Her Intent Was To Fight The Charge But Plans Changed When ‘Lost’ Tape Appeared
Recently appointed Columbus City Judge Nicole Clinkscales pled ‘no contest’ to a June 09′ charge of ‘failure to obey a police officer’ this past Tuesday in Lowndes County Justice Court. The case took nearly 20 months to be heard in court mainly because it was ‘lost’ in a pile on the late Judge Curtis Austin’s desk for months and months.
The charged stemmed from a June 09′ incident in which Clinkscales was reportedly “beating her son with a belt” according to a 911 complainant. The police report said that when the officer neared the scene the complainant flagged him down to tell him what was going on. (In a Monday Commercial Dispatch ‘profile’ of Clinkscales, she claimed she flagged the officer down and not the complainant). According to the report, while the complainant was talking to the officer Clinkscales “was doing a lot of screaming and hollering at the complainant”. She allegedly refused the officers command to get into her car and was then arrested for failure to obey. (In the Dispatch ‘profile’, she claimed that the officer, Lance Luckey, said “something like, ‘Shut up and get in your car’ “). Before court Tuesday, I asked Officer Luckey if he told her to “shut up” and he replied he did not! He said he simply instructed her to get back into her car. I’ve maintained from the beginning that the real story here is how long it took to get to court and some apparent attempts by some officials to either minimize the case or possibly make it go away altogether. More than one source has told me and others involved that Mayor Robert Smith has tried to “work on” some people to get the case hushed up or thrown out all together. As far as Officer Luckey is concerned, he’s maintained silence through the whole affair. Even after another source told me that practically every case Officer Luckey has brought before Judge Clinkscales in city court since her appointment as judge, she has thrown out or found not guilty.
The case was finally heard in Lowndes Justice Court Tuesday afternoon at 1:30. Lowndes Justice Court Judge Chris Hemphill was on the bench, Tuesday, but Oktibbeha County Justice Court Judge Jim Mills was brought in for the case against Clinkscales. Oktibbeha Prosecutor Roy Carpenter Jr. was also brought along to prosecute the case. Clinkscales had stated that she felt she broke no laws and therefore it was expected that she would enter a ‘not guilty’ plea (it’s a reasonable assumption…I’ve always felt that if someone is not guilty of a crime, then you would expect them to enter a ‘not guilty’ plea..wouldn’t you?) She brought West Point attorney Nebra Porter to defend her. Longtime Columbus attorney Richard Burdine (everybody loves Richard) was also along for support. But when Clinkscales and Porter went back to a room to hear the ‘lost tape’ (police tape of the actual incident) that they believed no longer existed, this is likely when the defense strategy changed from ‘not guilty’ to ‘no contest’ (Porter later commented to Roger Larsen, after the plea was made and the hearing was over, that the ‘no contest’ plea was “best for everyone involved”).
The recording of the incident was an apparent surprise to Porter and Clinkscales. More than one source over the past few weeks had said it no longer existed and I expect Porter and Clinkscales thought so also. Someone (no one ever owned-up to it) lost the original police recording. Which was likely the reason Judge Clinkscales was claiming that Officer Luckey told her to “shut up”. Again- an assumption here- if Officer Luckey indeed told her to ‘shut up’, and that could be heard on the recording, wouldn’t that make someone want to plead ‘not guilty’? In the Dispatch profile Clinkscales also stated, “The officer said something like “Shut up and get in your car.” As I moved toward my car I told him he did not have to speak to me that way. I was not belligerent. I felt I was being treated with less dignity than anybody deserves. I am a mother trying to protect my son and protect my home. I did say “I’m a lawyer. I know my rights.” Which I shouldn’t have had to say because, as a citizen in a non-volatile situation, I didn’t think I should have been spoken to that way.” One would deduce, I would think, that the recording would back-up these claims by Judge Clinkscales if they were true. The recording, reportedly, is about five minutes long. The Packet asked and paid a $50.00 fee yesterday for a copy – first being told they could get one, then being told City Attorney Jeff Turnage stepped in and said the city could not produce the copy! (Since the case never went to trial and the recording not entered as evidence..Turnage may be right) The Packet still expects to receive a copy of the disk within the next few days. It will be posted to the Packet website the second we obtain it.
