ATLANTA – A Georgia judge who pointed a gun at himself while at the courthouse, berated his boss in a bizarre televised rant and admitted to regularly smoking marijuana was ousted from the bench for life by the state's top court Tuesday.
The Georgia Supreme Court's unanimous opinion barred Catoosa County Magistrate Anthony Peters from ever holding another judicial office in Georgia, concluding he has done "nothing to show that he has any ability to live up to the high standard of conduct expected of members of the judiciary in Georgia."
Peters had said during an April hearing that the violations took place during a "rough patch" in his life, and his attorney blamed his behavior on prescription drug abuse after his client was involved in a devastating 2005 ATV accident.
His attorney Chris Townley said the ruling came as no surprise, and he said his client is taking the news in stride. He said Peters is doing "very well," and has found work for a north Georgia firm. Peters' number was disconnected.
Peters, who is not an attorney, was a detective for the county sheriff's office for 10 years before he was appointed as a magistrate judge in 1997. But his demeanor started changing after a difficult 2005, which began when his father committed suicide and grew worse after the ATV accident. The magistrate was taking heavy doses of pain medications by 2009 after surgeries didn't ease the pain, his lawyer said.
In February 2009, investigators say he went to a local house to help a relative, identified himself as a magistrate and then illegally kicked down two doors. In spring 2009, they say he pointed a gun at himself at the courthouse and told another judge: "I am not scared. Are you?"
Courthouse workers soon began to complain about the magistrate, and Chief Magistrate Judge Sonny Caldwell asked the Judicial Qualifications Commission to investigate. Peters had shaved his head and eyebrows, was openly talking about suicide and sometimes asked defendants inappropriate questions about drug and alcohol use, prosecutors said.
Soon, his behavior had grown so alarming that his boss tried to put him on a night shift. His refusal to work that shift led to a heated argument with Caldwell and forced deputies to remove Peters from the courthouse in handcuffs, authorities said. Peters retaliated by taking to the airwaves with his complaints.
He accused Caldwell of misconduct on a local talk show, called him "spineless" and revealed the identity of a confidential informant to the show's viewers. A day later, he phoned the same show and tried to disguise his voice with a range of bewildering phony accents. After his cover was blown — caller ID gave him away — Peters lashed out at the county sheriff, calling him a "spineless jelly spine."
Peters said at the April hearing he didn't remember going on air and that he was "ashamed" of what he did, and he admitted to smoking marijuana at least once a week between March and May 2010. But he said that he had already been punished enough by having been placed on administrative leave since June 2010.
The court disagreed, slamming Peters for refusing to seek treatment for his drug problems and for endangering the life of a confidential informant by exposing his identity on television.
"The public deserves much more from its judicial officers and those judicial officers who cannot give the public what it deserves — confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary — do not deserve to continue to hold judicial office," said the opinion.
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