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Former Limestone County judge pleads guilty to theft and ethics charges

Douglas Patterson

Former Limestone County Judge Douglas Patterson pleaded guilty on Friday to multiple charges.

Posted: Oct 30, 2020 12:47 PM
Updated: Oct 30, 2020 2:30 PM

A former Limestone County judge pleaded guilty on Friday to theft and ethics charges.

Douglas Patterson resigned from his position in July. He pleaded guilty to the intentional use of official position or office for personal gain, financial exploitation of the elderly first degree and theft of property third degree.

Patterson agreed to pay a restitution of more than $70,000. In his plea agreement, he admitted to "violating his oath of office and Alabama law by stealing $47,800 from the Limestone County Juvenile Court Services Fund which was designated to support the children of Limestone County," said Attorney General Steve Marshall in a statement Friday afternoon.

Patterson was initially charged in 2019. Until his resignation in July of this year, he received $5,404.42 twice a month from the State of Alabama while being suspended from working as a judge.

On Oct. 28, Attorney Chuck Warren filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for Patterson.

Patterson pleaded guilty during a hearing Friday morning at the Limestone County Courthouse. His sentencing is set for Dec. 8 at 1:30 p.m.

You can read more from the attorney general's statement on Friday below: 

"Attorney General Steve Marshall announced the conviction Friday of Douglas Lee Patterson, a former district court judge in the 39th Judicial Circuit in Limestone County, on three felony charges: use of official position or office for personal gain, financial exploitation of the elderly in the first degree, and theft of property in the third degree."

"On October 30, Patterson pleaded guilty in the Limestone County Circuit Court to the above three felonies before specially appointed Judge Steven E. Haddock. Judge Haddock set sentencing for December 8 at 1:30 p.m. The ethics charge and the financial exploitation charge are Class B felonies punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment and a $30,000 fine. The theft charge is punishable by up to five years of imprisonment and a $7,500 fine.

"As part of Patterson’s plea agreement, he admitted to violating his oath of office and Alabama law by stealing $47,800 from the Limestone County Juvenile Court Services Fund which was designated to support the children of Limestone County. As Limestone County’s juvenile court judge, Patterson could and did impose supervision fees in certain juvenile cases, which he later stole and used for his own personal benefit. By the time Patterson’s actions were discovered, he had emptied the juvenile account.

"Patterson also admitted in court that, while serving as a private attorney, he financially exploited Charles Lee Hardy, for whom he served as a court-appointed conservator. Hardy, who died in December 2015, was a disabled military veteran living in a nursing home. Patterson disregarded his obligation to protect Hardy’s finances and instead plundered his account by taking Hardy’s money and spending it on himself. By the time Hardy died, Patterson had emptied his account and left his family nothing to inherit from the account.

"Finally, Patterson admitted that he stole from another conservatorship client, Rudolph Allen, while in private practice. In this case, Patterson stole $601 from Allen three years after he died in July 2015. Patterson spent the money on himself rather than turn it over to Allen’s family."

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