Augusta attorney faces contempt charge

Court cites bizarre behavior during trial

A court order was signed Thursday for the arrest of an Augusta attorney found in contempt of court this week.

Richmond County State Court Judge David D. Watkins signed an order Thursday to have Christopher Nicholson jailed.

Nicholson had until noon Thursday to comply with Watkins’ order. Instead, Nicholson filed a motion seeking a bond that is required when one is seeking to have a judgment set aside. The motion states Nicholson is 64 years old and has just had cataract surgery.

Nicholson had not been arrested as of late Thursday.

On Tuesday, Watkins found Nicholson in contempt of court and sentenced him to 20 days in jail and fined him $500. The jail time was suspended, however, if Nicholson agreed to 20 days of house arrest with electronic monitoring, and Watkins wrote in his order that he would suspend the house arrest if Nicholson wrote apologies to his client, a prosecutor and the officer who arrested his client. Watkins also gave Nicholson the option of making a $500 donation to charity instead of paying the fine.

The judge had ordered Nicholson to appear in court Tuesday to show cause for why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for walking out on a client in the middle of a trial Aug. 2.

Watkins was presiding over the Aug. 2 bench trial for Matthew Dunham, who was charged with speeding and driving under the influence on June 9, 2010. Watkins said Nicholson made inappropriate remarks when the judge didn’t rule in his favor on a motion. Then Nicholson spoke with the arresting officer, Cpl. Bonnie Kalbskopf, who was a trial witness, and afterward made some remarks to Assistant State Court Solicitor Kelly McIntyre, Watkins said.

Dunham, who was convicted, has hired an attorney to replace Nicholson. A motion for a new trial has been filed.

Nicholson filed a motion seeking Watkins to recuse himself, contending the judge was biased against him. Nicholson also alleged that unlike two other black jurists, Watkins, who is black, would talk “street” in his courtroom.

Watkins denied the motion to recuse.

Nicholson, who has practiced law since June 1974, also wrote that the comment he made to McIntyre was before court when he told her that his father loaned her father-in-law the money to buy his first home. She exploded, Nicholson wrote, when he later asked her how she could prosecute such a poor case against his client.