Gov. Kemp selects new district attorney, state court judge for Columbus area

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has selected two more Columbus lawyers to fill vacant positions in the local judicial system.

Prominent local defense attorney Stacey Jackson will be the new district attorney, and former prosecutor Pete Temesgen, now working in civil law, will be the new State Court judge.

Jackson, a criminal defense attorney with the Columbus firm Hagler, Henderson, Jackson & Walters, and a former assistant district attorney here, will succeed Mark Jones as the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit district attorney. Jones resigned in November after pleading guilty to misconduct in office.

Temesgen, now with the law firm Huff, Powell & Bailey will succeed State Court Judge Ben Richardson, who will replace Superior Court Judge Ben Land when Lane fills the vacancy on the Georgia Court of Appeals left by Judge Andrew Pinson’s departure. Kemp appointed Pinson to serve on the Supreme Court of Georgia, filling the vacancy created by the retirement of Chief Justice David E. Nahmias, who will leave the bench at the end of the 2022 court term in July.

District attorney interviews

Kemp last month interviewed at least four finalists to replace Jones.

Two of the applicants told the Ledger-Enquirer that they are among those the governor called back for followup interviews, and confirmed the names of the others, whom the newspaper already had contacted.

All are local attorneys hoping to serve as the chief prosecutor for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit that besides Muscogee includes the counties of Harris, Chattahoochee, Talbot, Taylor and Marion.

In addition to Jackson and Temesgen, Kemp also interviewed William Hocutt IV, a prosecutor since 2006, starting in Troup County, and an assistant district attorney here since 2010, and Sheneka Terry, the chief assistant district attorney under Jones who has served as acting district attorney for the circuit since Kemp suspended Jones in October.

Hocutt and Jackson are the two who confirmed they were finalists and confirmed the names of the other two candidates. Terry previously told the Ledger-Enquirer she had applied for the job.

Kemp in January asked for nominations to fill the position until Jones’ unexpired term ends in December 2024.

Jones took office in January 2021 after defeating incumbent Julia Slater in the 2020 elections, but he served only 10 months before Kemp suspended him after his indictment on felony charges alleging misconduct.

A jury was deliberating the evidence presented at his week-long trial when Jones decided Nov. 15 to plead guilty and resign. Visiting Judge Katherine Lumsden sentenced him to five years in prison with one to serve, and fined him $1,000.

Jones is serving his sentence in a medium-security prison where he petitioned the Georgia Supreme Court on Jan. 27 to let him voluntarily surrender his license to practice law, which he admitted is “tantamount to disbarment.” Last week, the court accepted the voluntary surrender of his law license.

Staff writers Tim Chitwood and Nick Wooten contributed to this story.

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