LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. -- There's a major new claim from a Limestone County judge who was indicted on charges of stealing from a court fund and from elderly clients while he was in private practice.
In a court filing this week, Doug Patterson's lawyers say there was a problem with the grand jury that indicted him. We learned Patterson was under investigation back in September, less than a month after Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely was indicted on theft and ethics charges. Patterson wasn't indicted until December.
The heart of Patterson's new claim: there was improper, undue influence exerted before and/or during the grand jury proceedings that led to his indictment, according to the court filing. His lawyers say that prejudiced his indictment.
They argue he needs to obtain the transcript, grand juror names, exhibits, and other documents from the grand jury proceedings. That's crucial, they say because Patterson expects to challenge his indictment on grounds relating to the inappropriate and undue influence on the grand jury.
The Alabama Attorney General's office, which is prosecuting the case, is not impressed. It argues that Alabama grand jury proceedings are secret to protect the "sanctity" of the process.
The state argues defendants aren't entitled to grand jury material except when a defendant can show a specific need. Even then it is narrowly provided after a review by a judge, records from the whole proceeding are not turned over.
The state says Patterson has not offered any proof regarding what impropriety he believes occurred with the grand jury, so the court should deny his request.
Patterson hasn't been hearing cases since the fall but appears to still be getting paid, more than $5,000 every two weeks.
His case took an odd turn last month when a letter he sent a fellow judge in December -- where he seemed to admit his guilt -- was turned over to state judicial investigators. They are now seeking his removal from the bench.
Patterson is due in court Tuesday for his arraignment.