Hearings against Twiggs County Probate Judge Kenneth Fowler opened with attorneys for the state accusing him of running a slush fund in the county, mistreating defendants and failing to properly exercise the most basic judicial duties.
Fowler and his own attorney said the fund existed well before he became probate judge in 2005, that he did not control it, and that he never profited from it. They admitted to mistakes in his courtroom, but said they stemmed from a lack of training.
Some of the alleged problems in Fowler's probate court center on a "community service account" he had at least some control over. Fowler acknowledged today that he allowed defendants convicted of traffic violations to "buy out" the community service portions of their sentence. That money was deposited into a "community service account," which eventually grew to more than $80,000. Fowler spent roughly $36,000 of that, the state's attorneys said.
The JQC did not present evidence that Fowler stole any of this money, only orders showing that he authorized equipment purchases out of it for county agencies, and particularly the sheriff's office.
JQC attorneys also said Fowler over-charged defendants for court costs, berated them, told some to "shut up" and referred to some black defendants as "colored" or "colored boy." They accused him of a bevy of improper judicial procedures, including telling defendants that they bore the burden of proof in their cases, when in fact defendants are innocent until proven guilty by the state. Fowler said he was simply trying to tell defendants that they have the right to present a defense.
"I've done nothing to be detrimental to Twiggs County, Georgia," Fowler said today. "I've done the best I could do."
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Hearings Against Twiggs County Probate Judge Begin