If convicted, Hosemann faces up to 20 years in prison

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 31, 2001

[12/30/01]Warren County Judge Gerald Hosemann faces a maximum sentence of 20 years and the loss of his job if convicted of aggravated assault for the beating of Juanita “Nita” Johnston, his former court reporter.

If acquitted, however, Hosemann could keep his post as county judge, which he has held since 1986.

Hosemann was charged Friday afternoon with beating, kicking and stomping Johnston, who was found nearly a month ago on ranching and hunting property Hosemann owns in Hinds County.

Hosemann’s neighbors reported seeing him fighting with Johnston at his Utica home on Dec. 4, the day her family reported her missing. Two days later, Hosemann and neighbor Billy Leist found Johnston about 10 feet behind a mobile home on the Hinds County property.

If Hosemann is convicted of a felony, Attorney General Mike Moore would immediately file a petition in Hinds County circuit court, at which point the court would issue an order removing Hosemann from office, according to state election law.

Warren County District Attorney Gil Martin, whose office is not involved in the Hosemann case, on Saturday explained how a sentence could be determined if the judge is convicted.

“There is no typical sentence” for an aggravated assault conviction, he said.

Aggravated assault sentences range from suspended time to the maximum sentence of 20 years, Martin said.

“It depends largely on what the victim’s attitude is,” he said.

Johnston, who alleges in an affidavit filed with the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department that Hosemann is responsible for her injuries, was transferred Friday to University Medical Center in Jackson after being treated at ParkView Regional Medical Center’s critical care unit since Dec. 6.

Paul Kelly Loyacono, a Vicksburg attorney and spokesman for Johnston’s family, said Friday that Johnston had been moved to Jackson to receive special neurological care.

Though Johnston is no longer on a respirator and is no longer undergoing daily dialysis for kidney injuries, there is concern that she may not walk again, Loyacono said.

Johnston’s family had hired guards to watch her around the clock at ParkView, but it was not known if she is being guarded in Jackson.

The family has not made a statement regarding Hosemann’s arrest, and Loyacono could not be reached Saturday for comment.

Hosemann, 49, was being held at the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond without bond pending a hearing before Hinds County Judge Bobby DeLaughter on Monday. The preliminary hearing could be at the Hinds County Courthouse in Raymond, or DeLaughter could order Hosemann moved to the county’s other courthouse, in Jackson, said Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin.

If convicted of a felony, Hosemann would be removed from office and the governor would appoint a replacement, according to state election law.

If tried and acquitted, Hosemann could remain on the bench unless he resigns or is met with a “special request for removal” by Warren County voters.

State election law states that the governor can remove any elected official from office, but to do so to a county judge is a tricky procedure.

If county voters want to remove an elected judge, they must first muster 51 percent of eligible voters to sign a petition stating their grievance against the judge.

The petition must then be verified by the governor and election officials. The governor then would appoint a removal council of three chancery court judges, to decide if just cause exists for a removal vote.

If the removal council decides a removal vote is warranted, then 51 percent of eligible voters must vote against the judge for a removal.

If all of this is accomplished, then the judge would be removed and a replacement would be named by the governor and a special election would be held within 60 days to elect a new judge, according to state election law.

At the time of the 2000 presidential election, 31,370 people were registered to vote in Warren County. Of those, 18,371, or 59 percent, cast ballots.