A Georgia judge is reported to have resigned after jailing a woman for contesting a traffic ticket. According to news reports, Decatur Municipal Court Judge Lindsay Jones presided over Shari Hurston Tatum case. Tatum was released from jail on Thursday after serving one day of a two-day sentence. According to Jones, Tatum demanded a bench trial during her Nov. 8 court hearing, and waived her rights to an attorney and a jury trial at that time.
After hearing the case, Jones found her guilty of not only the infraction but also of misrepresenting material facts. Tatum told reporters that she never expected to be jailed over contesting the ticket. Worst case scenario, she expected a fine or penalty.
“Tatum’s perjury was characterized as misbehavior before the court, and treated as a contempt of court process, for which she was sentenced to two days in jail,” Jones wrote in a letter to The AJC.
Karl Tatum, the defendant’s husband, told reporters that her jail sentence was retaliation for her contesting the traffic ticket.
“If you dispute a ticket in the city of Decatur, you’re going to jail,” Karl Tatum said.
According to Shari Tatum’s testimony, she didn’t block an intersection when a traffic light turned red. The Georgia judge had the video played in court and decided she hadn’t cleared the intersection in time and found her in contempt of court.
Before viewing the video, Jones said he warned both the officer and Shari Tatum of lying under oath.
“Both of them were offered several opportunities to qualify or recant their testimony, which each declined, and made aware that if the court found either of them had committed perjury or falsely testified then they would be subject to a penalty for perjury including a potential jail sanction,” Jones wrote. “Perjury is a felony offense.”
An offense that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others in the Trump administration have committed without being sentenced to imprisonment.
Along with the jail sentence, Jones imposed a fine of $150 which he said was the usual fee. In response, Tatum had to spend her 20-year-anniversary behind bars.
Vickie Sadler, Tatum’s attorney, said Shari Tatum had a constitutional right to be heard in court and was appalled at the result.
“She had to spend the night with criminals,” Sadler said. “She’s not a criminal.”
It has been reported that Jones has been removed from the bench and has been suspended. He is contesting those reports. Jones said he has not been reprimanded nor has he been suspended, as previously reported.
“In response to news media citing Decatur City Manager Peggy Merris claiming that I resigned my judgeship from the City of Decatur Municipal Court, I have not offered my resignation to Ms. Merris or the City Commission, nor have I spoken with Ms. Merris or the Commissioners as of this date relating to my judgeship,” Jones wrote.
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