Judge Price cites probable cause in charging driver

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 9, 2004

[3/9/04] A Warren County parole officer and the father of a deputy run down by a car last month testified Monday that he had no previous conflicts with the driver of the car that struck his son.

Jack Hollingsworth, the parole officer for Ronald Vaughn, 23, spoke in Warren County Court as Judge Johnny Price found there was probable cause to bring charges but delayed a ruling on bond.

Vaughn has been held without bond since Feb. 9, charged with intentionally running down Warren County Deputy Sheriff Mike Hollingsworth who was directing traffic at a funeral procession on U.S. 80.

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Vaughn faces up to 30 years in prison on the charge of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, but his lawyer, Jackson attorney Chokwe Lumumba, said the wreck that left Deputy Hollingsworth in a coma for two weeks was an accident.

“I’m not even sure a crime has been committed here,” Lumumba said.

Vaughn made no comments and did not testify during the 2 1/2-hour hearing.

Jack Hollingsworth, a five-year parole officer for the State of Mississippi Department of Corrections, was the first to testify. He said he has been Vaughn’s parole officer on his conviction for shooting into an occupied dwelling.

Hollingsworth also said his son’s condition has improved and that he took issue with Lumumba’s claim of an accident.

“I call it an incident’ because it wasn’t an accident,” Jack Hollingsworth said.

A month after being injured, Mike Hollingsworth has been moved from University Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit to the Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson. On Monday, he was to be placed on a treadmill in an attempt to teach him to walk again.

Jack Hollingsworth said his son is fully conscious and has said “yes” and “no,” on occasion, but otherwise has not spoken. Mike Hollingsworth, 38, suffers from severe brain trauma and also still has trouble moving his right arm, his father said.

Also present for Monday’s hearing was Mike Hollingsworth’s wife, Debbie, who did not testify.

Others to testify were Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace, Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol SSgt. Ray Steed and two witnesses at the funeral where Mike Hollingsworth was directing traffic. One of those witnesses, funeral director Doug Huskey, said Vaughn showed no concern after running over the deputy.

“I said, You just killed a man,’ and he said, …. him,'” Huskey said.

Lumumba argued that Huskey couldn’t be certain about what Vaughn said because he was standing 10 to 15 yards away and that it did not indicate anything about Vaughn’s state of mind.

Lumumba also said Vaughn should be allowed bond because Mike Hollingsworth’s condition is no longer life-threatening. Vaughn had been held under a state statute that allows a suspect to be held until the extent of a victim’s injuries is determined, but under Mississippi law, defendants are entitled to bond in most cases except capital crimes.

“I tend to agree with Mr. Lumumba,” Price said. “I would like the state to show me why this defendant should be denied bond.”

Price gave the prosecutor’s office until noon Wednesday to present affidavits supporting the motion to deny bond.

“If you’ve got a constitutional or statutory reason why this defendant should be denied bond you need to get it to me,” Price said.

Warren County Prosecutor Ricky Johnson said Vaughn showed a disregard for human life when he sped up to pass the funeral procession from Glenwood Funeral Home to Green Acres Memorial Park.

“When he crossed that yellow line and took off to pass that procession he showed a reckless regard, and he should be held accountable,” Johnson said.

Lumumba is the founder and chairman of the New Afrikan People’s Organization and gained national notoriety from defending the late rapper Tupac Shakur. He also defended Elliot Culp, who was found guilty in 2001 in Holmes County of the kidnapping, armed robbery and assault of Texas runaways and the rape of one.

The incident drew public criticism after it was reported that Vaughn was on probation, but had been released on bond in September after being charged with armed robbery.

Warren County Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick signed an order Feb. 10 ordering Vaughn be held on probation violation, but no hearing has been held on those charges. Price said he wasn’t clear if the law allowed him to set bond for Vaughn over Patrick’s order.

Monday’s ruling means the charges against Vaughn will go before a Warren County grand jury and if indicted, could go to trial. The next grand jury session is scheduled for May.