Attorney says defense law is his calling

Only five years into private practice Augusta attorney Pete Theodocion got his first big case -- a veteran narcotics agent facing federal drug trafficking charges.

Mr. Theodocion lost the case -- although Ralph Tyrone Williams was acquitted of some of the charges -- but it helped secure his spot as one of the up-and-coming criminal defense attorneys in the area.

Since that 2002 trial, Mr. Theodocion has represented hundreds of people facing criminal charges, ranging from drunken driving to capital murder.

Other law enforcement officers who found themselves in trouble, two sheriffs and three officers, also sought out Mr. Theodocion.

His highest-profile trial involved former state school superintendent and gubernatorial candidate Linda Schrenko.

Her case ended with her guilty plea to two counts of conspiracy involving federal education funds when prosecutors relented on their insistence that she serve 10 years in prison, Mr. Theodocion said.

He didn't start out to become a criminal defense attorney. In college he said he was mostly interested in getting a good job. That, Mr. Theodocion said, is why he got an accounting degree.

"Hated it," said the Atlanta native of his time in a large Atlanta accounting firm. He decided to return to the University of Georgia for law school.

"I had just gotten married (after earning his law degree), and I was broke," Mr. Thodocion said. He ended up in Augusta after a former roommate, James Murray, told him there was an opening in the Richmond County State Court Solicitor's Office, where Mr. Murray worked.

The solicitor at the time, now Superior Court Judge Sheryl Jolly, said Mr. Theodocion did an outstanding job. She was impressed with his initiative, motivation and goals.

For two years Mr. Theodocion prosecuted misdemeanor criminal cases. He knew he wanted to do criminal-defense work, however, and in 1997 he went out on his own and opened a private practice.

"I knew I could do a good job. I've always felt real comfortable in the courtroom," Mr. Theodocion said.

Being a criminal defense attorney gives one the chance to represent the ultimate "little guy," he said. "There's no greater example of might versus meek."

Don't ask him "How can you represent that guy?" It's a nonsense question, Mr. Theodocion said.

He does it, he said, because it's his chosen role in the criminal justice system that demands an advocate for the defense as well as the state.

It's his job to represent and speak in court for the person accused of a crime and to ensure that all of his rights are protected, Mr. Theodocion said.

"It's clear to everyone in the courtroom that Pete is dedicated to his clients," Assistant District Attorney John Markwalter said in an e-mail response.

"I've tried a number of cases against Pete Theodocion over the past 10-15 years. In each instance, Pete impressed me with his level of preparation and knowledge of the law. Most importantly, Pete is a gentleman and always conducts himself with the highest levels of professionalism."

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

PETE THEODOCION

AGE: 41

PROFESSION: Augusta criminal defense attorney

FAMILY: Married; son, 51/2; daughter, 3

Secret wish: To appear on TV playing in the Las Vegas annual poker championship contest.

QUOTE: "If you don't like working nights and Sundays, trial lawyer isn't the job for you."