- Associated Press - Friday, November 19, 2010

ATLANTA (AP) — A veteran federal judge who was arrested on charges that he bought and used drugs with a stripper pleaded guilty Friday to two-drug related charges, including a felony count of giving her cocaine even though he knew she was a convicted felon.

U.S. Senior Judge Jack T. Camp pleaded guilty to the felony charge of aiding and abetting a felon’s possession of cocaine when he bought drugs for the stripper, who was secretly cooperating with authorities. He also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors: possession of illegal drugs and illegally giving the stripper his government-issued laptop.

Judge Camp, 67, faces up to four years in federal prison when he is sentenced March 4, but he is likely to get less time. Judge Camp also agreed to resign from the bench and cooperate with any questions authorities may have regarding the cases he handled while he was being investigated.

When a judge asked Judge Camp if the charges were accurate, he replied, “I regret … I am embarrassed to say it is, your honor.” Neither he nor his attorneys offered any explanation for his actions.

The charges against Judge Camp, who is married with two grown children, were laid out in a shocking eight-page affidavit released days after his Oct. 1 arrest. The judge, who remains free on a $50,000 bond, was originally charged with four drug-related charges and one count of possessing firearms while illegally using drugs.

Authorities say a 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 agreed not to charge her.

They also say Judge Camp knew the stripper was a convicted felon because he asked a marshal to look up her criminal record, telling the officer he was renting a house to her. Prosecutors had to prove that Judge Camp knew she was a felon to land the more serious felony charge.

Judge Camp’s relationship with the dancer, who was identified only as CI-1 in the documents, appears to have begun earlier this year when he received a lap dance from her — along with her phone number — at an Atlanta strip club, according to the affidavit.

Authorities say when they met the next day, he paid her to have sex with him and the two used cocaine together. Over the next few months, the two used cocaine and other drugs together at strip clubs and other places, and the judge would pay $40 to $50 to join her in getting high, according to the documents.

The relationship grew closer over the months. Prosecutors say the judge startled the stripper by following her to a suburban Atlanta house where she was buying drugs one day in June. She told authorities that he brought a semiautomatic handgun with him in case she needed protection, the affidavit said.

Prosecutors also said for the first time Friday that Judge Camp gave the stripper his government-issued laptop in September, days after he complained that he needed a new one.

But their relationship unraveled in October.

First, Judge Camp discussed with the stripper how he could help her with her criminal record, and advised her to tell potential employers it was a “minor offense” and that one of the judges on the court can explain it to him, according to the affidavit.

A few hours later, the dancer asked Judge Camp to follow her to a grocery store parking lot to meet a drug dealer, and Judge Camp then gave the stripper $160 to buy the drugs from an undercover officer. About 10 minutes later, FBI agents swarmed the judge’s car, where they also recovered two guns from his front seat.

Judge Camp’s arrest was a catastrophic downfall for the respected federal judge, a no-nonsense Vietnam War veteran who was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan in 1987.

He handled hundreds of cases during his tenure, including the 2004 sentencing of two men accused of killing DeKalb County Sheriff Derwin Brown. And he supervised several cases while being investigated, including an April trial involving a pilot who was acquitted by a jury on charges of shipping cocaine for drug traffickers.

The judge’s arrest and prosecution created a mess in the busy Northern District of Georgia, which covers metro Atlanta. Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan from the District of Columbia, was assigned the case because the other judges recused themselves, and prosecutors from the Justice Department’s central office flew in to handle the case.

Judge Camp’s friend Jud Starr said the judge will spend the next few months with his family, and that he hopes to “make amends to the community by finding ways to put his substantial experience and many talents to good use.”

“Judge Camp holds himself accountable for his personal actions and will strive to better understand and overcome the causes of his poor judgment,” said Mr. Starr, a Washington attorney who has known Judge Camp for 40 years and was the best man at his wedding.

It is not clear whether any of the decisions Judge Camp made while he was being investigated will be revisited, but several attorneys have filed appeals or signaled they would do so.

Mr. Starr, however, said Judge Camp underwent an evaluation in October to explain his actions. Mr. Starr said the evaluation determined Judge Camp had no issues with controlled substances and that his condition “did not affect his judicial decisions in any way.”

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