Pubdate: Fri, 03 Dec 2010
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2010 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Author: Steve Visser
Note: Staff writers Bill Torpy and Bill Rankin contributed to this article.


A federal investigation into former U.S. District Judge Jack Camp's
admitted drug use and alleged bias against African-Americans may mean
new trials or sentences for some people adjudicated in his courtrooms.

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates announced Thursday her office is
conducting an investigation on how Camp's behavior and biases may have
undermined justice.

Camp, 67, resigned as a federal judge and pleaded guilty Nov. 19 to a
felony drug charge and two misdemeanors. The charges stemmed from a
sex scandal involving cocaine, marijuana, prescription narcotics, guns
and 27-year-old exotic dancer Sherry Ann Ramos, with whom the married
judge had an affair between May and September 2010.

Yates said Camp had admitted using drugs during that period but denied
using them before the affair or during court business. The
investigation revealed no other drug use, Yates said.

She said the U.S. Attorney's Office "would not oppose" any defendant's
request for a new sentencing if it was handed down during the
five-month period Camp has admitted to using drugs. She said she did
not have an opinion on how much weight to give the charges of racial

But Stephanie Kearns, executive director of the Federal Defender
Program in Atlanta, said it was the allegations of racial bias that
might prove most vexing for federal prosecutors. Her office already
identified a few cases in which its lawyers believe Camp may have
shown prejudice against African- Americans during the course of a
trial. That could mean a motion for a new trial in some cases, she

"We've already talked about some in our office," she said. "We're
pulling the records and the (trial) transcripts."

Camp, through his attorney, said he would defend "any decision he has
rendered where a defendant may assert any sort of impairment or bias."

Bill Morrison's statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday
night said, in part, "While Mr. Camp understands the government must
take appropriate steps to ensure our judicial system is free of bias,
none occurred in Judge Camp's courtroom. Again, Jack Camp has assisted
the government in this review to the fullest degree possible."

Yates, who declined to identify Ramos by name, said the woman who had
the relationship with Camp contended he admitted being angry that she
had a relationship with an African-American man. Yates said the woman
said the judge told her that he had a "difficult time adjudicating
their cases and specifically determining their sentences because he
could not differentiate" them from the black man with whom she had a

The woman cited one case where she said Camp had sentenced one black
man to a much stiffer sentence because he had a relationship with a
white female.

Yates said that the former judge denied making the statements and that
her office had not been able to corroborate them.

"We have identified a case before Camp for re-sentencing during the
relevant time that is similar to some aspects of the facts identified
by Witness 1, but the court did not actually impose a new sentence,"
Yates said. "Our efforts to make a more conclusive determination are

Kearns said more corroboration of the paramour's allegations would be
needed to make a credible case that Camp was biased against blacks
appearing in his court. But the allegations carried weight, she said,
and could be used by defendants going back to Camp's appointment to
the bench in 1988.

"We all know that people tend to suppress their biases, not cultivate
them later in life," Kearns said.

Some of that corroboration may come from Ramos' former landlord, who
told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an interview in November that
the judge had bullied her in a dispute over the lease but said the
judge sounded surprised and angry when she told him that Ramos, who is
white, was living with a black man.

Katrina Hardy, who rented her Union City condo to Camp's girlfriend,
said she was considering legal action against Ramos when she got a
call from Camp, telling her he was a judge and she should back off.
Hardy said his tone changed when she told the judge about his
girlfriend's living arrangement.

"I said, 'You know she's living with a black man,"' Hardy recalled.
"And he said, "What!"

Yates said one witness to the conversation about the lease dispute
said that the judge used a racial epithet to refer to Ramos' boyfriend
but another witness who overheard a portion of the conversation said
she didn't hear Camp use any epithets.

Yates said there was evidence that the judge consulted with Ramos
about the sentences he imposed.

There was also evidence that Camp favored some defendants. Ramos told
investigators the judge told her he gave a 12-month sentence instead
of a recommended 60-month sentence to one female defendant because she
reminded him of Ramos, who also had done federal prison time on drug

Investigators found a similar case where Camp sentenced a white female
defendant to 15 months in prison instead of the recommended 30 to 37
months, Yates said.

She said Camp presided over 16 sentences and one trial during the five
months he was having a relationship with Ramos.

While she said the office would not oppose requests for new sentences
during that period, Yates said she did not have an opinion on how much
weight to give the charges of racial bias.

"It is not up for me to draw conclusions in that regard," she said. "I
don't think there is a statistical analysis that can discount the
possibility of racial bias."

Yates would not commit to making Camp available to be questioned under
oath by defense lawyers about drug use or bias.

Camp is due to be sentenced March 4 by Senior U.S. District Judge
Thomas Hogan, a Washington judge assigned to the case by U.S. Supreme
Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

The maximum punishment Camp faces is four years in

Staff writers Bill Torpy and Bill Rankin contributed to this article.  
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