When Ignorance, Unethical Character And Abuse of Power Converge: The Persecution Of Ann King and Susan Hines

woman_being_handcuffed

Anne King of Washington County, Georgia, was furious at her former husband and called him out on Facebook.

Susan Hines, a friend of King’s, responded..

“POS — give me an hour and check your mailbox. I’ll be GLAD to pick up the slack.”

Unfortunately, King’s crummy father of an ex-husband is also an ignorant jerk with a badge. He is Captain Corey King of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, and used his power in this small town to have both Anne her supportive friend arrested and tossed in jail for absolutely protected free speech on social media. First the captain filed a police report with his colleague, Washington County Sheriff’s Investigator Trey Burgamy. Then Washington County magistrate Ralph O. Todd  issued a warrant requiring the two women to appear at a hearing.  Officer King was the only witness, and afterwards Magistrate Todd issued warrant  charging Anne King with criminal defamation:

“SUBJECT DID, WITHOUT A PRIVILEGE TO DO SO AND WITH INTENT TO DEFAME ANOTHER, COMMUNICATE FALSE MATTER WHICH TENDS TO EXPOSE ONE WHO IS ALIVE TO HATRED, CONTEMPT, OR RIDICULE, AND WHICH TENDS TO PROVOKE A BREACH OF THE PEACE, SPECIFICALLY, SUBJECT DID MAKE DEROGATORY AND DEGRADING COMMENTS DIRECTLY AT AND ABOUT COREY KING, FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING A BREACH OF THE PEACE.”

The Georgia law she was charged with was ruled unconstitutional decades ago, and is no longer on the books.

Details, details.

When the ex-Mrs. King asked the magistrate about her First Amendment rights, Todd, who is not a lawyer but ran unopposed nonetheless,  and is, as you will see, an idiot as well, replied,

“You can call Mr. King a piece of shit to his face You can even tell someone else you think he is a piece of shit. But you can’t post it out for the public to see. That’s defamation of character.”

No, it’s not. That’s an opinion, and completely protected speech. But Todd, like Captain King, has power to abuse. He is also so unqualified to be a magistrate that it makes my hair hurt. I’m not even sure you could prove “POS” in the offending post meant “piece of shit.” “Palpably Offensive Spouse”? “Perhaps Obstructing Shared-parenting”?

At the end of the hearing,  Hines was allowed to drive herself to jail, but deputies handcuffed Anne King and transported her to a cell. Both women were fingerprinted and booked. Anne King made bail, and a few days later returned to court before a different judge who actually knew something about the law.  The charges against her were dismissed immediately.

Anne King is suing Captain King, Investigator Burgamy, and Washington County for civil rights violations and various state torts. Good. Not good: the ridiculous magistrate can’t be sued  because of judicial immunity. (Ethics Alarms had a contentious debate about that here.)

Writing about the case at Popehat, Ken White is both angry and cynical, which suits him well:

“Anne King’s story is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a rare one. Particularly with the rise of social media, law enforcement officers across the country have been abusing the legal system to retaliate against insults…Anne King has First Amendment rights, in theory. Their nature and extent are well defined by the courts. It’s straightforward to respect them. But what does it mean to say she has those rights? In Washington County, Georgia — population approximately 21,000 — with a hostile ex-husband a Captain of the Sheriff’s Department, and with Ralph Todd as a magistrate, does she really have them in any meaningful way? What is a right, when the state defies it?”

I see the case a bit differently. Any time incompetent and ignorant people are handed positions of power, that power is likely to be abused. The public needs to be educated sufficiently to know that you don’t elect a magistrate who isn’t a lawyer.  The law enforcement profession must police itself, refusing to place power in the hands of ignorant and unethical people like Captain King. States have to immediately take firm and punitive action against local  officials who persecute citizens like this.

Systems only work as ethically as the people within them. Systems can’t make people ethical. People make systems unethical.

______________________

Pointer: Fred!

