There were several small, but somewhat noteworthy updates over the past week in the continuing saga of federal Judge Mark Fuller (U.S. District Court, Alabama's Middle District) which we've been covering in great detail here since his arrest last August on charges of beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel room last summer. (See links to our long series of coverage at end of this article.)
First, as expected, following the plea deal Fuller struck with the Georgia state court allowing him to avoid trial by attending 24 one-hour-a-week domestic violence counseling sessions and a court supervised drug and alcohol evaluation, all criminal charges have now official been dropped against him and his criminal record is now officially expunged. As we explained in this short video which includes a portion of the chilling 911 call made by his wife Kelli from the Ritz-Carlton hotel on the night of his arrest, as far as the official record is concerned, this incident now "never even happened"...
Though the official criminal charges against him "no longer exist", Fuller --- who maintains his innocence in the matter, as detailed to The BRAD BLOG by his attorney recently --- may still be impeached by Congress. Indeed, impeachment is now the only way Fuller will face real accountability or be removed from his lifetime appointment to the federal bench.
"There should never have been an agreement to expunge his record, nor should he be allowed to remain on the federal bench," says Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL), who continued her call for Fuller's impeachment last week. She said she was "deeply disturbed" that charges were dismissed, and continued her persistent calls for impeachment proceedings to be taken up by Congress...
"Our society is sending the wrong message about domestic violence to perpetrators by allowing a federal judge --- who has sworn to uphold the values we hold dear --- to continue to serve in any capacity. His punishment must reflect the seriousness of the crime, and any recommendations to the 11th Circuit Judicial Council that fall short of impeachment are inexcusable," says Sewell, Alabama's only Democratic Congress member, about the fate of the controversial 2002 George W. Bush appointee.
For their part, the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference created a five-judge Special Committee panel to investigate the incident and offer their recommendations for action to the U.S. Judicial Conference. The committee may make no recommendation; ask Fuller to voluntarily resign or retire; or recommend to Congress that they take up impeachment.
"I am again calling on the House Judiciary Committee to initiate impeachment proceedings should the Judicial Council decline to make such a recommendation," Sewell said in her statement. "Judge Fuller must be immediately removed from the bench. He has irrevocably violated the sacred trust placed in him, and Congress must send a strong message that his actions are beneath the seat he holds."
Last December, Congressmen Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and John Conyers (D-MI), the chair and ranking members, respectively, of the U.S. House Judiciary, sent a query to the 11th Circuit seeking information on when their investigation would conclude. Impeachment proceedings generally begin in the House Judiciary Committee and in February they sought a budget increase to cover the expenses for such a hearing.
Earlier this month, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the 11th Circuit Special Committee seeking an update as well, noting that Fuller's "alleged actions raise serious questions, and, if true, will significantly undermine his ability to serve in his current capacity."
Finally, for now, with both the U.S. House and Senate Committees waiting for an update from the Circuit, and with its findings previously expected to come before the end of last month, it was reported last week that the 11th Circuit's Special Committee recently held another day of testimony.
According to AL.com, "The committee had held a three-day hearing in February to hear testimony from about 20 witnesses." The 5-judge panel reportedly heard from an additional four witnesses when they reconvened earlier this month, though it's not publicly known who the witnesses were or why they were queried by the committee.
In the meantime, Alabama's former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman --- who was sentenced to more than six years in federal prison by Mark Fuller for something that 113 bi-partisan former state Attorneys General say had never been a crime until Siegelman was charged with it --- continues to seek a new trial based on, among other things, alleged misconduct during the trial by Judge Fuller.
After Fuller's record was expunged last week, his Birmingham attorney Barry Ragsdale was quoted telling AL.com that, given the publicity surrounding Fuller's arrest, the court action didn't mean very much. "I've always thought expungement under this context didn't make any difference," Ragsdale said.
We suspect Gov. Siegelman, who, we can confirm, is following these proceedings closely from his prison cell at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, Louisiana, would likely disagree.
UPDATE 6/1/2015: 11th Circuit Court's Judicial Conference completes its investigation, finds "grounds for impeachment" of Fuller. The disgraced federal Judge submits his resignation letter to the White House. Full details now here...
Earlier related stories at The BRAD BLOG:
• 8/11/2014: "Federal Judge in Don Siegelman Case Arrested, Charged with Abusing Wife in Atlanta Hotel"
• 8/25/2014: "Federal Judge Who Was Arrested for Beating His Wife (and Who Sentenced Don Siegelman) Is Now Hoping to Avoid Prosecution Altogether"
• 9/5/2014: "BREAKING: Federal Judge Who Presided Over Siegelman Case and Who Recently Beat His Own Wife Bloody Strikes Deal to Avoid Prosecution"
• 9/10/2014: "NFL's Ray Rice Loses Job for Knocking Out Wife, Federal Judge Mark Fuller Keeps Lifetime Appointment After Beating Wife Bloody"
• 9/15/2014: "Republican Senior Federal Judge, Domestic Abuse Experts Call for Accountability for Wife-Beating U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller"
• 9/15/2014: "Wife-Beating Federal Judge Mark Fuller Finally Mentioned on MSNBC [VIDEO]"
• 9/17/2014:"Chris Hayes Plays Horrifying 911 Call From Federal Judge Mark Fuller's Wife; Sounds of Her Apparently Being Struck Can Be Clearly Heard"
• 9/19/2014:"'A Matter of Time': U.S. Senators, Representatives Finally Call for Some Accountability for Wife-Beating Federal Judge Mark Fuller"
• 9/23/2014:"Washington Post Finally Calls for Investigation, Impeachment of Wife-Beating Federal Judge"
• 10/17/2014:"Attorney For Judge Mark Fuller Says Wife Beating Incident No Big Deal; Chilling 911 AUDIO and Former AL Gov. Siegelman Suggest Otherwise"
• 10/20/2014:"Congresswoman Declares Impeachment Deadline for Wife-Beating Federal Judge; Court Unseals Divorce Docs From Fuller's Previous Marriage"
• 12/3/2014:"U.S. House Judiciary Committee Cites Potential Impeachment of Wife-Beating Federal Judge"
• 2/16/2015: "U.S. House Judiciary Committee Increases Budget For Possible Impeachment of Judge Mark Fuller"
• 3/16/2015: "Exclusive: Complete 911 Audio At Odds With New 'Self-Defense' Claim by U.S. Judge Mark Fuller's Attorney in 2014 Domestic Battery Incident"
• 3/30/2015: "EXCLUSIVE: Judge Mark Fuller's Attorney Says 'Drunk' Wife Kelli Faked Being Beaten on 911 Call"