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Friday, April 26, 2019
My!! My!! My!!
Blogger Comments: Will this mess ever end? Judge Thompson's courtroom has always been set in a professional environment. Yet he is being blasted AFTER THE FACT for doing his job. Yet! some want to continue complaining just like a malinger would do because they can. Wake up Morgan County. We can't heal because some won't let us. Why didn't the cry babies file their complaints in court on time instead of waiting too late to file? Because they can whine, moan, and complain about the injustice of it all.
Puckett Jeronimo Nisa
Franklin Jeronimo Nisa
Lawsuit: New Morgan sheriff fired officer because he was 'no use as a deputy'
By Eric Fleischauer Metro Editor
A court order so damaged the credibility of a Morgan County Sheriff’s Office deputy that he was fired last month by the new sheriff, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the former deputy, former Sheriff Ana Franklin and others.
“ 'You’re no use as a deputy,’ ” newly installed Sheriff Ron Puckett told Deputy Robert Wilson on Jan. 15, according to the lawsuit. “ 'You can’t testify in court, today. The DA’s office wouldn’t hear your testimony. As far as a useful deputy, you can’t even arrest anybody. You could, but because of the court order, the DA’s not going to hear your testimony. I recognize that it may be a matter of opinion, but opinion matters.’ ”
According to the lawsuit filed against former Morgan County Jail Warden Leon Bradley and Daniel Lockhart, Puckett referred to an April court order in firing Wilson and convincing Deputy Blake Robinson to resign. Wilson and Robinson are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, as are Franklin and Justin Powell, who remains employed at the Sheriff's Office as information technology coordinator. Lockhart, once a confidential informant for Franklin, is the grandson of a blogger sharply critical of the Franklin administration. Provided with a copy of the complaint, Puckett on Thursday declined to comment on whether the quotes attributed to him were accurate.
“Unfortunately, it is our policy we will make no comment on personnel matters or any ongoing litigation,” Puckett said.
According to a motion filed with the complaint, the April order harmed the plaintiffs’ credibility to the point that “District Attorney (Scott Anderson) had stated his intent not to use Wilson or any of the other plaintiffs as witnesses.” The complaint alleges that since the April order, the plaintiffs have never “been called upon by the Morgan County District Attorney’s Office to provide sworn testimony.”
Anderson declined to comment Thursday, citing pending litigation against Franklin.
The April 27 court order that is the focus of the complaint was issued by since-retired Judge Glenn Thompson and dismissed a misdemeanor charge of tampering with government records that had been filed against Bradley. The order was issued after prosecutors attempted to dismiss the charge. Nick Heatherly, who represented Bradley when he was unsuccessfully prosecuted, said he will file a motion to dismiss the complaint.
“This is the ranting of the rogue sheriff and her minions,” Heatherly said. “These folks don’t need to be in law enforcement ever again. Citizens need to have confidence in their law enforcement. What these guys did should never stand. I think it’s good if they’re not working in law enforcement anymore, because that’s one assurance that history will not repeat itself.”
Attorney William Gray of Birmingham, who filed the complaint on behalf of the plaintiffs, said Thompson's order continues to cause his clients problems.
"There are cases where Wilson, Robinson and Franklin prepared the cases and would normally have been called by the DA to testify, but the DA did not do that," Gray said. "It has affected Wilson and Robinson's job status now, and is very likely to affect their ability to get any other job dealing with law enforcement."
The complaint focuses on the language of Thompson’s April order. The order dismissed the charge against Bradley after concluding the Sheriff’s Office had improperly obtained search warrants — also issued by Thompson — through false and misleading representations to the court. The warrants authorized October 2016 searches of Bradley’s home and blogger Glenda Lockhart’s Falkville business. After finding the search warrants were invalid, Thompson suppressed the evidence obtained in the searches and dismissed the misdemeanor charge.
The plaintiffs dispute many of the factual findings of Thompson’s order, which was issued after two days of testimony from multiple witnesses, including Franklin, Wilson, Robinson and Powell. They particularly object to language in the order that the four of them “endeavored to hide or cover up their deception and criminal actions under the color of law,” and that Franklin and Robinson “deliberately misled this court for the purposes of obtaining search warrants.”
Thompson is not a defendant in the lawsuit. Neither Bradley nor Glenda Lockhart testified at the April hearing.
"Judge Thompson went far beyond what his authority in the case should have been," Gray said Thursday. "A lot of this was based on the fact he wasn't told the truth."
One of the findings in Thompson’s order was that the Sheriff’s Office provided Daniel Lockhart, the confidential informant they used to secure the search warrants, with keylogger software aimed at covertly finding passwords used by his grandmother to maintain the Morgan County Whistleblower blog. Daniel Lockhart testified he received keylogger software from Powell. At one time he testified he placed the software on all of Lockhart’s computers. In April, under cross-examination, he testified he placed the software only on one of her computers.
Also in April, Powell confirmed he provided the software to Daniel Lockhart.
“At that meeting I gave Daniel Lockhart a keylogger that he requested,” Powell testified in the April hearing. “I showed him how to install it….”
The 44-page complaint filed Wednesday alleges Daniel Lockhart never installed any keylogger software on his grandmother’s computers, but that a forensic analysis suggests she installed the software on some of her own computers.
Thompson was wrong in finding that Daniel Lockhart installed a keylogger on Glenda Lockhart’s computer, the plaintiffs allege. They also allege that even if he had installed keylogger software, it was not used in securing the search warrant. The portions of Thompson’s order referencing the keylogger, according to the plaintiffs, contributed to their loss of employment at the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and have made it difficult to find employment at other law enforcement agencies.
“Their reputations have been damaged,” according to the complaint. “Their careers, including current positions, have been terminated, and the prospect of future employment, have been jeopardized.”
Heatherly said the lawsuit is essentially an attack on Thompson, who is immune from liability for statements in his decisions.
“This is a frivolous lawsuit,” Heatherly said. “Judge Thompson is one of Morgan County’s most respected judges ever. All Judge Thomson did was hear the evidence in the case and make a decision. He made his decision based on what he heard, and frankly everyone in the courtroom heard the same thing.”
The lawsuit was initially assigned to Morgan County Circuit Judge Stephen Brown, who took office Jan. 14. He recused himself from the case Thursday.— firstname.lastname@example.org or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer.