KINGSLAND, Ga. - Supporters of a St. Marys physician charged with murder - including Camden County Sheriff Bill Smith - plan to gather en masse at Tuesday's Camden County Commission meeting.
They hope to present a petition and resolution urging Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams to set bail for Noel Chua, who has been jailed without bail since his arrest on murder and drug charges in September.
Dr. Chua is charged in the drug overdose death of his 20-year-old housemate and patient, James B. Carter III, who was found dead in the doctor's home in December 2005. A Camden County grand jury charged that Mr. Carter died from drugs prescribed by Dr. Chua and that none of the drugs were for a legitimate medical purpose.
"We're not asking for anything special. Just give him a bond," said Mercedes Chapman, a former patient of Dr. Chua's who helped organize the petition drive. "We just don't understand why he's still there."
Her son, Tom, owner of a St. Marys computer store, created and maintains a "Free Dr. Chua" Web site that includes the online petition and the "resolution on behalf of Sheriff ... Smith and the Camden County Board of Commissioners."
As of Friday afternoon, the petition had 188 signatures from as far away as New Zealand. At least a third of the signatures are from Camden County.
Mr. Carter's family and friends launched their own online petition Friday to keep Dr. Chua in jail. It had 56 signatures Friday afternoon.
"I don't want him back out on the street," said Kathy Hendrix, of Nahunta. "I don't want to see this happen to another kid."
Sheriff's office spokesman William Terrell confirmed Sheriff Smith would be at the meeting.
It wouldn't be the first time Sheriff Smith has pushed for bail for Dr. Chua.
Court records show he visited Judge Williams in her chambers after Dr. Chua's arrest to ask about bail.
"I do not issue bonds in murder cases," the judge said she told him, according to a transcript obtained by the Times-Union of a bench conference she had with lawyers in the case. "If that's a problem with you, then I am telling you now I'm not going to do it. I'll get you another judge."
Later, she told lawyers concerning a bail hearing, "Because he [Smith] doesn't want me to hear it, I'm not going to hear it."
A week later, Superior Court Judge James Tuten, the chief judge of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, denied Dr. Chua bail. He agreed with prosecutors that Dr. Chua was a flight risk.
The bail resolution isn't on the commission's Tuesday agenda and hasn't been filed with the county, according to the clerk's office.
Reach Paul Pinkham at (904) 729-3672 or firstname.lastname@example.org.