her, the affidavit said.  He returned the next night and purchased another dance and sex from her, and the two then began a relationship that revolved around drug use and sex, according to court records.

The stripper began cooperating with the FBI, and on Oct. 1 she asked Camp to follow her to a drug deal to protect her.  Camp agreed, saying, "I'll watch your back anytime. ... I not only have my little pistol, I've got my big pistol so, uh, we'll take care of any problems that come up," the affidavit said.

Though federal practitioners can and should correct me if I am wrong, I believe it is fairly uncommon that a defendant involved in a series of drug transactions with the involvement of firearms will be able to cut a plea deal that enable him to potentially avoid any prison time. I am not directly asserting that Judge Camp is getting special treatment, but I do think the judge's own familiarity with the ins-and-outs of federal criminal law and practice likely played a significant role in how this case is getting resolved.

In the end, I will be surprised if any plea deal here locks in a specific sentence of Judge Camp. Assuming the deal leaves Judge Hogan with some sentencing discretion, I would not be surprised if Judge Camp still may face some hard time. (And perhaps readers might want to give Judge Hogan some early sentencing advice via the comments.)

Related post (which generated lots of comments):

UPDATE:  This new AP report provides details on the basics of the plea that was entered today:

U.S. Senior Judge Jack T. Camp pleaded guilty to the felony charge of aiding and abetting a felon's possession of cocaine when he bought drugs for the stripper, who was secretly cooperating with authorities. He also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors: possession of illegal drugs and illegally giving the stripper his government-issued laptop.

Camp, 67, faces up to four years in federal prison when he is sentenced March 4, but he is likely to get less time. Camp also agreed to resign from the bench and cooperate with any questions authorities may have regarding the cases he handled while he was being investigated.

When a judge asked Camp if the charges were accurate, he replied, "I regret ... I am embarrassed to say it is, your honor." Neither he nor his attorneys offered any explanation for his actions.

November 19, 2010 at 07:51 AM | Permalink


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You are correct. No prison would be unusual.

Posted by: federal practitioner | Nov 19, 2010 10:51:38 AM

This is a stain on the notion of fair play. Judge Camp is notorious for slapping around criminal defendants, especially in drug cases. Yet now he gets a slap on the wrist? If these charges had been brought against some knucklehead banger or hispanic guy, you can guarantee that the US Atty would have required that he plead to the gun charge. If the US Attorney was unwilling to make that charge stick here, he should never had brought it in the first place. I hope that Judge Hogan dusts off his copies of Booker, Gall, and Kimbrough and flexes his discretionary muscles.

Posted by: A.Nony.Mous | Nov 19, 2010 10:59:25 AM

"any person who, during and in relation to any . . . drug trafficking crime . . . for which the person may be prosecuted in a court of the United States, uses or carries a firearm, or who, in furtherance of any such crime, possesses a firearm, SHALL, in addition to the punishment provided for such crime of violence or drug trafficking crime . . . BE sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 years.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law . . . a court SHALL NOT place on probation any person convicted of a violation of this subsection; and
NO term of imprisonment imposed on a person under this subsection SHALL run concurrently with any other term of imprisonment imposed on the person, including any term of imprisonment imposed for the crime of violence or drug trafficking crime during which the firearm was used, carried, or possessed."

18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A), (D).

Posted by: Chris | Nov 19, 2010 11:55:39 AM

The wiggle room for the AUSA/Defense counsel here likely stems from the fact that it was not entirely clear from the reported facts that Camp "used" the firearm. Reports indicated that he accompanied the stripper to the drug deal and offered to protect her with his guns. Those accounts also indicate that he never left the car. So, add some ambiguity surrounding whether he meets the "use" definition to the fact that he's a judge and you get a plea that results in possible probation. (my understanding from public reports is that the guideline range is 4-10 months).

Posted by: District Court Clerk | Nov 19, 2010 2:17:51 PM

The quotes in the media indicate that Mr. Camp possessed little and big firearm in case of trouble - in furtherance of his drug transaction. He also "used" them by showing them to the CI, as evidence of his ability to protect her. A.Nony.Mous is right, if this is you or me, there is no question that we have to plead to, and serve five years on, the guns.

I'll sure be citing this charge bargaining every chance I get. But, good on defense counsel for an outstanding result.

Posted by: Jay Hurst | Nov 19, 2010 2:28:17 PM

For the last 20 years I've been a paralegal for a criminal defense specialist in California (mostly federal cases), and I've yet to see any defendant who "possessed or carried" a firearm in connection with a drug crime receive any sentence other than prison time ("possession" often being "constructive"... liberally construed). I do not recall such a case in the U.S. District Court here where a defendant avoided the mandatory consecutive minimum sentence set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).

