Criminal trial of Limestone County Judge Doug Patterson delayed due to COVID-19

Athens

LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. — The criminal trial of Limestone County District Judge Doug Patterson set for June 15 was delayed and will be rescheduled.

The order Friday by Judge Steven Haddock reflects a previous order by Alabama Chief Justice Tom Parker who directed that no jury summons be issued until at least July 1, 2020, due to the COVID-19 virus.

Patterson, who is on paid leave, was indicted in December on charges of theft, financial exploitation of the elderly, and using his office for personal gain. He is being prosecuted by the Alabama Attorney General’s office.

Patterson is accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars by writing about 70 checks to himself from the Limestone County Juvenile Court Services Fund over a period of years. According to prosecutors, more than $47,000 of the stolen money was supposed to go to juvenile programs, juvenile court staff, and more.

Patterson is also accused of taking money before becoming a judge. According to the attorney general’s office, Patterson took $47,800 from the conservatorship account of an elderly client. Over a six and a half year period, prosecutors said Patterson drained the account and left less than $200 in it when he was done. The client, who was living in a nursing home for military veterans, has since died. Another person Patterson worked for as a conservator, also had between $499 and $1,500 taken from his estate’s account after his death, prosecutors said.

The case took an unusual turn in January after an apparent confession letter signed by Patterson was released publicly. Patterson’s attorneys later argued that Limestone County Robert Baker improperly impaneled a grand jury to look into Patterson. The defense argued the charges should be dismissed because of Baker’s alleged involvement.

The defense’s motion to dismiss will be reviewed at a hearing sometime after May 18, the court’s order Friday said. The court had rejected similar arguments about Baker in rejecting an earlier defense motion for access to grand jury materials and juror names.

Patterson, who state records show is still being paid $10,800 a month, also faces an investigation by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission. The commission has argued he should be removed from the bench and Patterson has a case pending before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.

Patterson’s lawyers have argued the case should be stayed until his criminal case is resolved. The Court of the Judiciary delayed scheduling, pending more details about when Patterson would go to trial.

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