Judge apologizes for statements, again proclaims his innocence

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 14, 2002

[03/14/02]Warren County Judge Gerald Hosemann has apologized for statements to the media that could violate a court-imposed gag order.

In a statement issued by his attorney, William Kirksey of Jackson, Hosemann said, “I realize now that my remarks to the media … were stated in haste and without appropriate reflection.”

Also in the statement released Wednesday, Hosemann maintains he did not injure his former court reporter, saying “those charges were without merit on Dec. 28, 2001, and are without merit today.”

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Hosemann, 50, was arrested Dec. 28 for felony aggravated assault in the beating of Juanita “Nita” Johnston, 48, who was found injured on his Hinds County property Dec. 6.

She was last seen arguing with Hosemann two days before and has said the two had a long-term relationship despite Hosemann’s recent marriage.

She spent more than a month in Vicksburg and Jackson hospitals for treatment for her injuries, and identified Hosemann as her attacker in a sworn statement prepared by a Hinds County Sheriff’s Department investigator.

Last week, in a letter sent to Hosemann’s attorney, Johnston recanted her story and said Hosemann was not responsible for her injuries. She did not offer an alternative explanation.

In response to Johnston’s letter, Hosemann made public comments Monday and Tuesday to the media, maintaining his innocence and criticizing Hinds County authorities, saying “they’ve got egg all over their face the sheriff, the DA.”

Hinds County Judge Bobby DeLaughter, who issued Hosemann’s arrest warrant, has called a hearing for Monday to review those statements, which could violate a gag order that DeLaughter issued last month. That hearing will go on despite Hosemann’s statement, DeLaughter said this morning.

On Feb. 19, DeLaughter ordered all parties in the case to refrain from public comment in order to minimize pretrial publicity.

On Feb. 27, Hosemann was again reminded DeLaughter not to offer his opinions after Hosemann told media in DeLaughter’s courtroom that the charges were “a hoax.”

Those comments followed a brief hearing Feb. 20 in which DeLaughter recused himself from a defense request to review his own arrest warrant.

Hosemann argues it is his constitutional right to speak about the case.

“I have that absolute right,” he said Tuesday.

Yet in the statement issued Wednesday, Hosemann said he has “been under extreme stress and pressure due to the criminal charges that were lodged against me” and that “such statements were inappropriate under the circumstances.”

Also Wednesday, the state Supreme Court appointed a former circuit court judge to hear the $75,000 civil suit Johnston has filed against Hosemann.

The suit contends Hosemann failed to pay Johnston $20,000 for her share of the sale of property and return furniture and a horse.

Hosemann recused himself from the case, which was filed in Warren County Court his own court.

Judge John T. Kitchens, a former circuit judge for Madison and Rankin counties, will hear the case as a special judge, an order signed Wednesday by Supreme Court Chief Justice Ed Pittman said.

Kitchens, now in private law practice in Jackson, was elected for two terms as district attorney for the district that includes Madison and Rankin counties before being elected circuit judge.

Johnston’s civil complaint was filed Feb. 21 through her attorney, Paul Kelly Loyacono of Vicksburg. After recanting her statement that Hosemann injured her, Johnston said she was unsure if she would continue her civil suit.

Hosemann has denied the allegations.