Robertson pleads not guilty

1STOCK COURT NEWS Gavel On FlagHOUSTON – Chickasaw County Justice Court Judge Garry Turner accepted four not guilty pleas from Okolona Assistant Police Chief Romona Robertson Thursday and will now set a court date.

Robertson, who did not appear in Justice Court, was represented by her attorney Ed Lancaster who entered the not guilty pleas to DUI, speeding, failure to comply with a law enforcement officer and possession of a controlled substance.

Lancaster also asked for a jury trial on the misdemeanor charges.

Turner said Thursday he was recusing himself from the case and would ask Circuit Court Judge Andrew Howorth to appoint a special magistrate to hear the case.

During a probable cause hearing in February, Circuit Court Judge Andrew Howorth said, due to the political nature of the case, Chickasaw County Justice Court Judges may recuse themselves from hearing the investigation, at which point he would name a Special Justice Court Judge to the case.

In Justice Court cases the judge typically hears evidence and rules on the innocence or guilt of the person involved. Attorney’s can request a jury trial in Justice Court with the jury deciding the guilt or innocence and the judge imposing the sentence.

Turner said the Chickasaw County Circuit Clerk would be asked to draw a pool of between 75 to 100 names with six jurors to be selected by the court.

Turner said all six jurors must vote to convict or acquit to render a verdict. He said should a second jury be unable to render a verdict, the case would be dismissed.

The charges against Robertson were filed in District 1 Justice Court on Feb. 5, by Mississippi Highway Patrolman James Burrow. Burrow and Trooper Cindy Searcy stopped Robertson on Dec. 7, on Highway 32 just east of its intersection with Highway 15.

If Robertson had entered a guilty plea Thursday on all four counts, she could have faced fines of $1,090 and court costs of $809.50. She also could have been suspended or fired from the Okolona Police Department.

Since the case involves charges being brought against a law enforcement officer, it is being prosecuted by Chickasaw County District Attorney Ben Creekmore and Chickasaw County Prosecuting Attorney Elizabeth Fox Ausbern.

Two videos shot from Burrow’s dashboard camera were shown at the Feb. 4  probable cause hearing. Another video shot by Trooper Searcy at Trace Regional Hospital was also shown. Mention was made of a fourth video showing Robertson’s action and demeanor as she was being transported to the hospital by Searcy.

Burrow and Searcy said Robertson initially asked to take a blood test to prove she was not under the influence. Both officers said Robertson refused the test when they took her to the hospital.

Lancaster would not comment Thursday on what the videos did or didn’t show.

Burrow said he clocked Robertson driving a white Okolona Police Department Challenger at 77 miles-an-hour in a 55 zone and watched her cross the centerline several times. Searcy said she found 18 pills, later determined to be hydrocodone in an unmarked pill bottle in the driver’s door pocket of the patrol car.

Both Searcy and Burrow said they knew Robertson, she appeared to be under the influence and failed to follow their commands and directions during the traffic stop.

Robertson, the No. 2 police officer in Okolona, appeared at the probable cause hearing in uniform.

A dispatcher at the Okolona Police Department said Robertson was working Monday morning.

Lancaster said he was awaiting a court date so “she (Robertson) will be able to explain some things.” Lancaster would not comment on details of the case.

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