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Judge's corruption trial delayed
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SAVANNAH - The trial of a former Clinch County judge facing federal corruption charges has been postponed after he suffered life-threatening complications from a ruptured appendix.

Former Superior Court Judge Brooks E. Blitch III had been scheduled to stand trial Monday in U.S. District Court in Valdosta. But the judge presiding over the case delayed it after Blitch's doctor wrote a letter saying he needed at least three months to recover after his appendix ruptured in May.

"He was in bad shape for a while there," Robert Willis, Blitch's attorney, said Tuesday. "There was brief period where they were calculating his chances of survival."

Blitch, 74, served as a judge for nearly 28 years in the Alapaha Judicial Circuit and was one of rural Clinch County's most powerful politicians until investigations by state and federal authorities forced him to leave the bench.

Blitch resigned in May 2008 to settle judicial misconduct charges by a Georgia agency. Two months later, a federal grand jury indicted him on a range of corruption charges that accused Blitch of fixing cases, giving his former law partner a state job in exchange for legal services, and using court fees to make illegal payments to county employees.

Blitch's attorney said the judge did nothing illegal.

A letter from Blitch's doctor, filed with the court, said he was hospitalized for at least two weeks after undergoing surgery for a ruptured appendix May 17.

"Mr. Blitch developed life-threatening complications of sepsis, shock and respiratory failure requiring artificial life support for approximately a week," Dr. Dallas M. Miller wrote.

U.S. District Judge Hugh Lawson ordered June 1 that Blitch's trial be delayed for at least three months from the date of the doctor's May 28 letter. Willis said he suspects the trial will begin in September at the earliest.

Willis said Blitch is resting at home, but remains very weak. He said Blitch is ready, once he's feeling better, to stand trial and resolve the case that's dogged him for two years since FBI agents raided his office in rural Homerville.

"This case needs to be behind him," Willis said. "He's very interested in that."

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