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Judge admits to three felony crimes
Camden County Probate Judge-elect Shirley Wise has resigned from office as part of an agreement to avoid prosecution of ethics violations charges.

In a hearing at the Camden County Courthouse in Woodbine Wednesday, Superior Court Judge David Cavender, from the Atlanta Judicial Circuit, agreed to accept Wise's guilty plea on three felonies under the Georgia First Offender Act.

Wise, 56, pled guilty to theft by taking, theft by deception and violation of oath of office charges. She agreed to step down from her associate probate judge position immediately and not assume office as probate judge in January.

Wise was elected in the July Republican Primary and was unopposed by a Democrat in the November elections.

A special election will have to be held to fill the seat.

Incumbent Camden County Probate Judge Martin Gillette, whose term expires Dec. 31, is expected to remain in office until his successor is elected, said special prosecutor Brian Rickman, district attorney of the Mountain Judicial Circuit.

Rickman, who was appointed by the Attorney General's office to prosecute the case, said the special election will likely be held when Camden County voters consider a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum early next year.

Rickman asked the judge to allow Wise to enter a plea that would guarantee she would not receive a jail sentence.

"We won't recommend confinement," he said.

If the case would have gone to trial, Wise faced one to 10 years in prison on the theft by taking charge, one to 10 years on the theft by deception charge, and one to 5 years on the violation of oath of office charge.

Before he agreed to the plea, Cavender asked Wise if she understood the consequences of her decision. He reminded her that she had a right to a trial, have witnesses and offer evidence in her defense.

Wise replied "guilty" after Cavender read each charge and asked for her plea. When asked if she did the crimes, Wise paused for a few seconds before answering "yes, sir," with her voice cracking with emotion.

Cavender agreed to accept the plea agreement. He fined Wise $1,355 and ordered her to seven years probation on the theft by taking charge. She was fined $5,500 and ordered to seven years probation on the theft by deception charge.

She was given five years probation for violating the oath of office.

She was also ordered not to hold public office while on probation.

Under the First Offender Act, if Wise completes her probation her rights will be restored, Cavender said. After the judge's ruling, Wise was taken by deputies to the Camden County Jail to be arrested, fingerprinted and processed. She was then released on probation.

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