LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. -- Limestone County District Court Judge Douglas Patterson was indicted in December on charges of theft and using his office for personal gain. But, the case has taken an unusual turn.
The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission announced a complaint this week against Patterson in the wake of his indictment. The complaint focuses on the criminal charges and also points to an apparent confession letter Patterson sent to another judge and related court personnel last month.
In the letter, Patterson admits to stealing from elderly disabled clients. He goes on:
"Then I betrayed the trust of the people of Limestone County by stealing from funds belonging to them and placed under my control. I regret allowing these charges to go unanswered this long. It is soul-freezing to finally face the enormity of my guilt."
Veteran Huntsville attorney Mark McDaniel said the criminal case against Patterson just got a lot easier to prove.
"Nothing more damning in a case than a person's confession, and it's even more damning when they just do it voluntarily," McDaniel said.
Given the confession, McDaniel said the case is unlikely to go to trial.
"The judge will look at all the circumstances and see what the charges are and look at whether or not this is an attempt to manipulate the court," McDaniel said.
This isn't a typical defendant.
"It's not only the anxiety of the case, the criminal charges," said McDaniel. "It's the anxiety of the fall, that you're taking. The position you had and where you're going now."
McDaniel said the letter may be about more than just criminal charges.
"But when a person just writes a letter, says 'Look, I did this' that's saying 'I need to be punished.' It's a cry for help, is what it is, I think," said McDaniel.
The Judicial Inquiry Commission complaint could lead to a civil proceeding aimed at removing Patterson from the bench. He's suspended but is currently still being paid his judicial salary of more than $10,000 a month. The state paid him $5,400 on Monday.
Patterson is due in court on February 11.