COVINGTON - Jay's Recycling owner James Sharpshair was immediately taken into custody Monday afternoon after Superior Court Judge Eugene Benton found him in contempt of court for violating a court order to shut down operations.
Sharpshair was fined $500 and sentenced to 20 days in the Newton County Detention Center.
Benton said his initial order, handed down in August, clearly stated that Sharpshair was to cease and desist operations of his business, located in a residentially zoned area. But despite that, Sharpshair continued to store metal bins and move material onto and off the property, Benton said.
"We're taking it under advisement right now as far as whether to appeal. I think to find him in contempt of court and put him in jail for 20 days is a gross misuse of justice," said Sharpshair's attorney, Simon Bloom.
"Because of a neighborhood squabble, a man has been deprived of his freedom," he added.
In August, Benton granted Newton County an injunction against Sharpshair, and the late K.W. Maloney, the property owner, following complaints from neighbors, who said loud noise generated by machinery on the property, along with accompanying dust and fumes, was disrupting their quiet neighborhood.
The order prohibited the defendants from "any and all recycling, scrap metal or junkyard business including but not limited to purchasing, storing, crushing, piling, processing and transporting scrap metals, old cars, appliances and other commodities."
But according to a motion for contempt filed by Newton County, since September heavy trucks have been spotted entering and exiting the property, at times loading and unloading large metal bins, and in October, scrap metal was processed, moved and sorted on the property.
Bloom said the order was "unclear," "too broad" and "impossible" to follow.
"In order to comply with the prohibition against storing scrap metal on the property, they must transport the scrap metal. Either way, they would be violating the order," Bloom said.
He said Sharpshair was complying "with a layman's understanding of that order."
Meanwhile, neighbors said they just want the property cleaned up.
"We were very well satisfied with the ruling," said Paul Autry, whose property is adjacent to Jay's Recycling. "We just want to wait and see what's going to happen from here."
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.