Originally created 10/26/02

Arrest strips judge of duty



SAVANNAH, Ga. - A Chatham County Juvenile Court judge has been placed on administrative leave after being charged with drunken driving.

Judge Juan Ayala, 58, was returning home from a wedding when he was involved in an accident about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, according to a police report.

As late as Thursday, the judge was still sitting on the bench hearing cases. When contacted about it, Chief Judge John Beam Jr. said he was unaware of the arrest.

Later, he said Judge Ayala would be placed on administrative leave with pay.

According to a police incident report, Judge Ayala told officers he had braked to make a turn when his vehicle was hit from behind by a 1998 Toyota Corolla.

The Toyota's driver, Thomas Mobley, 18, was charged with following too closely, police said.

When Officer Shannon Saylor questioned Judge Ayala at the scene, he smelled what he called a "strong odor of alcohol."

"I also noticed that his eyes were glassy, and he was unsteady on his feet," the report reads.

Judge Ayala was given a breath-alcohol test and blew a 0.104, above the legal limit of 0.08.

After his arrest, Judge Ayala was booked into the Chatham County Jail, said Cpl. Tommy Tillman, a spokesman with the Sheriff's Department.

A judge for 20 years, Judge Ayala was released on subpoena, rather than posting bond.

"He's a judge," Cpl. Tillman said. "It's not like he's a flight risk."



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