BLOGGER COMMENTS: The wheels of justice are slowly grinding forward as we count the days (7) until Ana's fate is determined. Trackers in Vegas are not giving odds. If the suspense is getting to you, just image how it feels to the sheriff. "Shakin' like a leaf on a tree" as Elvis sang. If it goes the way all of us believe it should, the next time she runs for anything, it'll be for the border!
Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin said she's complied with court orders, met her constitutional duty and adequately fed inmates in the local jail. But a civil rights group in Georgia, one long since monitoring that jail, says she should be held in contempt of court for pocketing money meant for inmate meals and using it to finance a crooked car lot.
The case has been tied up in federal court. So what happens next? Does the sheriff face any penalties? Can she keep unspent inmate meal money?
U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallan has broad discretion in whether to hold Franklin in contempt for in a crooked used car lot. Kallon has ordered Franklin to show cause for why she should not be held in contempt at a hearing next week at the federal courthouse in Decatur.
If Judge Kallon holds Franklin in contempt, the Morgan County sheriff could face a variety of punishments, including fines, fees, criminal prosecution or jail time, the Southern Center for Human Rights argues in court records.
For months, Franklin has been embroiled in a legal battle with the Atlanta-based Center because she removed $160,000 from the jail's food account and loaned $150,000 to a crooked used car lot. for more information about the crooked car lot, which has filed for bankruptcy.
When she withdrew the funds, that prohibits the Morgan County Sheriff from spending food money on anything other than inmate meals, Judge Kallon ruled during a previous hearing. Paragraph 22 of the consent decree covers the food account.
The sheriff could be ordered to pay damages, court costs and attorneys fees, the Center, which represents Morgan County Jail inmates, said in court records. The judge also could refer the sheriff to criminal court for prosecution, according to a brief filed by the Center's lawyers.
At the upcoming court hearing, Franklin is expected to argue any unspent food funds. In general, Alabama law allows sheriffs to pocket excess inmate meal money. But, a consent decree, which resulted from a 2001 lawsuit, governs the food account in Morgan County because of past underfeeding of inmates and the profiting of a former sheriff.
Lovelace told AL.com holding the sheriff in contempt doesn't make sense because she has properly fed the inmates, which was the intent of the consent decree.