City Hall and HPD offer different versions of court corruption

Hattiesburg City Hall and HPD offer different versions of court corruption


There appears to be a difference of opinion between Hattiesburg police and City Hall when it comes to the level of alleged criminal activity within the city's municipal court system.

A nearly two month HPD internal affairs investigation concluded a major lack of competence within the court system. Which includes clerks receiving rewards for dismissing tickets, fines, and warrants.  As well as clerks altering judicial dispositions.

The 13 page internal investigation says of the four city court clerks involved, one tried to get another clerk to dismiss a ticket for a gang member and received a phone call from the gang members wife, asking why he had not been released. 

The report goes on to say that another clerk accepted at least four gifts, including a Dooney and Burke handbag from a bail bond agent, and a tank of gas from a defendant who would have lost his drivers license had his ticket not been changed to a non-moving violation.

Another clerk allegedly changed judge's dispositions in order to lower fines or be released from jail.  The same clerk allegedly had taken and recalled 21 warrants against one individual.  The  clerk also contacted two judges about wiring her money after losing her money gambling on the coast during a clerk convention.  One judge wired her $100. The report added that the clerk would take court paperwork after a judge had set an amount and scratch through it and set a lower amount. 

Thursday, Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree confirmed that one person had been terminated and three others disciplined. He said there were some things not properly handled and were not as professional as you would want them.

An executive summary of the investigation drafted by City Attorney, Charles Lawrence, painted a different picture than the HPD report.  The executive summary stated that it couldn't be determined whether any cases were expunged for money or if any documents had been shredded improperly.  The summary added that there was no evidence a clerk was good friends with an alleged gang member or his wife nor was there evidence that a clerk had used their position for an advantage on behalf of a gang member. 

The executive summary concluded that some clerks did not have a sufficient grasp of their jobs and lacked professionalism and that there were instances where fees were not paid and paperwork being held until fines were satisfied.

Mayor DuPree says he plans to restructure the court system, doing away with the three judges and hiring one.  He said the decision was made long before the investigation began.  The city will also install new software that will make employees more accountable. 

While the police investigation is complete and city hall punishment has been doled out, D.A. Patricia Burchell says a criminal investigation among several agencies is ongoing.

Copyright 2012 WDAM. All rights reserved.

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