Hearing set on councilman’s actions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

A municipal court judge from Hayneville has been asked by the Selma mayor’s office to conduct a probable cause hearing today to determine whether or not an arrest warrant should be issued for Selma City Councilman Reid Cain on a charge of harassment in connection with an incident that allegedly happened following a council meeting on Aug. 13.

City Attorney Jimmy Nunn said the request for the hearing was made by Selma Police Officer Evelyn Ghant, who alleges Cain grabbed her arm following a council meeting, something Cain denies doing. Ghant filed a written complaint on the incident, but after a review by the magistrate’s office they did not find probable cause to issue a warrant for Cain’s arrest.

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Nunn said &8220;I’m staying an arm’s length away because I represent the City Council,&8221; but did confirm that the mayor’s office made the appointment of Fred Bell, a municipal court judge for the City of Hayneville to conduct the hearing.

Cain said he was surprised when he received a telephone call from Bell asking him to attend the hearing.

The hearing comes on the heels of Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. issuing a press release saying he would ask city attorney Jimmy Nunn, and others, to intervene in the case after the Selma magistrate’s office declined to issue an arrest warrant for Cain.

Perkins said in the press release that the actions of the magistrate’s office in denying Ghant the right to sign a warrant &8220;concerns me deeply and it represents what seems to be a pattern of questionable judgment and possible abuse of power within the Office of Magistrate.&8221; Perkins claimed a &8220;pattern of denying warrants on individuals based on something other than the alleged facts.&8221;

Perkins reaffirmed that Wednesday by saying &8220;In this particular instance we saw some contradictory rulings from the magistrate’s office and decided, because of all the implications in this incident, to reach outside this jurisdiction and get an independent judge to conduct the hearing.&8221;

As far as jurisdictional issues are concerned Alabama Municipal Code relating to municipal courts says a mayor can &8220;designate a person, licensed to practice law in the state and a qualified elector of the state, not otherwise employed in any capacity by the municipality, to serve as action municipal judge&&8221; when there is a &8220; disqualification of a municipal judge for any reason,&8221; which applies in this case since Cain is a councilman and the council appoints municipal court judges. That was the case earlier this year when a judge was appointed from another municipality to hear Selma City Councilman Johnny Leashore’s case of reckless driving, a charge he was convicted of.

Cain’s attorney, John W. Kelly III, said he or another of Cain’s attorneys would attend the hearing, which is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today in the city courtroom, but said he was somewhat perplexed as to why it was taking place.