Hosemann: Johnston’s statements vindicate him

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 12, 2002

[03/12/02]Warren County Judge Gerald Hosemann says statements by the former court reporter he’s accused of injuring supports his contention that he is innocent.

“Even without the letter, the charges should have been dropped a long time ago,” he said.

Hosemann this morning also criticized the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department and Hinds District Attorney’s Office for his arrest.

Hosemann has been charged with felony aggravated assault in the beating of Juanita “Nita” Johnston, 48, who was found severely injured on his Hinds County property in December.

In a sworn statement prepared by a Hinds County Sheriff’s Department investigator, Johnston identified Hosemann, 50, as her attacker. But in a letter sent to his attorney last week, she said she realized the judge had nothing to do with her injuries.

Hosemann said today that while he wasn’t surprised by Johnston’s statements, he had not expected it to take so long.

While Hinds County Judge Bobby DeLaughter has ordered parties not to comment on the case, Hosemann said that as the defendant he feels it is his constitutional right to speak out.

“I have that absolute right,” he said. “Not as a judge or a lawyer but as a wrongfully accused defendant, to deny me a forum which they did to present my innocence and then, to tell me to be quiet that is wrong.”

Johnston, who said she had a long-term relationship with Hosemann until the injuries, was found on Hosemann’s Puckett Road property in Hinds County on Dec. 6. She had last been seen with the judge two days earlier.

She spent more than a month in Vicksburg and Jackson hospitals for injuries to her lower abdomen and back. She continues to rely on a walker and will undergo physical therapy to help restore feeling to her feet.

Despite her statements, sent to Hosemann’s attorney Thursday, the state district attorney’s office can proceed with the charges against Hosemann, who was arrested on Dec. 28 and released on bond Dec. 29.

Hinds County District Attorney Faye Peterson did not return phone calls Monday, and the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department has declined comment, citing Judge DeLaughter’s order.

Hosemann said he had heard nothing from Hinds County authorities since Johnson’s letter and is critical of the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department. “We don’t do business in Warren County like they do in Hinds County,” he said.

“They’ve got egg all over their face the sheriff, the DA,” Hosemann said. “I was prematurely arrested. This could not happen in Warren County. I’m shocked by what I know now.

“I was arrested initially on nothing. The affidavit does not have one bit of truth in it.”

Hosemann said that forensic pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne “knows more about her medical condition.” Hosemann had requested Hayne’s testimony at a hearing to challenge his arrest warrant, stating in court documents that Hayne “is prepared to testify that none of her injuries were life threatening, but were superficial.”

During a brief hearing Feb. 20, Judge DeLaughter recused himself from the case, citing the fact that he had signed the arrest warrant. Hinds’ other two county judges also have recused themselves, and the state Supreme Court is expected to appoint a judge so the arrest warrant review can go forward.

“I do find it disheartening,” Hosemann said. “I realize that some of this impugns the bench that I serve. They should recognize this and clear my name, clear my reputation and clear my bench,” he said.

Attorney General Mike Moore has called for Hosemann’s removal from the bench until the assault charge is resolved. The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance conducted an inquiry into Hosemann’s removal but voted against it in February.

Hosemann said he has not spoken with Johnston since the incident. “I have a bond restriction to keep 500 feet from her,” he said.

Johnston said she has not talked to Hosemann since the incident and would not continue a relationship with him.

She said she did not know if she would proceed with a $75,000 civil suit against him.