Hosemann won’t be prosecuted for assault

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 23, 2002

[05/23/02]RAYMOND Judge Gerald Hosemann pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace this morning, ending the assault case against him and clearing his way for a return to the bench and seeking a fifth elected term.

In rapid developments during pretrial motions this morning, Circuit Judge L. Breland Hilburn announced the arrangement from the bench.

District Attorney Robert Taylor said they reached a settlement. He termed it a “compromise” and that there had been an agreement not to comment further. He did say the disturbance of the peace occurred “on the night in question.”

Hilburn ruled Hosemann, 50, would pay a $500 fine and face a six-month suspended jail term. The felony aggravated assault charge, for which he faced trial starting Tuesday and which could have resulted in a prison sentence, was dismissed and cannot be refiled.

Attorney Brian Buckley, who represented Juanita “Nita” Johnston, 48, in her quest to have the felony charges dropped, confirmed the misdemeanor plea arrangement had been made. Hosemann was not in the courtroom at the time the ruling was announced.

The 16-year Warren County Court judge’s ordeal began Dec. 28 when Johnston, his former court reporter, named him as the person who inflicted the injuries with which she was found on his Hinds County property on Dec. 6.

Those injuries were followed by more than a month of hospitalization, abdominal surgery and physical therapy. After her release, Johnston was using a walker.

In March, Johnston said Hosemann was not the person who hurt her and that she may have injured herself. Although she sought to have the charges dropped, Hinds County prosecutors and a grand jury differed, indicting Hosemann on the felony charge that could have ended his legal and judicial career.

Misdemeanors do not disqualify people from serving in public office in Mississippi.

Earlier this week, Hilburn ruled that Johnston’s statement that Hosemann injured her could be related to jurors, but with an admonition that it was not the whole story.

Today, Hilburn was to hear another request from Buckley that her medical records not be allowed as evidence.

Being able to prove to jurors that Johnston was injured was crucial, Taylor said Wednesday. “I’ve got to have the medical records,” he said.

How or whether Hilburn ruled on that motion was not clear this morning.

Representing Johnston, Buckley had filed several motions to limit evidence in the trial, scheduled to start the day after Memorial Day. Hilburn refused to exclude Johnston’s initial accusation of Hosemann, but said jurors would be told not to regard it as the whole story. “The judge said he would let (the accusation) in and give the jury a cautionary instruction,” Taylor said before the decision not to continue prosecuting the case.

Hosemann, who is seeking re-election in a five-candidate field in November, remains suspended from hearing cases by an April 24 order of the state Supreme Court. The court appointed Sam Habeeb, 33, to hear cases in the court during Hosemann’s leave.

That suspension was on the recommendation of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance and continues until the commission and court act on today’s developments.