by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:
DECATUR, Ga. - A DeKalb County attorney who is running for superior court judge will instead find himself in front of one.
Tuesday a grand jury indicted Michael Rothenberg for funding his campaign with other people's investment money.
"It's baffling and it's troubling," said District Attorney Robert James, adding that his office has been investigating the case for more than a year.
He said as a voter, he doesn't want a judicial candidate accused of criminal activity, but he says Rothenberg took money entrusted to him by investors and misused it.
"You don't need a law degree to know that if I give you something and it's supposed to be invested -- a million dollars, that you can't spend it to run your campaign. That's common sense," James said.
The indictment alleges six counts of theft by taking, stemming from an investment scheme which the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigated more than a year ago.
It settled with Rothenberg, citing three counts of fraud, after he took $1.3 million from Winterhawk Energy and Development Corp. in Colorado.
A company representative told investigators Rothenberg promised outrageous investment returns; greater than 300 percent. He and his corporation were ordered to repay the money plus attorneys' fees.
The new DeKalb case focuses specifically on
Securities and Exchange Commission findings that Rothenberg spent $190,000 of that money at local restaurants and businesses.
He's also accused of depositing an additional $250,000 into his campaign account for the 2010 judicial race.
Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson defeated Rothenberg in a
Rothenberg is currently attempting to unseat Superior Court Judge Gail Flake. That election will be held July 31st.
James said the timing of the indictment is not political.
"This is just us doing our job, the election has no influence on this," James said.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer reached Rothenberg by phone, Tuesday.
He had not yet heard of the indictment, and said he was shocked. Rothenberg called himself a victim of the investment company's scheme, and said this is all a misunderstanding.
He refused to comment on specifics regarding the theft charges until he could reach his attorney.
"It was spent for campaign purposes and it was spent for personal reasons and that's where it brings him in and not an investment company. Again, we have multiple layers of wrongdoing here," said James.
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