Sandy Springs has reduced the sentence of a man who accused a judge of having anti-Iranian bias after she made controversial comments.
The judge, Sharon Dickson, drew criticism for her recent comments to Fazial Azizan, the defendant, that an appeals court condemned while upholding her ruling in the case. Dickson is up for reappointment this year to the Sandy Springs bench, and also sits on Dunwoody’s city court.
Azizan’s attorney Jason McLendon worked with City Attorney Dan Lee to reduce Azizan’s sentence to 60 days of probation from the original sentence of five months in jail, McLendon said. The order was signed by Chief Judge Donald Schaefer on July 27.
“We are relieved that justice was done in this case,” McLendon said.
In Sandy Springs, the mayor appoints city judges, who are confirmed by the City Council. Mayor Rusty Paul is currently evaluating the reappointment of all city judges, including Dickson, who were due to be reappointed in June. The mayor did not have a role in the negotiation of Azizan’s sentence, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said in an email.
A Muslim civil rights organization had said that Dickson’s comments were “bigoted” and based on the race of Azizan, an Iranian-American.
“We welcome the city’s decision to overturn the judge’s sentence, which was fatally tainted by her expression of bigotry. This should not have been a hard decision for Sandy Springs to make,” said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the executive director of the Georgia branch of Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a press release.
Azizan appealed the ruling to the Superior Court of Fulton County, which ruled June 18 that Dickson’s comments were “objectionable and wholly inappropriate.” However, the court ruled that there was no evidence any bias affected Dickon’s ruling against Azizan and upheld the conviction, according to the court’s ruling.
Mitchell argued Bill Riley, the city solicitor who prosecuted the case, should have intervened when Dickson made the controversial comments. Riley is a partner at Riley McLendon, the law firm the city contracts with to provide legal staff. Jason McLendon has no relation to that law firm.
“Going forward, the city of Sandy Springs should reconsider its relationship with Riley McLendon LLC, as well as Judge Dickson,” Mitchell said.