9 Comments

Filed under Character, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Facebook, Family, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

9 responses to “When Ignorance, Unethical Character And Abuse of Power Converge: The Persecution Of Ann King and Susan Hines

  1. Matthew B

    On the link to the previous article, I see the first comment from me and not fully answered by you.

    I’m not seeing much of a downside taking away the immunity of an impeached judge. It should be a very high bar (and is…) to remove a judge. But once they are removed, it should prove personally ruinous. Jail and financial punishment are not unreasonable for this judge.

    • The downside is that impeachment is often political, and no judge should fear that a mistake in judgment will result in civil penalties. Judges are not immune from prosecution. No, financial punishment is not unreasonable for THIS judge, but one can’t make it an option for this judge without harming the judiciary generally. That’s what is meant by “hard cases make bad law.”

      • Matthew B

        How common is impeachment though? We live on opposite coasts, so we likely have different experiences in this regard. Around here, impeachment is rare and well deserved when it happens.
        Judges are elected here so they can always be voted out of office, but that’s darn rare too.

  2. Other Bill

    No Andys in this Mayberry.

  3. The phrase that really gets this going is “…under color of law…” That makes this a crime, and maybe a federal one (any lawyers out there know if it is?)

    I have, in a minor way, seen this sort of behavior during my life. When you walk into court after a traffic violation, having been forced to go there immediately under penalty of arrest, to pay the fine on the spot, and the deputy starts the conversation with the judge with “Look, Uncle Bob, I caught me another one…”

    This fix is in, and paying the (exorbinant) fine and leaving the town NEVER TO RETURN was the only choice until state law changed. (Uncle BOB has been a guest of the State of Texas these past 30 years)

    • joed68

      I saw this up close and personal in Alabama with a judge named Amanda Williams. Her and her extended family ruined an elderly couple who had been running a trucking firm for the last 40 years until they stumbled into her lair.

      • Matthew B

        That’s the kind of stuff that results in a guy armoring a bulldozer and flattening selected parts of a small town. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvin_Heemeyer

        On a more serious note; I’m a very strong federalist, but that’s the counterpoint to the necessity of federal supremacy under the law. The citizens of this country should not be subject to that treatment, whether traveling through or living there. That is the point of the 14th amendment and those kinds of stories should be aggressively dealt with by the US Justice department.

  4. dragin_dragon

    I find the practice of abusing one’s position as either a police officer or his/her spouse to be abhorrent. Whatever happened to “preserve and protect”…I know, L.A.’s motto is not seen on ALL police vehicles, but the idea is there. The whole idea of a police force is to protect the public from miscreants, not to protect the police officers from the public. Certainly not to protect them from the wrath of their ex-wives.

    Several years ago, during my “hippie” phase, I heard police in general referred to as ‘tantamount to an occupying Army’. I objected to it at the time, because it obviously was not true. Unfortunately, stories such as this are making it seem like it may be more so. And this lends credence to the BLM line of gibberish.

  5. E2 (nee Elizabeth I)

    My understanding is that there exists a Code of Judicial Conduct in every state (the counterpart to the Lawyers Code of Professional Conduct established by each state and also by the American Bar Association). Also that each state or locality has a Commission on Judicial Oversight (by whatever name) that should police (no pun intended) the judges (as State Bars police lawyers). So where is this body in Georgia? How can these defendants know that there might be/should be recourse against the moronic/colluding magistrate in this case?

    On a related topic mentioned by others: I am not comfortable with the election of judges and DAs, but suddenly am less comfortable with the notion of appointed judges and magistrates in jurisdictions where there is no oversight of them at all. At least a DA can be called on the carpet by the Bar as he/she is a lawyer. I haven’t heard of anything like this happening to a judge, unless it’s done quietly and doesn’t make the news.

    Georgians: Demand that your judicial oversight committee do something about this magistrate. This kind of behavior is horrible for the reputation of your state.

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