Attorney for Hosemann demands correction

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 9, 2002

[07/09/02]In letters addressed to Vicksburg Post editor and publisher Pat Cashman and managing editor Charlie Mitchell, a Madison attorney says he represents Warren County Judge Gerald Hosemann and demands a clarification of the record.

Hosemann, 50, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor disturbing the peace charge May 23 after being indicted on a charge of aggravated assault of his former court reporter, Juanita “Nita” Johnston, 48, who was found on his Hinds County property Dec. 6, two days after being reported missing by family members. The assault charge was dismissed after the plea.

Johnston was hospitalized more than a month in Vicksburg and Jackson, underwent surgery and used a walker after her release. Interviewed on Dec. 28, she told Hinds County authorities Hosemann had tied her up and beaten her, but in a March interview with The Vicksburg Post she said Hosemann did not and could not have caused her injuries.

Hosemann, who remains off the bench with pay, said two weeks ago when the Supreme Court extended the term of his replacement, that he would spend the time preparing a lawsuit against The Vicksburg Post and others.

In the identical letters to Cashman and Mitchell, attorney Dennis L. Horn says, “You asserted as true that Ms. Juanita Johnston had been severally (sic) beaten and had signed a sworn statement … that Judge Hoseman (sic) beat her mercilessly and left her for dead. I demand a full and fair correction, apology and retraction of all of the identified statements,” Horn wrote.

Cashman said that articles reporting Johnston’s injuries were based on reliable and identified sources, including the affidavit for Hosemann’s arrest. The reference to Johnston having been “beaten” was made in reliance on those descriptions and its use in the affidavit until Johnston said publicly that she might have injured herself and that she did not know what happened.

The affidavit, allegedly based on statements made by Johnston to law enforcement officials, is signed by Hinds County Investigator Pamela Turner. The affidavit was not signed by Johnston.

Cashman said The Vicksburg Post printed the entire affidavit filed by Turner in seeking the arrest warrant for Hosemann, stating in the preface that the affidavit “is the sworn statement prepared and signed” by Turner. However, in later stories there were references to the affidavit as “the sworn statement” or something similar, Cashman said, “I can see where the wording could have led some readers to believe that we were reporting Johnston had signed a statement. If so, I apologize for leaving that impression and want to specifically correct the record because it was never our intent to report rapid developments in this case without precision.” Cashman said, however, that a review of articles over the six month period of the case showed no instances in which the newspaper specifically reported that Johnston had signed the affidavit that resulted in Hosemann’s arrest. “That wasn’t the case,” he said. “It was the investigator’s sworn statement.”

Former Vicksburg Alderman Sam Habeeb is serving as county and Youth Court judge. This Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance has Hosemann’s case under review. He is a candidate for re-election on Nov. 5. Four others have filed for the post Hosemann has held since 1986. A new, four-year term starts Jan. 1.

Under Mississippi law, defamation suits against broadcasters or newspapers cannot be filed until the potential defendant receives formal notice of information alleged to be false and provided 10 days to respond in print or on the air.