Judge accused of assaulting cursing defendant wishes recording of incident had audio

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A Georgia judge is facing an ethics complaint that accuses him of grabbing and pushing a shackled inmate who cursed at him.

Chief Magistrate Cary Hays III of Crawford County, Georgia, “physically assaulted an inmate while the inmate was handcuffed, shackled at the feet, and accompanied by a law enforcement officer,” the May 7 ethics complaint alleges.

The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission filed the ethics complaint Friday after it reviewed the video and spoke with witnesses.

The incident happened in December 2020. According to the complaint, the inmate was unhappy with Hays’ decision regarding bond during a first-appearance hearing. The inmate began cursing at Hays and continued to do so as he was led out of the conference room where the hearing took place.

“As the inmate was being led out of the conference room, Judge Hays verbally engaged the inmate,” the complaint said.

The inmate then turned and cursed at Hays again. Hays followed the inmate into the hallway and approached him.

“Judge Hays then, while verbally engaged with the inmate, grabbed the inmate and pushed him into and up against a wall in the hallway,” the complaint said. “At no time before Judge Hays assaulted the inmate did the inmate physically threaten Judge Hays, attempt to escape or flee from custody, or threaten anyone whatsoever.”

Hays released the inmate after pushing him into the wall but “continued to engage in a verbal confrontation,” the ethics complaint said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covered the complaint and spoke with Hays, who first took office in January 2017.

“I did not injure the guy in any way,” Hays told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“The inmate continued to curse me over and over and over and over again,” Hays said. “At some point, I’d just heard enough of it.”

Hays said he knew that the incident was being recorded on a security camera, but he wished there was also audio.

“I only wish the commission could have heard it,” Hays told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think they would have viewed this differently.”

The complaint alleges violations of ethics provisions that require judges to respect and comply with the law; to act in a way that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary; and to be patient, dignified and courteous.

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