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Judges say probation restraining order crippling their court

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 7:31 PM
Last updated Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015 1:04 AM
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The judges of Richmond County State Court contend a temporary restraining order aimed at alleged unfair and illegal acts by Sentinel Offender Services has thrown their court into chaos.

In an amicus brief filed in one of the civil cases pending against the private probation company, the State Court judges contend the order signed by Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Craig on April 9 “has completely disrupted the operations of the State Court and the judges’ ability to enforce the terms of a probated sentence and to collect fines duly ordered in lieu of incarceration.”

According to the brief, “The State Court is now in a quandary and cannot continue its normal operations.”

The court, however, was in session Tuesday as it heard about a dozen cases, including from Michelle Jones, a 32-year-old mother of four. Jones was reduced to tears as she explained she had no money to pay Sentinel $549 the company contends she owes in supervision fees. She satisfied her court fine by performing 74 hours of community service.

Jones told Judge Patricia Booker that she is actively seeking a job but meanwhile she is dependent on her grandmother, who is on a fixed income herself. She had less than a year of school left to become a medical assistant but was kicked out because of the battery conviction. She asked how she could get her record expunged so she could get back in class, finish school and get a job. “That’s all I have going for me.”

But Jones has no money to hire an attorney and the public defender’s office cannot take such cases.

“I’m just stuck,” Jones said.

The judge suspended the rest of Jones’ probation sentence if her grandmother pays Sentinel $75.

Attorney John Long has filed a dozen lawsuits against Sentinel, contending it is unconstitutional to allow a for-profit entity to provide a judicial service, and to jail someone just because he is poor.

Craig – who is assigned to preside over the cases against Sentinel – issued the temporary restraining order after Long presented evidence he contends proves that more people have been falsely arrested on probation violation warrants.

On behalf of the four Richmond County State Court judges, private attorneys Jim Wall and Jim Ellison wrote that Craig has created a quagmire and has “absolutely eviscerated” the judges’ ability to enforce the conditions of any probation sentence because the temporary restraining order ignores “the practicalities of the system.”

“Before hiring attorneys the State Court (judges) should get their own house in order by having court reporters,” Long said.

Court reporters create a record of court proceedings. Such records can prove if defendants have been afforded all of the constitutional rights guaranteed to every citizen facing any potential incarceration.

In Georgia, misdemeanor crimes – which include nearly all traffic offenses from drunken driving to rolling through a stop sign – are punishable by up to a year in jail.

Long filed habeas petitions late last year for four people jailed on allegations they violated the terms of probation set by Richmond County State Court judges. Craig found that none of the four had been fully apprised of their constitutional rights in State Court, and he voided their convictions.

“How many more sentences are not valid?” Long asked.

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nocnoc 04/30/13 - 09:08 pm
I have been told

this will get real dirty, politically Dirty, before it is over.

I seems the former office secretary of a Local Political Power Broker, that lives just off Tobacco Rd., was installed or "lucked up" on the a key position at this company.

It also seems the company "may" have been overcharging for services.

A lot needs to be uncovered, but if 1/2 of what I have heard is correct some serious Downtown connected names will come to light soon.

I wonder where this will lead?

Patty-P 04/30/13 - 10:43 pm
"...ability to enforce the

"...ability to enforce the terms of a probated sentence and to collect fines duly ordered in lieu of incarceration.”
That's interesting. I can think of several people who don't pay their fines (but have the ability to do so), yet go year after year without being incarcerated or having the terms of their probation enforced. The probation system in Augusta is weak and doesn't work at all regardless of the few they had issues with.

JRC2024 05/01/13 - 07:04 am
I really do not have much

I really do not have much sympathy for those that commit criminal acts such as robbery, stealing, breaking into someone's home, car or business. I do have sympathy for people charged with traffic violations.

Bodhisattva 05/01/13 - 07:20 am
Gee, maybe they shouldn't

Gee, maybe they shouldn't have privatized the system and turned it over to people who are bigger crooks than the folks who are on probation.

nocnoc 05/01/13 - 09:46 am
I was surprised by some of the GA traffic Laws

It seems some commonly ruled civil traffic laws in MOST states are handled as a criminal process in GA. Certain tame violations could actually void a persons ability to run for public office or US President since a person convicted of a Misdemeanor cannot hold the US Presidential office.

Imagine spending weeks in jail over a failure signal a turn?
Running a changing traffic signal?

OJP 05/01/13 - 10:50 am

"... since a person convicted of a Misdemeanor cannot hold the US Presidential office."

I don't think I've ever heard this. Do you have a source?

rmwhitley 05/01/13 - 05:23 pm
When the

gubmint gets involved, taxpayers lose.

nocnoc 05/01/13 - 08:19 pm
Part of that document seldom read during this administration

High crimes and misdemeanors is a phrase from Section 4 of Article Two of the United States Constitution: "The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

So if the US president was convicted of running a red light in GA. he could the kick out of office.

But I guess technically a crook can run for office ( a few have) and get elected (a few have), as long as he is not convicted as a crook while in office.

But since there is honor among crooks, they seldom convict one of their own while in office between election years.☺

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