COVINGTON -- A Newton County Magistrate Court judge ruled Wednesday that there was not enough probable cause to issue a battery warrant against Porterdale City Councilman Robert Foxworth. In fact, Judge John Degonia found that the person listed as the victim in a Porterdale police report had pursued the councilman during an argument and put him on the defensive.
After hearing testimony from complainant Dawn Taylor and her husband, Skylar Taylor, about an argument between the two men at City Hall, Degonia said he found more potential wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Taylor than Foxworth. Degonia said the Taylors' testimony revealed that in at least two instances, Foxworth turned to leave during the argument, but that Mr. Taylor pursued him to continue the argument.
"I'm strongly tempted to charge the gentleman with disorderly conduct," Degonia said during the court proceedings. "You can't just go chasing people down the street. Don't you get that?"
All of the testimony at the warrant hearing was given by the Taylors. Foxworth and two witnesses from City Hall were never called on to speak. Foxworth's attorney, Wendi Armstrong of Conyers, spoke only briefly.
During her testimony Mrs. Taylor told the judge that she, her husband and their 13-year-old son were at City Hall on Sept. 27 to resolve a city tax matter. She said that Foxworth, who is running for re-election to the City Council Post 1 seat, came out of the office area and offered her his card. Mrs. Taylor said she declined the card, and that Foxworth then asked her name and where she lived. She declined to give Foxworth the information, Mrs. Taylor said, to which Foxworth replied that he would "easily find that out."
Mr. Taylor then approached Foxworth, Mrs. Taylor said, asking why Foxworth wanted information about them. She said that Foxworth said he would be able to get information about them while walking the streets to get votes.
Mrs. Taylor said that Mr. Taylor then accused Foxworth of being a bad councilman and that the two men then began to argue, with Foxworth using profanity toward her husband.
Mr. Taylor admitted that he pursued Foxworth as he turned to leave City Hall and that he followed Foxworth out of the front door of City Hall.
"He was threatening me and swearing at me," Mr. Taylor said.
"While you were pursuing him ... ." the judge rejoined.
In several instances during the Taylors' testimony Degonia attempted to clarify that by pursuing Foxworth Mr. Taylor had put the councilman in a defensive position.
"When a cow is being worried by dogs, every once in a while the cow will turn and shake her horns," Degonia said by way of example.
Mr. Taylor also claimed that Foxworth had struck him with the door of his truck as Foxworth was getting in his vehicle in front of City Hall. Degonia found that was also a defensive act on Foxworth's part.
"He went toward his truck ... " said Mr. Taylor in describing the incident.
"Did you follow?" asked Degonia.
"I went toward him," said Mr. Taylor.
"So you are still chasing him," said Degonia.
Mrs. Taylor argued that Foxworth had also threatened them by saying he would "find out" information about them. She claimed that she had letters from residents and witnesses that would show that making threats is Foxworth's "continual behavior."
"That may be his continual behavior, but it is of no interest to me," said Degonia, who added that "I'll find out" is an observation, not a threat.
Following his ruling and as the two parties prepared to leave the Magistrate Courtroom, Degonia said, "All right, you folks leave separately. If you get in a fight out there I'm going to throw you in the can.
"Keep an eye on them," he added to the bailiff.