Court worker fired after his criminal case file disappears
A Walker County state court employee has been fired after his criminal file disappeared.
Solicitor Chris Townley said he received a tip in late September that something untoward happened to an old DUI charge against Lewis Thomas Perdue, who worked as a state court investigator. An officer arrested Perdue in December 2012, and the case was filed in the clerk of court’s office in January 2015.
Townley, who became solicitor Sept. 1, isn’t sure why the case didn’t enter the court system for so long. But in his role, Perdue could remove files from the office. According to a log, Townley said, Perdue checked out his own file and never returned it.
A key problem? Georgia law requires prosecutors to bring DUI cases to court within two years of their filing, Townley
said. That means Perdue’s case seems to have died in January 2017. Townley is looking into whether there are any other legal precedents that would allow the case to end.
“It’s pretty clear the statute has run,” he said. “But I’m still investigating.”
Townley said he still doesn’t know where the file is. He said Perdue explained that he didn’t mean to destroy the file and believed someone may have accidentally thrown it away while cleaning the office. Townley then fired him.
“Mr. Perdue was doing a wonderful job for me,” Townley said. “He was doing great. I had absolutely no complaints until I discovered this. … He’s a nice fellow who was doing a really good job. To me, it’s a shame.”
Townley said he plans to replace Perdue with an employee who will focus on coordinating court dates with victims and witnesses, making sure they know when a case will go before a judge. That was a problem in June, when State Court Judge Bill Mullinax dropped a false report of a crime case against Dorothy Marie Gass, an Alabama woman whose 911 call led to a fatal police shooting in Rossville.
Though an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which led the case against Gass, told Mullinax to postpone the case, it went forward in June anyway. No officers were there to testify. The family of the victim also didn’t know the case was unfolding. In response, a Walker County grand jury has since indicted Gass on a separate charge, bringing her case to a higher court.
Though there is no physical file against him, the paperwork on Perdue’s case also was digitally scanned. The records left behind show an officer stopped him around 6:50 p.m. on Dec. 9, 2012, when he weaved out of his lane. In a citation, an officer wrote that the
“Mr. Perdue was doing a wonderful job for me. He was doing great. I had absolutely no complaints until I discovered this. … He’s a nice fellow who was doing a really good job. To me, it’s a shame.”
— SOLICITOR CHRIS TOWNLEY
car smelled like alcohol. Perdue’s eyes also were bloodshot.
It’s not clear what Perdue’s blood alcohol content was.
According to Walker County court filings, he was arrested for driving under the influence here twice before. A charge from September 2003 was reduced to driving without a valid license. A charge from November 2004 was reduced to reckless conduct.
Perdue could not be reached for comment. Former State Court Solicitor Pat Clements, who stepped down at the end of August, also could not be reached. His brother, LaFayette attorney Chuck Clements, told a reporter Friday that he would leave a message for him.
Pat Clements still is working part time for state court. One day in September, Townley said, Pat Clements processed some plea agreements in an office in the first floor of the courthouse, alongside senior judge Donald Peppers.
Pat Clements was the one who filed the charge against Perdue in January 2015. It’s not clear why he didn’t do anything with it afterward.
“I haven’t had any significant discussions with Pat, other than letting him know that Mr. Perdue wasn’t working with us anymore and why,” Townley said. “He was sad that it happened.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress. com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.