COVINGTON -- Commissioner J.C. Henderson is alleging a conflict of interest in the involvement of the Newton County District Attorney's Office in a Juvenile Court case that resulted in his being sentenced to 80 hours of jail time for contempt of court.
Henderson said attorneys with the District Attorney's Office were present in the courtroom and the office did not recuse itself as it had previously when Henderson faced charges of battery under the Family Violence Act, a misdemeanor, after an alleged family fight. The battery charge was ultimately dropped. At the time, the DA's Office asked the Attorney General's Office to appoint a special prosecutor for the case to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, since the Board of Commissioners approves the budget for the office.
"If it was a conflict then, why wasn't it a conflict this time?" Henderson said, noting that a Juvenile Court judge from Rockdale County was called in to preside over the case.
District Attorney Layla Zon said there was no conflict in this instance.
"I checked with the Prosecuting Attorney's Council and with the Attorney General's Office on this issue in Juvenile Court and was advised that there is no legal conflict of interest and was discouraged from recusing," Zon said, adding that the Prosecuting Attorney's Council and the Attorney General's Office discourage recusal where there is no conflict of interest because it ties up the resources of another DA in another circuit.
"Similarly, several years prior, Mr. Henderson was the victim of theft and this office prosecuted the theft case and there was no disqualification present in that case. Simply being a county commissioner does not create a conflict," she said.
Henderson said he does not intend to file any type of complaint because it would be a waste of county money and resources for the DA's Office to defend itself.
"I love this county. I love Newton County. This is my home. I want to make it better for folks," he said.
The contempt of court charge stems from Henderson not taking one of his sons to a court-mandated juvenile program. The matter dates back to 2010. Henderson along with his wife, Sandy, was sentenced for contempt of court by Rockdale County Juvenile Court Judge William Schneider.
Henderson told the Citizen he had been serving his sentence in 10-hour increments, as ordered by the court, for "quite a while;" however, according to Capt. Sammy Banks, detention center administrator with the Newton County Sheriff's Office, Henderson served his first 10-hour stint on April 10. His second will be May 8. Asked why Henderson is just now beginning to serve a sentence that was handed down in 2010, Banks said he believes there was an appeal by Henderson of the original sentence that took a while to resolve but was ultimately lost.
Henderson has been ordered to serve his time on the second Tuesday of each month, Banks said. His wife is to serve on the third Tuesday of the month. Henderson is required by court order to arrive no later than 7 p.m. and is released 10 hours after he arrives.
Banks said neither Henderson nor his wife is receiving any special treatment.
"He is reporting on time and not complaining and is not being shown any special favors or conditions," Banks said.
Henderson is processed the same way as other inmates and is required to wear a uniform, according to Banks. The location where Henderson serves his time "depends on what we've got available," Banks said, noting that the jail is at capacity. Henderson could be housed in a holding cell in the intake area, in the medical ward or with the general population, he said.
On April 10, Banks said Henderson was housed in the medical ward because the intake area was full.
"I don't want to be treated differently from anybody else," Henderson said.