LIT

Alabama Judge Resigns Ahead of Criminal Trial for Stealing

Limestone County District Judge Doug Patterson, 37, indicted on charges of theft, financial exploitation of the elderly and personal gain.

Trial date set for former Limestone County Judge Doug Patterson

LIMESTONE, Ala. — A trial date has been set in former Limestone County Judge Doug Patterson’s criminal trial. The judge in the case filed an order Wednesday.

Retired Morgan County Judge Steven Haddock is presiding over the case. He has officially marked November 16 as the start of Patterson’s trial set to take place at the Limestone Courthouse.

Patterson was indicted and arrested in December 2019. The former judge is accused of violating Alabama Ethics Law by using his office for personal gain. Patterson is charged with stealing more than $47,000 from a juvenile court fund he controlled and with stealing nearly $50,000 from elderly and disabled clients.

The case took a turn in January after an apparent confession letter signed by Patterson was released publicly. He resigned from his judgeship six months later.

At a motion hearing on August 27, Judge Steven Haddock denied Patterson’s request to throw out his charges based on a claim that there was “undue influence” during the grand jury proceedings that led to his indictment.

That same day, Haddock said he was hoping for a November start date for the trial.

Patterson’s attorney on the other hand told News 19 he thought November was “optimistic” considering the backlog caused by the pandemic.

When it was announced that jury trials would resume in October, the release mentioned jury selection would take place at the Athens Senior Center. As for other dates mentioned in Judge Haddock’s order, if a settlement is reached prior to the trial, parties have until October 23 to file notice.

Limestone County judge accused of stealing from juvenile fund, elderly veteran

A criminally indicted Limestone County judge is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the local juvenile court system and an elderly veteran, authorities announced today.

Doug Patterson, a Limestone County district judge, is charged with using his office for personal gain, third-degree theft and financial exploitation of the elderly, according to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. The charges are punishable by up to 40 years in prison.

Patterson was booked into the county jail today around 8:30 a.m. and released on $30,000 bail about 30 minutes later, said Stephen Young, a Limestone County sheriff’s office spokesman.

Efforts to reach Patterson for comment weren’t immediately successful. It’s unclear whether he has an attorney.

As a district judge, Patterson was responsible for supervising the county’s juvenile court system. He’s accused of using his position to take $47,008 from the Juvenile Court Services Fund, according to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case. Patterson wrote about 70 checks to himself from the account and either cashed the checks or deposited the money into his personal bank account, his law firm’s operating account, and his law firm’s client-trust account, state prosecutors said.

“Regardless of where the money went, Patterson ultimately spent the money on himself or other personal expenses unrelated to the County’s juvenile-court system,” a press release from the AG’s Office said.

Before becoming a judge, Patterson was an attorney and had been appointed to oversee an incapacitated elderly man’s finances, investigators said. While the man was in a Limestone County nursing home for veterans, Patterson withdrew $47,800 of the man’s money for his own personal use, according to state prosecutors. Some of the withdrawals happened after Patterson became a judge, according to the AG’s office.

Patterson is also accused of withdrawing for personal use money from another client’s account, state prosecutors said. After the client, died, Patterson took between about $500-$1,500 from the man’s account, the authorities said.

Attorney General Steve Marshall said he’s calling for a trial as soon as possible “to begin the process of restoring the Limestone County community’s faith in its judicial system.”

“To ensure the integrity of Alabama’s judicial system, Alabama judges swear an oath to faithfully and honestly perform the duties of their office,” Marshall said in the press release. “The allegations contained in this indictment shock the conscience and illustrate a callous and selfish disregard for the law as well as the welfare of Alabama’s most vulnerable citizens: children and incapacitated seniors. If proven, Patterson’s actions debase the judicial system.”

The charges were brought after a monthslong investigation into allegations against the judge. Patterson had been on leave since at least September, when the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts confirmed he was being investigated. His cases were assigned to other judges.

Patterson has remained on the state payroll during the investigation. Just yesterday the state paid out $5,404.42 for his bi-weekly gross salary, according to online records from the Alabama state checkbook. The records show that Patterson’s monthly gross salary is $10,808.84.

Scott Hoyem, a spokesman for the state Administrative Office of Courts, said he couldn’t comment on the details of the case.

“We want to reassure the citizens that there’s a plan in place to make sure there’s no disruption to the court system in Limestone County,” Hoyem said. He said the plan is being handled by Limestone County Presiding Judge Robert Baker. Efforts to reach Baker for comment weren’t immediately successful. A message left at his office wasn’t immediately returned.

Patterson, 37, first became a district judge in 2016. He was appointed by then-Gov. Robert Bentley to complete the term of retiring Judge Jeanne Anderson. Patterson was later elected and took office for a full term in 2017. He was born in Athens and attended the local high school. He attended Athens State University before going on to the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, according to his bio on the county website.

The attorney general thanked the FBI for partnering with his Special Prosecutions Division to investigate the case. Marshall also thanked Limestone County presiding Judge Robert Baker as well as the other local court employees for their assistance and cooperation in this matter.

FBI Birmingham Special Agent in Charge Jonnie Sharp Jr. said the bureau and its law enforcement partners will hold public officials accountable.

“When public officials misdirect money for personal gain, they’re breaching public trust – and breaking the law,” Sharp said. “Such corruption must not go unchecked.”

Patterson is the second Limestone County official indicted on theft and abuse of power charges this year. In an unrelated case, Sheriff Mike Blakely was charged with 13 crimes, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

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