Judge's sex scandal forces retrials of old cases

GRIFFIN, Ga. — Superior Court Judge Paschal English was a respected judge in the Griffin judicial circuit south of Atlanta when his sexual relationship with the public defender in his courtroom was revealed in early 2010.

English resigned in the face of a judicial ethics investigation, but Channel 2's Richard Belcher has learned the problems he caused have rocked his old courtroom again.

On Oct. 13, 2008, a deputy observed English and assistant public defender Kim Cornwell engaged in a sexual act. The deputy's patrol car camcorder recorded part of what he saw. At least one other deputy saw the video.

Griffin Circuit District Attorney Scott Ballard laid out his findings more than three years ago in an astonishing and painfully awkward news conference on the steps of the Fayette County Courthouse.

"Most of us have known Judge English for years. I've known him for probably at least 25 years," Ballard said.

English was off the bench, but Belcher obtained a 17-page ruling from the Georgia Court of Appeals that confirms the story is far from over.

The court ordered new trials for five men convicted in English's courtroom while they were represented by the public defender who was having an affair with the judge, unknown to the defendants.

"The three-judge panel ruled unanimously, although we are mindful of the suffering which new trials may cause the victims in some or all of these cases, we are nonetheless compelled to draw the legal conclusion that Judge English's violations require new trials for each of these five defendants," Ballard said.

The retrials involve defendants charged with serious crimes - two of them for armed robbery, kidnapping and aggravated assault; one man charged with aggravated child molestation and aggravated sexual battery; one was charged with armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a sawed-off shotgun.