Judge is indicted after newspaper probe; charges involve jailed child-seat violator, lawyer contempt
A Tennessee judge has been indicted on four counts of official misconduct after a newspaper investigation uncovered allegations that she had lied about ordering jailers to upgrade a charge against a woman accused of failing to put her children in car seats or seat belts.
The judge, Amanda Sammons of Campbell County, was previously in the news for ordering the arrest of defendants who arrived after she closed her courtroom for docket call. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports on the Wednesday indictment and its own findings in the cases cited in the indictment.
The indictment accuses Sammons of lying and misusing her authority in the seat-belt case, and in another previous case involving the lawyer who stepped in to represent the seat-belt defendant. The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct temporarily suspended Sammons after she was charged on Wednesday.
Sammons’ lawyer, Wade Davies, told the News Sentinel in a statement that Sammons “is prepared to show she has not committed any offense.” He added that he hoped to try the case quickly “so that she can go back to carrying out the job the people of Campbell County elected her to do.”
The mom in the child-seat case was arrested on a charge of child neglect after an officer reported she had failed to restrain a small child in the back seat of her car and to place two others in seat belts. A prior News Sentinel article says the newspaper obtained records showing Sammons ordered the charge upgraded to aggravated child abuse without informing the jailed mom, prosecutors or police. Sammons later said she didn’t order the change but had increased the mom’s bond after confusing the case with another. A lawyer for the jailers said they intended to testify Sammons was lying.
In the second case, Sammons issued a show-cause contempt order against lawyer Kristie Anderson after she didn’t appear for a hearing in a divorce case, apparently because she was unaware of it, according to later court testimony.
Sammons said in court that the lawyer had been disrespectful, had shown contempt and had yelled at court personnel, but Sammons didn’t include those allegations in a show-cause order, according to the News Sentinel. Sammons also claimed the opposing lawyer had sought the contempt order, but the lawyer denied it in an interview with the newspaper and in court. Sammons later conceded she had initiated the contempt action, according to the News Sentinel.