Judge says he's 'staggered' but accepts plea deal in former Ala. tax official's ethics case

A judge has reluctantly accepted a guilty plea from a former Alabama tax official despite lingering questions over millions of dollars in property tax errors.

Circuit Judge Howard Hawk says he's "somewhat staggered" that the case against former Marshall County Revenue Commissioner Joey Masters involves only a few hundred dollars.

But in a deal, Hawk accepted a misdemeanor plea Monday. Masters avoids prison but gets a $1,000 fine, 200 hours of community service, and two years' probation.

A state audit found $17 million in assessment errors while Masters was in office, but a prosecutor said he couldn't prove crimes other than a misdemeanor ethics violation.

A taxpayer lawsuit says Masters wrongly reduced assessments for relatives and friends by as much as $20 million.

A defense lawyer and county official say the allegations are untrue.