View Full Version : Grand jury date for arrested judge not yet decided

03-29-2004, 07:35 PM
MONTICELLO -- Law officials have not determined when the case of a Lawrence County Justice Court judge arrested on drug charges will go before the grand jury.
Justice Court Judge Post 1 Bobby Fortenberry, 46, of 60 Mary Lou Turner Rd., New Hebron, was arrested Friday at a Brookhaven truck stop and charged with possession of 2.5 grams of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute. The arrest was made by officers of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and the Mississippi Highway Patrol's Criminal Investigative Bureau.

Fortenberry remained in the Lincoln County Jail Monday morning on a $1 million cash bond set Friday night by Circuit Judge Mike Smith.

Fortenberry is a 16-year veteran of the bench who won reelection to a fifth term in November.

Dewitt "Dee" Bates, district attorney for the 14th District, said the case will be presented before the next grand jury, but he could not say when that might be.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Byrd has been working the case, Bates said, and will continue to do so through the trial.

"I really can't comment any further on the prosecution," Bates said.

If convicted, Fortenberry faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for the possession charge and 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine on the conspiracy charge. Additionally, a felony conviction would remove him from the bench.

"If a judge is convicted, they cannot continue to practice," Bates said.

Bates could not say whether Fortenberry would be permitted to continue to try cases until his trial.

"That is something the Judicial Performance Board will have to determine," he said.

Fortenberry's arrest was the culmination of an investigation spanning years by the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Pearl River Basin Narcotics Task Force, Mississippi Highway Patrol Criminal Investigative Bureau, 14th District District Attorney's Office and the state Attorney General's Office.

"We've had an ongoing investigation on him going back at least four years," said Lawrence County Sheriff Joel Thames.

Thames said members of the public alerted him that the judge was allegedly selling drugs and have continued to provide information and lodge complaints for the past several years.

"There's been years of public complaints about him alleging drug involvement," Thames said.

Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Captain Mike Aldridge said more arrests might be forthcoming.

"The possibility of further arrests exists in relation to this case," he said. "We appreciate the support and confidence Sheriff Thames gave the Bureau of Narcotics in letting us have free rein in this investigation. We also appreciate the Lincoln County Sheriff Office and the assistance they gave us."