published Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Georgia prosecutor says judge pulls gun in open court

ATLANTA — A North Georgia judge pulled out a handgun in open court and pretended to offer the pistol to an uncooperative witness, telling the woman she was “killing her case,” the prosecutor who witnessed the exchange said Saturday.

District Attorney Jeff Langley told The Atlanta Journal Constitution (http://bit.ly/yguTwX ) that Judge David Barrett seemed frustrated rather than threatening when he drew his gun Wednesday during a hearing in Lumpkin County Superior Court.

“It was totally inappropriate conduct for a courtroom,” said Langley, who added he immediately approached the bench and told the judge to put the gun away. Barrett complied, he said, and the hearing continued.

Langley said the judge’s actions had been reported to the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates judicial misconduct. The Associated Press reached the agency’s director, Jeff Davis, Saturday but he declined comment on whether it was investigating. Georgia law allows judges to carry concealed handguns in their courtrooms.

Barrett is the chief judge of the Enotah Judicial Circuit that includes Lumpkin, Towns, Union and White counties in North Georgia. The judge did not immediately return a phone message left by The Associated Press at his office Saturday. The AP could not find a home phone listing for the judge.

Langley and another attorney who witnessed the gun incident said it happened as woman testified during a bond hearing for a former Hall County sheriff’s deputy charged with rape and aggravated assault with a handgun. The deputy has pleaded not guilty.

The woman was testifying that the deputy had abused her and one time had placed a gun to her head, Langley said, but she became uncooperative later in her testimony.

The prosecutor said Barrett told the woman she was “killing her case.” Langley said the judge then pulled out his gun and said, “You might as well shoot your lawyer” as he motioned like he was offering her his pistol.

The woman’s lawyer, Andrea Conarro of Dahlonega, told the newspaper the entire scene was “one of those slow motion kind of events.”

“Later, as it sunk in, I was upset, and I felt like a tragedy had been created” because of what might happen to the judge because of his actions, Conarro said.

She said her client, whose name was withheld because she says she’s the victim of a sex crime, didn’t appear too shocked and “thought it was a test” by the judge to gauge her credibility.

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