Former Crawford judge pleads guilty in theft case

mstucka@macon.comNovember 25, 2013 

Andrea Peterman will spend the next decade under the supervision of law enforcement officers who used to call her “your Honor” and “judge.”

Peterman, who had served as both Crawford County’s chief magistrate judge and Probate Court clerk, was sentenced Monday morning to serve 160 to 180 days in a state detention center, with the remainder of her 10-year sentence on probation.

In a plea deal, Peterman agreed to plead guilty to a count of fiduciary theft from Crawford County Probate Court and a count of violating her oath of office as the county’s elected chief magistrate judge.

She pleaded guilty in a courtroom with many co-workers in attendance. On her way in to plead guilty, she exchanged hugs with a female deputy.

District Attorney David Cooke told Senior Superior Court Judge Tracy Moulton Jr. that “Ms. Peterman admitted essentially she’d been taking money from the till and using that for family expenses.”

Peterman responded with a firm voice to questions from Moulton about her understanding of the plea agreement, but she said nothing else. Her attorney, Michael Chidester, said Peterman took his advice about her financial problems and wishes she had done so sooner.

“She’s truly remorseful for what has occurred,” Chidester told the judge.

As part of the plea agreement, Cooke agreed not to prosecute a charge that Peterman stole from Magistrate Court. Cooke told reporters she took money multiple times from each of the courts and typically tried to pay it back on payday. That’s not legal.

“Any time someone involved in public trust violates public trust, they’re going to do time,” Cooke said.

According to the indictment, the Probate Court theft occurred in February 2012.

Other terms of the agreement include paying back $12,717.62 to cover the costs of a forensic audit of Magistrate Court. A Probate Court audit was not performed.

Though now a convicted felon, Peterman also agreed not to seek or hold public office as part of the plea agreement.

She also had agreed not to seek a judicial office in a separate agreement with the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Peterman resigned from the post Oct. 1. Richard Spencer was appointed by the circuit’s Superior Court judges and Gov. Nathan Deal to serve in the post. His appointment lasts until the next election in 2016.

Peterman and her husband, Mitchell, filed for bankruptcy Oct. 31. Their case file lists liabilities of about $48,000 and says the couple had $30 in their checking account with her being unemployed. The couple is scheduled to meet with creditors Dec. 4, two days before she is due to turn herself in to begin her prison sentence.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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