Former Wake County judge pleads guilty

July 30, 2012 3:54:46 PM PDT
Former Wake County judge Kristen Ruth pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of failing to discharge the duties of her office.

Ruth was indicted by a Wake County grand jury in June. Also charged are criminal defense attorney James Crouch and his legal assistant.

During her pleading, she also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the Crouch case.

The courtroom was packed with Ruth's supporters, and she confessed in front of them all. Even the superior court judge presiding over the case called her a good judge, but chastised her for signing dozens of orders she never read.

She explained how she did not know that orders allowing DWI defendants to avoid license suspensions had her signature on them.

"I signed them and did not read them because I trusted James Crouch," Ruth said.

Although she admitted not reading the orders, Ruth continually laid the blame at the feet of the Crouch. She said she had known him for 20 years, was close friends with his in-laws, and confronted him about what investigators had uncovered in court records.

"He said, 'I'm going to be disbarred.'  And he was very upset talking about that," Ruth said.

When asked if he said anything about his future with regard to his liberty, Ruth replied, "Yes.  He said that he was going to jail and that we could visit him at the penitentiary."

Crouch will face jail time if convicted of altering court records and conspiracy.

Ruth's charge is a misdemeanor and does not come with jail time, but she will have to testify against Crouch if his case goes to trial.

Ruth's exact sentence will be handed down at an unspecified date in the future because the judge wants to wait to make sure she complies with her plea agreement, including testifying against Crouch if necessary.

Ruth was first elected to the bench in 1998.

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