A federal judge in Columbus, Ga., has slammed federal prosecutors for making “sweetheart plea deals” with drug dealers to further their “relentless pursuit” of a criminal defense attorney whose trial ended last month when a jury acquitted him of drug conspiracy, attempted bribery and money laundering charges.

U.S. District Judge Clay D. Land issued his harsh criticism of the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Middle and Southern Districts of Georgia in an unusual 19-page order explaining why he more than doubled the recommended prison sentence of a federal witness who testified against Columbus lawyer J. Mark Shelnutt.

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