A Muscogee County Superior Court judge on Tuesday delayed a contempt of court hearing for embattled Columbus attorney Michael Eddings until next month because Eddings recently retained legal counsel.
Eddings, already held in contempt by Judge William C. Rumer for witness tampering, failed to appear for a hearing last Friday afternoon to explain why he had not paid a fine associated with the contempt.
Threatened with arrest by Rumer, Eddings showed up Tuesday with attorneys William Kendrick and Mark Shelnutt.
Eddings’ attorneys and prosecutors Wesley Lambertus and Jennifer Cooley spent nearly 25 minutes privately discussing the case with the judge.
After setting the hearing for Sept. 12 at 4:30 p.m., Rumer said he wanted to give Eddings’ attorneys time to prepare. The judge also noted he was going to be unavailable for the next 12 days.
Rumer found Eddings in civil contempt of court July 15 for witness tampering in a pending criminal case and fined him $500 for obstructing the administration of justice. The fine was due at the conclusion of Dimitris Gordon’s case.
On July 29, Gordon, whom Eddings represented, was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison on three counts of armed robbery and one of using a firearm to commit a crime in the Aug. 22, 2012, robbery of La Mexicana restaurant and grocery at 3305 Victory Drive.
According to testimony in Friday’s 20-minute hearing, Eddings paid the fine at 12:30 p.m. Friday, about three hours after being served notice by a District Attorney’s office investigator to appear in Rumer’s court.
After the hearing, Shelnutt pointed out that Eddings had come to meet with Rumer last Friday, but the judge was not in his chambers. Eddings left a receipt for payment of the fine with a clerk in Judge Frank Jordan’s office next door.
“There was no intention at all on Mr. Eddings’ part to disrespect the judge or the attorneys,” Shelnutt said.
Because Eddings paid the fine after being served with notice of the hearing, Rumer said the matter of Eddings being in contempt is still before the court. The judge said he will hear Eddings’ side on Sept. 12 since he heard the case by the prosecutors last week.
Eddings legal troubles extend beyond the criminal contempt matter.
Once a high-profile real estate closing attorney, Eddings is the subject of an FBI investigation into a more than $1 million shortfall in his real estate closing account. The FBI has declined to comment on the investigation, but Lachon Trice, a former client who lost more than $50,000 after Eddings’ trust account was frozen, said she has been cooperating with the federal authorities.
There was $472,949.34 in Eddings’ trust account when Columbus Bank & Trust Company raised a legal red flag and asked for help from Muscogee County Superior Court on Oct. 27, 2011, when it appeared the account was going to be overdrawn. The case was sent to the federal courts.
Since then, there have been more than $1.5 million in claims from large banks, mortgage companies, individuals and real estate agents saying Eddings owes them money related to real estate transactions.
Eddings has repeatedly blamed his office manager and ex-wife, Sonya Eddings, for the issues with the trust account.
The State Bar of Georgia is moving forward with complaints against Eddings, said bar attorney William J. Cobb almost two weeks ago. Ten complaints alleging 34 violations of state bar rules have been filed against Eddings, and all of them stem from Eddings’ real estate closing business.
Late last year, the Supreme Court appointed a special master to serve as judge, and the case against Eddings is still in litigation and entitled to due process, Cobb said.
But the contempt matter is the only time Eddings has been sanctioned by a court.