I waited in the outer room of the courtroom as Judge Mills waited for a court clerk to announce the famous “all rise!” The judge entered the courtroom and took his place on the bench. Roger Larsen and I had to grab a couple of chairs from the outer room as the small courtroom was packed with onlookers. Attorney Richard Burdine took a chair to my left alongside his assistant (didn’t get her name, but she’s a sharp, sweet lady indeed). Porter and Judge Clinkscales sat in the two chairs traditionally used by Lowndes Prosecutor Tim Hudson and fill-in Prosecutor Roy Carpenter was actually in the accused chairs (They didn’t know this, obviously). The case was announced and Porter made it known her client was entering a plea of ‘no contest’ to which Prosecutor Carpenter asked for a fine of $100 to be handed down to Clinkscales..Judge Mills accepted and asked Clinkscales, “can you pay that today?” to which Clinkscales answered, “yes”. As soon as the ‘no contest’ plea was announced, Richard Burdine spoke, loudly, “that’s the wrong plea” (his assistant ‘shushed’ him) from the back of the room. Again, Burdine, speaking loudly over the quiet courtroom, “that’s not the right plea” to yet another, “shhhhh, Richard” from his assistant and many people looking his way from around the courtroom. (Burdine’s reaction to Judge Clinkscales plea, seeing he didn’t get to be in the room when the recording was heard by Porter and Clinkscales earlier, was another clear indication that Clinkscales intended to plead ‘not guilty’…till that recording was heard! RW).
I take no pride nor pleasure in reporting these facts to our citizens. This is 2011 and it seems that ‘good-ol-boy’ politics is being recycled over generations – and apparently is not confined to one race of people. How can we ask people to be truthful, honest and forthright when many of our trusted officials, those who oversee the laws and entrusted by the people they serve, are trying to divert and distort facts, cloud issues and flat out pull the wool over the eyes of the public as if they are not expected to abide by the same rules that we are. It’s shameful!
I worry about Officer Luckey. I was impressed by this young police officer (never met him until Tuesday). Will he be targeted? Has it really come to this in Columbus, Ms.? For God’s sake…i hope and pray not!
More Candidates Sign-up: Roger Larsen Picks Up Papers To Run For Dist. 5 Supervisor
Former Packet Editor Roger Larsen has done what many was hoping he would..he picked up qualifying papers, Tuesday, for a possible run against longtime District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks. Brooks must first face challenger Kenneth McFarland in the Democratic primary on August 2nd. If he survives that race, he’ll then have to face Larsen in the November general election because Larsen will run as an independent.
This one promises to be fun! It’s, literally…a political dream-come-true race!
Lowndes County School District Assistant Superintendent Edna McGill has qualified to run for superintendent. McGill will run as a Republican and face former New Hope High Principal Lynn Wright and current New Hope Middle School Principal Sam Allison in the August 2nd Republican primary. Current West Lowndes High School Principal Cliff Reynolds is the lone Democrat in the race. Qualifying will continue through Tuesday, March 1st at 5 p.m.
Former Justice Court Judge Mike Arledge made his bid for Lowndes County sheriff official last Friday. Arledge signed-up as a Republican.
Last week I wrote an article about CVB Interim Director Nancy Carpenter coming before the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors seeking needed approval from the board to secure a loan for the CVB to purchase part of the new CVB building being constructed. The property had been appraised for $600,000 and the CVB intends to purchase the property for $734,000. I stated that Harry Sanders had asked Carpenter, “why are ya’ll paying $134,000 more than the appraisal” to which he also explained that the supes couldn’t legally sign-off on a deal where the loan exceeds the appraisal. I also stated that Sanders informed Carpenter that the CVB had an attorney (to which i put ‘David Dunn’ in parenthesis because he’s the CVB board attorney) who should have known better. Actually Sanders wasn’t speaking of Dunn..he was speaking of the two attorneys on the board, Dewitt Hicks and David Sanders (Harry’s brother). Sanders was right..they should have known better. But so should have Mr. Dunn! Dunn stopped by The Packet office last week after the article ran..apparently complaining about my statement because he had only been the CVB board attorney “for a week”. To which I maintain that’s plenty of time for him to know the legal business of the CVB, and he also should have known better. I also heard he rambled on about being good friends with David Shelton…to which I have no idea what that has to do with the legal business of the CVB..or The Packet!
My suggestion to Mr. Dunn would be to please get busy with the work of the legal business of the CVB, since that is taxpayer dollars going to an extremely, important cause. Thanks, in advance, Mr. Dunn for your service to the taxpayers of Columbus and Lowndes County. Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com