US Judge into sex, guns and drugs

2010-10-06 22:32

Atlanta - A 67-year-old federal judge's wild relationship with a stripper started with a lap dance, prosecutors said, and quickly escalated into escapades of prostitution and gun-toting drug deals for cocaine and prescription pills.

Senior Judge Jack T Camp, a veteran jurist who had achieved a status that allowed him a lighter case-load, now finds himself in a peculiar position, in front of one of his peers, and with lawyers combing through his decisions, wondering whether they have grounds to challenge them.

"I don't know whether the allegations are true or whether they infected the decision making, but it's incumbent upon me to raise these issues," said Gerry Weber, a civil rights attorney who is readying an appeal in a case that Camp ruled on in June.

Camp, a Vietnam War veteran who was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, built a reputation for handing out stiff sentences, including for drug convictions. He could face years behind bars on drug and gun charges.

The judge's attorney has said he intends to plead not guilty.

The stripper, who previously had a felony drug trafficking conviction, had been secretly working with the FBI since the spring to build a case against the judge. In exchange, prosecutors pledged not to charge her.

Camp's relationship with the dancer, who was not identified in court documents, began earlier this year. 

Sex on the tab

A day after receiving his first dance, he returned to the Goldrush Showbar for more dances, and added sex and cocaine to his tab, authorities said.

Over the next few months, the two used cocaine and other drugs together, sometimes at the strip club, and the judge would pay $40 to $50 to join her getting high, according to a sworn statement.

In June, the judge followed the stripper to a house in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta to buy drugs, carrying a semi-automatic handgun with him he later told her he brought to protect her, the affidavit said.

The relationship finally unravelled on Friday. Camp, who is married with two grown children, told the stripper he would try to help with her criminal record and advised her to tell a potential employer who had rejected her application that "it was a minor offence and that one of the judges on the court can explain that to him," according to the affidavit.

A few hours later, the dancer asked Camp to follow her to a grocery store parking lot to meet a drug dealer.

Camp then gave the stripper $160 to buy the drugs from an undercover officer. About ten minutes later, FBI agents swarmed the judge's car when he drove to a nearby night club. 

Conflict of interest

They recovered the plastic bag containing blue pills and a white substance, along with two guns from his front seat.

Not only has the case shocked the legal community, it has created a conflict of interest mess. For Camp's bail hearing, prosecutors were flown in from Washington and a magistrate travelled from Alabama because the local judges recused themselves from the case.

Camp supervised several cases while he was being investigated, including an April trial involving a pilot charged with shipping cocaine for drug traffickers. A jury acquitted the pilot after a trial in which prosecutors carted out 174kg of cocaine in front of the jury several times.

It's unclear whether any of the judge's decisions will be revisited.

"If you could establish that a judge was under the influence of some substance at the time he presided or ruled, then you could conceive of a basis for a challenge," said Pete Donaldson, a criminal defence attorney based in Albany, Georgia.

"You can envision all manner of circumstances where that might come into play."