Attorney Claims Courthouse Arrest Was "Politically Motivated" - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

10/09/03

Attorney Claims Courthouse Arrest Was "Politically Motivated"

What happened at the Jackson County Courthouse Thursday was, to say the least, unusual. Sheriff's Deputies had to carry a lawyer into court.

Docket call for Judge Pat Watts is 8:30 a.m. sharp. When attorney Wanda Williams was an hour late, the judge found her in contempt of court and fined her $50.

Ken Broadus, with the Jackson County Sheriffs' Department, is the deputy in charge of courthouse security.

"Judge Watts' normal practice is, if you don't answer his docket call, he finds the attorney in contempt and fines them $50. He started that process with her and she took offense to it and started to leave. Judge Watts ordered her to stay in the court room and she left the court room," Broadus said.

That's when the judge sent a bailiff to get her. When she didn't return, the judge ordered two deputies to bring her back.

"When they talked to her, she walked away from them in the parking lot and walked all the way over to her car, refusing the entire time, failing to listen to any of the officers' instructions. When they got to her car, she actually laid down on the ground and said 'I'm not going'."

The deputies say Williams told them they'd have to handcuff her to get her back inside the courthouse. So they did.

"As soon as they did, she started yelling 'Help! Help! Help! They're arresting me illegally.' So we just escorted her back inside the court room by each arm. On three different occasions she went limp and the officers had to pick her up and bring her in."

Back in front of the judge, Williams was found in contempt and ended up with a ten day jail sentence and a $100 fine. Everyone else in the courthouse ended up with a story to tell.

"This is the first time that we've actually had to go out and get an attorney and bring them back in. Judges have found attorneys in contempt before and locked them up for their actions in the courtroom, but of this nature, this was very unusual."

Williams is free on a $1,000 appeal bond. We asked Judge Watts about the incident, but he said it would not be appropriate to comment.

Williams is a candidate for Chancery Clerk in Jackson County, and says that's the real reason behind why she was arrested.

After our story first aired, Williams sent a reply by fax to WLOX News. In it, she claims that the hearing she's accused of missing was rescheduled with the Court Administrator's Office for October 13th. She also called her arrest "desperate political acts."

"Prior to the August 5th Primary Election, I was not considered to have a chance at winning. Since I was honored with 71.66% of votes cast in the Primary, I have seen an appreciable change in attitude in some officials, most for the positive. This is just an indication desperate people will do desperate things," Williams wrote.

by Josh Ridgdell

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