A suspended Georgia district attorney who was accused of improperly seeking to have a court dismiss a charge against a female employee he is accused of sexually harassing has pleaded guilty to unprofessional conduct.
Dick Donovan pleaded guilty under Georgia’s First Offender Act and was sentenced Thursday to serve a year of probation, Attorney General Chris Carr said in a news release. Donovan also resigned as Paulding County district attorney and must surrender his law license as part of his sentence.
Donovan was indicted in February on charges of bribery, two counts of false swearing and violating his oath of office. He ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of “unprofessional conduct by engaging in malpractice, misfeasance, or malfeasance in office,” the news release says.
He had been suspended from office since February.
“As independently-elected public servants, Georgia’s district attorneys must fulfill their solemn obligation to uphold the rule of law no matter the circumstance,” Carr said in the release. “When these same individuals abuse their power with complete disregard for their sworn duties, they harm the very justice system they are put in place to defend and protect.
Donovan was accused of committing bribery when he dismissed a criminal case in Paulding County Superior Court in which the defendant was being represented by the prosecutor of the municipal court in nearby Cedartown. In exchange, the indictment alleged Donovan was trying to influence the prosecutor to dismiss a shoplifting case in the Cedartown court that was pending against a woman who worked in his office.
The indictment also alleged that Donovan lied when he denied “ever having said that he wanted to have sex” with her and that he lied when he denied “describing his fantasies desiring to be physical” with the woman.
The employee filed a suit in federal court in 2019 alleging Donovan told the woman he was in love with her, gave her unwanted hugs and kisses, sent her personal text messages and emails, gave her unwanted gifts, forced her into private meetings and described sexual fantasies involving her.
A lawyer hired by the county corroborated the woman’s allegations.
The lawsuit was settled in early 2020. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported the woman was paid $300,000.