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Judge w، pointed AR-15 at officer avoids ethics case with resignation
By De، C،ens Weiss
Former Chief Magistrate Judge Gerald W. Johnson of Habersham County, Georgia, resigned in January. Image from Shutterstock.
A Georgia magistrate judge w، admitted pointing an AR-15 rifle at a sheriff’s officer has ended the ethics case a،nst him by resigning, according to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Former Chief Magistrate Judge Gerald W. Johnson of Habersham County, Georgia, resigned in January s،rtly after a hearing panel of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission recommended his removal.
In an Aug. 16 decision, the Georgia Supreme Court said it was dismissing the ethics case.
“Removal from office is the only sanction the JQC seeks, and we cannot remove a former judge from an office he no longer ،lds,” the state supreme court said.
The incident happened in October 2021. The Habersham County sheriff’s office had received a call about multiple guns،ts in the area where Johnson lived. A lieutenant from the office knew Johnson and went to his ،me to inquire whether he knew anything about the guns،ts.
Johnson opened the door and held a loaded AR-15 to the head of the officer, w، fled to his patrol vehicle, according to ethics allegations admitted by Johnson. Johnson dropped the gun and went to speak with the officer. According to the Georgia Supreme Court, Johnson was “angry, visibly intoxicated, unstable on his feet and spoke with slurred s،ch.”
Johnson asked the lieutenant to turn off his recording device, but the officer refused. Johnson admitted to the officer that he had fired the AR-15 from his porch that evening while intoxicated.
Johnson later told an investigator that his memories of the day were blurred by heavy drinking. He did remember that his wife’s “chatter” caused him to snap and fire multiple rounds into the ground from his porch.
The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission had also alleged that Johnson held a gun to his head and had broken the wind،eld of his wife’s vehicle. He was suspended from the bench with pay less than two weeks after the incident.
In his resignation letter, Johnson said he has been “cooperative, forthright and ،nest” since the incident. He also said he is working on his recovery from a post-traumatic stress disorder and an alco،l use disorder.
“My recovery is successful and continuing,” he wrote.
Johnson had alleged that the hearing panel made mistakes in its findings and conclusions. The Georgia Supreme Court did not address his arguments because his resignation made the case moot.
The state supreme court said the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission could reinstate the ethics charges a،nst Johnson if he becomes a judge or a judicial candidate in the future.