Judge Belinda Edwards, Fulton County Superior Court.
Judge Belinda Edwards, Fulton County Superior Court. (John Disney/ ALM)

A magistrate judge rejected a campaign consultant’s claim during a bench trial that Fulton County Superior Court Judge Belinda Edwards stiffed him on a $5,000 election bonus.

Dan Young claimed he was recruited to serve as Edwards’ campaign manager last year and agreed to accept a lower rate than his usual pay in return for the $5,000 bonus if Edwards won.

Young sued Edwards in Fulton County Magistrate Court in July. Chief Magistrate Cassandra Kirk asked DeKalb Chief Magistrate Berryl Anderson to appoint a visiting judge to hear the case, and DeKalb County Magistrate Albert Sacks ruled against Young Friday, checking a preprinted form that Young failed to prove his claim.

Edwards was represented by Wilson, Brock & Irby attorneys Larry Dingle and Lauren Clayton, who argued the case at trial.

In an email statement, Clayton said Edwards and her counsel appreciated Sack’s ruling, “which was consistent with the evidence and applicable law. We were able to establish that Mr. Young was not Judge Edwards’ campaign manager, that there was no promise to pay a $5,000 bonus if she won the election, and that he was paid in full for the services he provided.”

Young, who represented himself at trial, said he plans to hire an attorney and will “definitely” appeal the ruling. Young said their strategy was to make him look like a “low-level thief.”

“You can’t call me a shakedown artist. That’s hurts my reputation,” he said.

Young did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday, nor did Edwards or her attorney, Larry Dingle of Wilson, Brock & Irby.

As detailed in his filings and an earlier interview with the Daily Report, Young said Edwards hired him as a campaign manager in early 2016. He said Edwards asked about his fees and was told he charged a minimum of $500 a week. Edwards told him she could not afford that “but could pay $250 per week and will give you a bonus of $5,000 if I win the election,” Young said.

After Edwards’ victory, Young’s affidavit said he did not seek the bonus until June 26 when he sent Edwards an email requesting the money. The email, attached to the suit, offered to accept two payments divided into $3,000 and $2,000.

Edwards never responded, it said.

According to campaign disclosures filed with the state, Edwards paid Young $5,157 during her campaign, which included the three-way general election and her runoff against Sterling Eaves.

At the time the suit was filed, Edwards said she could not discuss the case but had “every confidence that the dispute will be resolved favorably.”

A defense filing last month denied Young’s claims and demanded “strict proof thereof.”

On Sept. 8, Sacks determined no proof existed.

Edwards’ judicial campaign was not the only one he advised last year. Young previously told the Daily Report he was already working for the successful campaign of now-Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cox when he was approached to work for Edwards.

Campaign records indicate Cox paid Young $10,000 during his campaign.