A former local probate judge for Hart County, Georgia, was charged in an indictment today for soliciting sexual contact in exchange for favorable action on driving under the influence charges and other traffic offenses, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Charles E. Peeler of the Middle District of Georgia and Special Agent in Charge David J. Levalley of the FBI’s Atlanta Division.
Bobby Joe Smith, 77, of Hartwell, Georgia, was charged with one count of bribery and three counts of civil rights violations in an indictment filed today in the Middle District of Georgia. Smith is expected to have his initial appearance on Wednesday, April 25.
According to the allegations in the indictment, between May 2013 and May 2014, Smith met separately with three different women in his office regarding driving under the influence charges and/or other traffic offenses. During these meetings, each of the women sought Smith’s assistance in reducing or eliminating her charges and potential punishments in these matters. Smith allegedly kissed the first woman on the lips and groped her multiple times without her consent. Smith subsequently reduced the charges and punishments for all of her pending offenses. During meetings with the second woman, Smith allegedly kissed her on the lips, groped her, and exposed himself. The woman’s charges were ultimately resolved by another judge after Smith left office. To help the third woman with a speeding ticket she received in another county, Smith allegedly left a message for a probate judge in that county, providing details about the woman’s citation and falsely claiming that the woman was his granddaughter. After placing the phone call, Smith allegedly kissed the woman on the lips and attempted to grope her. According to the indictment, none of these three women consented to Smith’s sexual advances.
The charges and allegations contained in an indictment are merely accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Athens Resident Agency. Trial Attorney Heidi Boutros Gesch of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Deputy Criminal Chief Danial Bennett of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia are prosecuting the case.