Mr. Gough, 59, is a well-known presence in the small legal community of Brunswick, population 16,000, in contrast with the other two defendants’ lawyers, who hail from the larger metropolitan areas of Atlanta and Macon.
It is Mr. Gough’s demeanor that most closely resembles that of an aw-shucks country lawyer character from the movies, with a voice that honks and drawls and tends to ladle on the folksiness. On Thursday, as he called for — and then appeared to backpedal on — a ban on Black preachers in the courtroom, Mr. Gough wondered aloud what it would be like “if a bunch of folks came in here dressed like Colonel Sanders with white masks sitting in the back.”
But Mr. Gough’s presentation is, like so much about him, confounding, and sometimes contradictory. Though he attended law school at the University of Georgia, Mr. Gough grew up on Long Island. He spent a number of years heading up the Republican Party in Glynn County, Ga., and said he served for two years as legal director of a group called the Poor and Minority Justice Association. From 1989 to 1993, he served as a prosecutor in the local district attorney’s office. For four years starting in 2012, he represented the poorest defendants in his community as the Brunswick Judicial Circuit public defender.
He was fired from the public defender job for a number of reasons. Among them was the allegation that he fomented a culture of “fear and intimidation” in the office, according to statements during his appeals hearing from Bryan P. Tyson, who was then the executive director of the state public defender council.
Mr. Tyson, in a letter firing Mr. Gough, noted that a female employee in Mr. Gough’s office had accused him of retaliation after she had filed a sexual harassment complaint against another employee. The state public defender “credited her claim of retaliation,” Mr. Tyson wrote, and “took remedial action.”
Mr. Tyson also chided Mr. Gough for engaging in a “media campaign” that took aim at the Brunswick-area district attorney at the time, Jackie Johnson. Mr. Gough had publicly accused Ms. Johnson of failing to file cases in a timely manner, a move that he said wasted taxpayer money and impeded indigent clients’ right to a speedy trial.
Mr. Tyson said in his letter that Mr. Gough had also accused the district attorney of being too cozy with the local police, and said that Mr. Gough had complained that the Superior Court was being run “as a debtors’ prison,” issuing steep restitution and probation fees to the poor.