Local News

Wake County district judge resigns amid SBI probe

Posted May 18, 2012 2:44 p.m. EDT
Updated May 18, 2012 2:55 p.m. EDT

— A Wake County District Court judge on Friday submitted her resignation to the governor amid a state investigation into how she handled a dozen DWI cases.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens asked the State Bureau of Investigation in February to investigate Judge Kristin Ruth after District Attorney Colon Willoughby wrote to him about "unauthorized scheduling" and "unusual judgments" in the cases.

The defense attorney on record in each case was James Crouch, whom Willoughby accused in January of misconduct.

In addition, Willoughby wrote, Ruth gave limited driving privileges in three cases in which the defendants were not eligible. Those cases were also tied to Crouch.

In a statement released by her attorney Friday, Ruth said she has cooperated fully with the investigation and acknowledged that she signed numerous orders for Crouch that should not have been signed.

"I must admit that, because I trusted Mr. Crouch, I did not read the orders when they were presented to me," Ruth said. Had I read the orders, I would not have signed them."

Her resignation, Ruth said, "is necessary to maintain the integrity of the judicial system."

"I have served the citizens of Wake County in a manner of which I am proud. It was an honor to serve for 13+ years," she said. "Although my misguided trust of Mr. Crouch has resulted in my resignation, it should not reflect on the integrity of the judicial system of Wake County or the state of North Carolina."

Ruth did not have any additional comment, nor did her attorneys, Rick Gammon and Joseph Zeszotarski Jr.

In Crouch's case, Willoughby filed a motion for appropriate relief against him on Jan. 29 in the case of 16-year-old Henry Horne.

Horne, who was arrested Dec. 10, was given a court date of Feb. 13, but Crouch showed up in court on Jan. 20 and told Judge Keith Gregory and an assistant prosecutor that the prosecutor's supervisor agreed to put the case on the court calendar for that day, according to Willoughby's motion.

In North Carolina, only prosecutors have the authority to set trial dates. The assistant district attorney's supervisor, however, never authorized the Jan. 20 court date, Willoughby said.