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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
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No Mouthing Off in His Courtroom

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (CN) - There was bad courtroom behavior all around in Tennessee, where a boy mouthed off to a judge and a got a smack in the face from a bailiff for it, the boy's mom claims in a federal lawsuit.

Christi Williford's 15-year-old son refused to tell a judge who got him the alcohol, then "made a disrespectful comment to the judge," the mother acknowledges in her federal lawsuit.

But she says that does not excuse bailiff Jim Huskey, who "crossed the courtroom and struck D.W. in the face. The blow to the face was loud enough to be heard throughout the courtroom and left a red mark on D.W.'s face."

Williford and her mouthy child, D.W., sued the Cocke County Sheriff's Department and its employee, Bailiff Huskey, in Federal Court.

Cocke County is east of Knoxville. Its seat is Newport.

In the 6-page lawsuit, Williford says her son appeared before nonparty General Sessions Judge John Bell on April 24, 2013, "as a defendant in juvenile court on a charge related to underage consumption of alcohol."

The complaint continues: "After D.W. entered his [unspecified] plea, Judge Bell demanded that he inform the court where he obtained the alcohol. D.W. refused to give the court this information.

"After Judge Bell repeatedly badgered and threatened D.W. with contempt if he did not reveal the provider of the alcohol, D.W. made a disrespectful comment to the judge.

"Upon hearing D.W.'s comment, defendant Jim Huskey ('Bailiff Huskey') crossed the courtroom and struck D.W. in the face. The blow to the face was loud enough to be heard throughout the courtroom and left a red mark on D.W.'s face.

"At no time before Bailiff Huskey struck D.W. was D.W. violent or did he pose a threat to anyone. There was no need for any use of force by Bailiff Huskey."

The smack in the face left her son "confused, surprised, and angry," the mother says.

"Judge Bell then ordered that D.W. be removed from the court and summoned sheriff's deputies to remove him.

"Four sheriff's deputies then approached D.W., wrestled him to the ground and removed him from the courtroom.

"After Bailiff Huskey struck D.W., Judge Bell did nothing to reprimand Bailiff Huskey for striking a child in his courtroom without need or provocation," Williford says in the lawsuit.

She says she complained to the Sheriff's Department, where a detective told her that he "did not believe any further action was warranted."

So she complained to the District Attorney's Office, which apparently felt the same way as the sheriff.

"On information and belief, no charges have been filed against Bailiff Huskey for assault or battery against D.W.," nor has he even been reprimanded, the mother says.

To top it off, the mom says, "Not only was no action taken against or in regard to Bailiff Huskey in response to the incident, the day after Christi Williford filed a criminal complaint against Bailiff Huskey for striking her son, she learned that D.W. was charged with assaulting the sheriff's deputies who removed him from the courtroom.

"On information and belief, D.W. was charged with assault out of retaliation for Christi Williford's complaint about Bailiff Huskey's battery on her child."

She seeks $250,000 in compensatory damages for assault and battery and excessive force, and punitive damages, plus costs and fees.

She is represented by Rebecca Ketchie (no address given) and Robert Arrington, of Kingsport.

An Internet search failed to turn up any reporting on just what D.W. said to the judge.

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