Hosemann not resigning, he tells governor

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 28, 2002

[03/28/02]Four days before his planned exit, Warren County Court Judge Gerald Hosemann told the governor’s office Wednesday he plans to remain in the office he has held for 16 years.

A signed, one-paragraph letter was hand-delivered to Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s office rescinding what Hosemann had termed his retirement in a longer letter to the governor last week.

A spokesman for Musgrove said Hosemann will be allowed to stay in office. “We’ve consulted with the Attorney General’s Office and unfortunately Judge Hosemann is within his rights to do this,” said John Sewell, aide to Musgrove. Sewell was asked if he meant to say “unfortunately” and he confirmed that he did.

Hinds County prosecutors say they will present the case of injuries sustained in December by Juanita “Nita” Johnston to a grand jury starting on April 15.

Johnston, 48, who was found on Hosemann’s ranch property in Hinds County on Dec. 6, told investigators Dec. 27 that Hosemann caused the injuries that led to surgery and continuing use of a walker. She has since signed a letter and given interviews saying he did not harm her. Johnston has also said that she loves Hosemann and always will.

Paul Kelly Loyacono, her attorney in a civil case against Hosemann, resigned as that case was dropped, saying Johnston exhibited the “classic symptoms of battered woman syndrome.”

Hosemann, after being ordered to appear in a March 18 contempt of court hearing in part for continuing to profess his innocence, announced his retirement on March 19. He said the pending felony aggravated assault charge he faced was interfering with his obligations as a judge.

“After giving the matter careful consideration, I do hereby withdraw my letter of resignation …” Hosemann wrote in Wednesday’s letter to Musgrove.

In a written statement later released to the media, Hosemann said he was staying due to recent developments. In earlier statements, he had referred to his leaving the bench as “retirement,” but called it a resignation in Wednesday’s letters.

Although the statement does not identify any developments, it does indicate concern about who would have succeeded him on the bench. It would have been up to Musgrove to appoint someone to fill the nine months remaining in Hosemann’s current term.

“By withdrawing my resignation I am leveling the field so that anyone that seeks this position will be required to meet the approval of the citizens of Warren County…” Hosemann wrote.

Hosemann has not said if he will seek re-election. He has had no opposition in his four previous bids for county judge starting in 1986.

Musgrove had been expected to make an announcement this week, and at least three local attorneys had contacted his office seeking to be appointed.

“If he was concerned about the voters of Warren County before then I don’t see what has changed,” said William Bost Jr., one of the local attorneys who had been seeking appointment to the $94,000 job.

The other two, Robert C. Arledge, 44, and Warren County Prosecuting Attorney Johnny Price, 55, said they planned to run anyway. In fact, Price’s announcement was scheduled before Hosemann’s retirement letter was revealed.

Bost , 57, said he has not decided if he will run, but called Hosemann’s decision to stay in office after announcing his retirement a “mistake.”

“It’s not in his best interest; it’s not in the best interest of the county and it’s not in the best interest of the court,” Bost said.

Bost, an attorney in Warren County for 32 years, is a former member and chairman of the state Commission on Judicial Performance.

That commission had been asked by Attorney General Mike Moore to remove Hosemann pending resolution of the charge, but declined to do so.

Price, county prosecutor for 12 years, also said Hosemann’s decision to stay on the bench has changed nothing for him.

“I had made my mind up that I was going to run sometime after the first of the year and I’m certainly going to run,” Price said.

A letter from the Warren County Bar Association had asked Musgrove not to select Arledge to succeed Hosemann because, attorneys said, he did not have enough experience practicing in Warren County courts. But Arledge said he still plans to run.

“My desire and fervor to run aggressively for this post has not lessened,” Arledge said.

He is the only candidate to file qualifying papers for the general election. The deadline is May 10.