COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — A Columbus attorney has been disbarred, and he was told about the disciplinary action by a judge in court on Tuesday morning.
Criminal defense attorney Michael Eddings was disbarred on Aug. 9, 2022, following the recommendation of the State Bar Disciplinary Review Board.
“I’m in shock,” Eddings said when reached by WRBL.
Chattahoochee Circuit Superior Court Judge Gil McBride told Eddings of the state Supreme Court’s decision, Eddings said. The murder trial Eddings was defending was stopped.
At the core of the reason for the suspension is a 2017 meeting that Eddings had with a witness in a murder case.
That witness was represented by Stacey Jackson, now a DA but a criminal defense attorney at the time.
During that court case Eddings testified under oath he did not have permission from Jackson. The next day he sent an e-mail to the judge, prosecutors, Jackson saying he recanted his testimony. And he did have Jackson’s permission.
Jackson provided a sworn statement to the state bar saying he never gave consent.
“Stacey Jackson lied,” Eddings said.
The Supreme Court found Eddings actions violated the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct.
Here’s Eddings reaction to the disbarment. He draws comparisons to former DA Mark Jones, who was convicted last year of public corruption.
“They have been trying to see me hurt and fall in this city for years,” Eddings said. “But you know what, I am standing tall. I am standing firm. I am going to continue to stand firm. All you want to do is punish good people and reward liars like Mr. Jackson. And it’s ridiculous. They did Mark Jones the same way. That man didn’t deserve to lose his license. And he didn’t deserve to go to prison. Every time you turn around, this city ruins the careers of good people.”
“The 22-page Georgia Supreme Court decision speaks for itself,” Jackson said.
Eddings can’t appeal the state Supreme Court’s unanimous decision, but he can ask the high court to reconsider.
In court documents obtained by WRBL, reasons cited for Eddings disbarment include giving false statements to a tribunal, giving false statements to third persons in connection with the representation of a client, communications with persons represented by counsel, giving false statements in connection with a disciplinary proceeding, and dishonesty in professional conduct.
According to the formal complaint, the Bar asserted that, while representing a client, who had been charged in Muscogee County with murder, Eddings tape-recorded his July 22, 2017 interview with a material witness, who had been charged with making a false statement in connection with the victim’s death. Because the
witness’s interview contained information exculpatory as to Eddings’s client and inculpatory as to the witness, Eddings provided a copy of the recording to the Assistant District Attorney in his client’s case, who subsequently indicted the witness as a codefendant in the murder case.
The complaint continues, apparently, the two co-defendants were tried separately, and both were acquitted. However, during the witness’s May 2018 trial on the murder charge, Eddings was called by the State to authenticate his recording of the witness’s statement to him, and Eddings testified under oath that he knew at the time he interviewed the witness that the witness was represented by attorney Stacey Jackson; that he was unsuccessful in his attempts to contact Jackson to obtain his consent to interview the witness;
and that he conducted the interview anyway because he believed he did not need Jackson’s permission.
The very next day, however, on May 18, 2018, Eddings sent an email to the Judge who presided over the witness’s murder trial, and to the Chief Judge of the circuit, the Assistant District Attorney in
the witness’s case, and Jackson. In that email, Eddings attempted to disavow his sworn trial testimony from the day before, asserting that he had “forgotten” that he actually had received consent from Jackson to interview the witness; that he obtained that consent in a June 30, 2017 telephone conversation with Jackson; that there had been witnesses to the consent because he had engaged in the conversation with Jackson via speakerphone while he was in a meeting with his client’s family; and that his wife, Cynthia Eddings,
who was also his legal assistant, had reminded him of the meeting and Jackson’s consent immediately after he completed his testimony under oath at the witness’s trial. During the Bar’s investigation of this matter, Eddings presented to the State Disciplinary Board (“SDB”) sworn affidavits from his wife and from two men, both of whom are related to Eddings’s original client. In those affidavits, the witnesses supported the version of events laid out in Eddings’s email.
At the time in 2017 and 2018, Jackson was a criminal defense attorney. Jackson was appointed earlier this year as the Chattahoochee Circuit district attorney by Gov. Brian Kemp.
“The 22-page Georgia Supreme Court decision speaks for itself,” Jackson told News 3.
Eddings, who has offices in Atlanta and Columbus, said he has not had time to digest the 22-page order.
This is the third time that Eddings has been disciplined by the Georgia Bar Association, the organization that governs Georgia attorneys.
The Georgia Bar Association recommended disbarring Eddings from practicing law in the state of Georgia in 2016 when more than $2 million was found missing from his office’s legal trust fund. Eddings was a prominent real estate closing attorney.
The State Supreme Court rejected the Georgia Bar’s recommendation in December 2016 and agreed to issue Eddings a public reprimand instead.
Eddings ex-wife and former office manager, Sonya, pleaded guilty to fraud in federal court and was sentenced to three years in prison.
In February 2016, Eddings received his first reprimand from the State Bar. It was a similar offense to the one that he was disbarred for.