AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — The State Disciplinary Review Board is recommending a six-month suspension for former Augusta District Attorney Natalie Paine from practicing law in Georgia.
The suspension stems from how Paine allegedly handled a murder case in 2017 when she was District Attorney in Augusta. Earlier this year, a Special Master ruled that Paine did not violate any laws when handling the case.
The disciplinary review board says the Special Master is wrong and wants Paine suspended. The case is scheduled to go before the Georgia Supreme Court in the December term.
On February 21, 2020, probable cause was reportedly found by the board that Paine violated state law prohibiting a lawyer from using methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of the opposing party or counsel.
Paine is alleged to have recorded conversations between the defendants and their lawyers in the 2017 case of State of Georgia v. William Krepps, Vaughn Austin Verdi, and Emily Stephens in the murder of Preston Overton. She’s also accused of interviewing suspects without counsel present.
The State Bar filed a formal complaint against Paine in January 2021 and a Special Master was appointed. In February 2021, a trial was held in front of the Special Master, during which the Special Master determined Paine did not violate any rules of Georgia law and recommended the case be dismissed.
Afterwards, the State Bar appealed the decision to the State Disciplinary Review Board and the board soon found that Paine violated Georgia Rule 3.4. The rule states that a lawyer shall not use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of the opposing party or counsel.
Court documents state that the SDRB found that the Special Master erred in his ruling because Paine was aware Sheriff’s Office CID interview rooms were recorded using both audio and video.
Court docs also allege that the SDRB also found that Paine delivered CDs with video and audio recordings of conversations between William Krepps and his attorney and Austin Verdi and his attorney to all the lawyers involved in the case. Paine said she did so unknowingly. The SDRB says that didn’t matter and she had a duty to ensure that didn’t happen.
The SDRB alleges that the State Bar also did not submit any evidence that Paine violated Georgia Rule 4.2, or communicating with a person represented by another lawyer, or Georgia Rule 8.4 (a) (1) which is violation or attempting to violate, knowingly assist, or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another.”
Paine spoke to NewsChannel 6 off camera Wednesday, and says she is confident the Supreme Court will rule in her favor and she does not see the recommendation impacting her ability to continue to serve as an Assistant District Attorney in Columbia County.
She said she turned down a private letter of reprimand before the Special Master was involved because she feels like she did nothing wrong. Paine also says she had no control over the recordings of the conversations in the CID interview rooms and should not be held accountable for them.
Count on WJBF NewsChannel 6 for updates on this developing story.