ATLANTA (AP) — A federal judge from Alabama accused of hitting his wife in an Atlanta hotel room can have a misdemeanor battery charge dismissed if he completes a court program that includes domestic violence intervention.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller will spend up to 24 weeks in the pre-trial diversion program, which also includes an alcohol and substance abuse assessment. Fulton County State Court Chief Magistrate Judge Stephanie Davis on Friday allowed Fuller to enter the program and ordered him to report back to the court on Oct. 14.
Officers were called to the Fullers' room in August at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta, where a police report said Kelli Fuller answered the door in tears and had cuts on her mouth and forehead. She was treated by paramedics but refused to be taken to the hospital. The room smelled of alcohol, according to the report.
Kelli Fuller told police her husband became violent when she accused him of cheating, pulling her hair, throwing her to the ground, and kicking her. Mark Fuller told officers he threw her to the ground to defend himself after she threw a drink glass at him while he watched television.
During the brief court hearing Friday, Mark Fuller spoke only to answer a question on whether he had agreed to enter the program. He left without speaking with reporters but, in a statement later issued through his attorney, Fuller said he looks forward to addressing the concerns of the court and "hopefully" returning to the bench.
"I deeply regret this incident and look forward to working to resolve these difficulties with my family, where they should be resolved," Fuller said.
Fuller, 55, was stripped of his cases following his arrest and faces an administrative complaint filed by the chief judge of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Fuller's lawyer Barry Ragsdale said the program will not have a direct impact on the judge's job status. "But we believe the fact that no criminal charges will be filed and the arrest record will be expunged will be helpful to Judge Fuller's efforts to return to the bench," Ragsdale said.
Ragsdale said he expects a decision about the complaint by the end of September. The chief judge can dismiss the complaint independently or ask a panel of 11th Circuit judges to decide on disciplinary action, he said.
Federal judges are confirmed by the Senate to lifetime terms, though the Senate can also remove them from office.
Associated Press writer Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, contributed to this report.
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