Thursday, November 22, 2007

Crist picks prosecutor to fill open judge seat

Hodges replaces Angel, but must seek re-election in '08


OCALA - A prosecutor in Marion County has been tapped to fill Judge Carven Angel's position, which is scheduled to end Nov. 30.

Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Assistant State Attorney Bob Hodges to replace Angel. Hodges is completing Angel's unfinished term and would have to run for re-election in 2008.

"I'm very happy. I'm very excited about the prospect," Hodges said in a phone interview from his home Wednesday evening.

Hodges, 42, has been employed by the 5th Circuit State Attorney since 1990. He said he was was ready to take all he learned at the State Attorney's Office and move on in a different role and view things from a "neutral perspective."

The new judge said he feels he can take on this challenge, citing his track record of being fair.

"I've always approached it with fairness in mind and fairness to all the parties involved," he said.
Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway said Hodges will be missed.

"Bob's one of our homicide lawyers. He handles murder cases, so he's going to be very difficult to replace. He's a very talented lawyer. I'm happy for him but it's going to be a great loss for us," Ridgway said.

Assistant State Attorney Rock Hooker praised his co-worker.

"He's very intelligent and even-tempered. I think he'll make a great judge," Hooker said.

In a news release, Crist described Hodges as a seasoned lawyer and called him "dynamic."

"Robert's extensive trial court experience and familiarity with the circuit will make him a dynamic and effective judge," said Crist. "His established reputation for fairness and honesty among his peers demonstrate his integrity and character. Robert's commitment to public service will make him an asset to the bench, and I appreciate his willingness to serve."

Hodges has been involved in several legal committees. In 2000, he joined the State Child Abuse Death Review Committee and was later appointed by the Secretary of Health to represent Florida Prosecuting Attorney's Association. Hodges is a graduate of the University of South Florida and a graduate of the University of Florida College of Law.

Hodges has handled several high-profile cases, including the Coreyon Graham case. In 2006, 5-year-old Coreyon died at Munroe Regional Medical Center. Months later the boy's father, Richard Crawford, 33, was captured in Pennsylvania and charged with first-degree murder for beating Coreyon to death with a belt.

In January, Hodges was scheduled to take The Villages slaying of Diana Miller to trial with State Attorney Brad King. Miller was killed during an alleged home robbery and her husband, James Miller, was shot in the head. The couple's daughter, Sheila Miller, was allegedly kidnapped during the robbery.

Hodges also handled the William Kopsho death penalty case with Assistant State Attorney Anthony Tatti. Kopsho was convicted of murdering his estranged wife and was sentenced to death in 2005, but the conviction was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court because of a juror issue.

In other court news, Circuit Judge Brian D. Lambert is among the nominees to fill a vacancy at the 5th District Court of Appeal. Five other area judges have been nominated for the position left by the retirement of Appellate Judge Emerson R. Thompson Jr.

Mabel Perez can be reached at or 352-867-4106.

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