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Judge recuses himself after complaint about call

LAWRENCEVILLE - Superior Court Judge Tom Davis has recused himself from the John Luke Walker molestation case following a complaint filed by the teen's attorney regarding foul language Davis used during a testy conference call, court records show.

According to an affidavit filed by Walker's attorney, B.J. Bernstein, Davis used profane language directed at her during a June 26 conference call in which she informed Davis and Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney David Fife that she was withdrawing a request for a bond hearing that was scheduled to take place in Davis' courtroom that day at 5 p.m.

The last-minute withdrawal angered Davis, who said he had made accommodations to suspend a murder trial he was overseeing that week to hear Walker's bond motion.

"B.J. what the (expletive) are you doing?" Davis is quoted as saying in Bernstein's affidavit which recounted the conference call. It goes on to say that Davis used a derivative of the expletive "several times" during the course of the call.

"In my twenty years of the practice of law I have never had a judge use profanity in any discussion regarding a matter pending in front of the court ... ," Bernstein wrote in the affidavit filed June 30.

According to the affidavit, Bernstein initially proposed making an announcement that the hearing was canceled due to Davis' busy trial schedule; at the time, he was presiding over the murder trial of Charles Coats. Davis, however, was concerned that observers would perceive the cancellation was his fault, according to the affidavit.

The hearing likely would have been attended by several area media outlets.

In his July 2 recusal order, Davis apologizes for his language, calling it "both intemperate and ill-advised." Davis, who is up for re-election in 2010, is known as a formidable figure on the bench, displaying a fondness for details and protocol that is tempered with a keen sense of humor, observers say.

"The Court sincerely regrets the language it chose in expressing its frustration," Davis wrote. "Such language adds nothing to resolution of disputes or the judicial process as a whole. In the instant case, the Court was speaking frankly with two attorneys the Court has known and worked with in close harmony in the Court's prior employment, and for whom the Court holds both respect and affection. This fact heightens the Court's regret."

Neither Davis or Bernstein could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Walker, a Brookwood student, entered a not guilty plea in June to charges of aggravated child molestation and false statements. An additional count of rape was later dropped. Georgia law states aggravated child molestation can apply to a victim under 16 years old who is injured in the act of intercourse.

Prosecutors say Walker molested the 14-year-old girl after a party on Feb. 17, causing her physical injury. The incident allegedly occurred at a home on Fawnbrook Court in Lilburn. Police later found the girl there unconscious. Walker was reportedly house-sitting for the home's owners, who were out of town.

Walker has remained without bond in the Gwinnett County Jail since March following two motions for bond that have been hastily withdrawn by Bernstein.