Posted by: M Lust | Nov 19, 2010 2:46:34 PM

I have mixed feelings about this. I don’t really see the need to put Jack Camp in prison. The thought of him walking around does not make me feel unsafe. Then again, I feel that way about an awful lot of people whom the feds nevertheless insist on locking up for very long periods of time.

As several others have noted, I do not recall a federal case such as this, in which the defendant managed to avoid jail time, so it DOES reek of special treatment.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Nov 19, 2010 3:13:25 PM

Special treatment all they way. Any client of mine would have been charged with a 924(c).

Posted by: 20-year AFPD | Nov 19, 2010 4:19:43 PM

District Court Clerk - I do not think there is a circuit out there that would say that the facts of this case do not amount to use or possession of a gun in furtherance of a drug crime. He had it in his car during the deal, and he spoke about having it. That is right in the 924(c) wheelhouse. This was a crock.

Posted by: A.Nony.Mous | Nov 19, 2010 4:44:21 PM

Can the US Atty validly consider, as a factor supporting a lenient deal, the prospective dimunition of the criminal justice system in the eyes of the public, if this matter were to be the subject of a lengthy, lurid trial, with every point contested by zealous defense counsel?

It is possible that the USA was motivated to avoid a soap opera that would have reflected badly on the federal courts. (Of course, it already *is* a soap opera that reflects badly on the federal courts, but a lot more people would have found out about it if it had gone to trial.)

Posted by: Anon | Nov 19, 2010 5:03:47 PM

I am a victim of judge Naughty Nottingham:

“If you fail to withdraw those lawsuits, the next time you’re in this court you better be prepared with your toothbrush, because you are going to jail.”. Case 1:02-cv-01950-EWN-OES Document 884 Filed 09/08/2006 Page 33 of 34

So you’ll stay out of jail if all of these cases are dismissed in time for me to vacate the hearing. Otherwise the next time you show up, you pack your toothbrush, because you’re going to jail. ” 2/14/06

“She knows she’s not to pursue these lawsuits. And for her to suggest that I told her to dismiss the lawsuits and that does not cover her appeals from those lawsuits is silly, and you may convey that to her. So that if she wishes, she might dismiss everything before the marshals get to her, because it will – the marshals won’t be there this afternoon, but I guarantee they will be there sometime next week. And once she’s in custody, you may also tell her that she will not get out of custody until those are actually dismissed. The last time she was here I let her out on a promise that she was going to dismiss them. This time she will be in until they are done.”

“Mr. Lettunich reported his work on the following: 1. The Federal District Court held a contempt hearing regarding Kay Sieverding. She refused to dismiss the cases that she filed and was arrested. Mr. Sieverding dismissed the cases but later reneged and said he will not dismiss the cases; so he may be arrested as well.”

Whether it is zoning, criminal procedure, or the Privacy Act, we need to understand that we are not a nation under rule of law. All that is important is who you know and who you pay.

My lawsuits were important to me and not just for the money but also because I was criminally accused with no criminal procedure and branded guilty without a crime.

I am not a lawyer, law student, or judge. I thought I could navigate the legal system as a pro se litigant because I have a masters degree from MIT so I figured I could manage.

Posted by: kay sieverding | Nov 19, 2010 6:48:50 PM

Charging Disparity is the culprit in the inequality in sentencing. It is known, but not spoken. Sentencing is important, but is constantly scrutinized. Charging is so opaque with undefined standards and very little oversight.

Posted by: beth | Nov 19, 2010 7:24:45 PM

It is not the US Attorny handeling this case, something tells me the office is recused. Main Justice, Public Coruption is prrosecuting the case. One thing to consider is that if the D was not a Judge, the feds would most likley not be doing this case in the first place.

Posted by: AUSA | Nov 22, 2010 2:02:19 PM

Judge Hogan has made himself a vile villian which far exceeds the felonious criminal offences that Camp committed , by proving to the world by the sentence he gave here, that he does not respect the law that he fails to uphold, and becomes in the minds and hearts of many, as a piece of traitorous trash that showed unjust favoratism, which was unheard of before as ever being showed to others guilty of these same similar crimes. No thanks to Hogan, contempt and disrespect for our bought and paid for judicial sinister system has now been elevated to an all time high. Well did Jesus put it when He reffered to human judges as (THE UNJUST JUDGE) . It will be interesting to see and hear in days to come how God judges the now, THE UNJUST JUDGE.

Posted by: anonymous 2 | Jan 28, 2013 1:56:49 AM

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