HINDS COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - A Hinds County Judge has been suspended, reprimanded and fined for intervening in cases by approaching investigators to help out accused individuals.
At the order of the Mississippi Supreme Court, Hinds County Justice Court Judge Frank Sutton will be suspended from office for 30 days without pay, publicly reprimanded and fined $500.
The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance made this recommendation after finding by clear and convincing evidence that Judge Sutton’s conduct constituted misconduct in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
COUNT ONE: On January 31, 2018, Investigator Nick Brown with the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department arrested and charged Amanda Howard with prostitution.
Howard’s hearing was scheduled for February 22, 2018 and the day after her arrest, Michael Liddell approached Judge Sutton in court and asked if he could help Liddell with the charges pending against Howard.
Judge Sutton proceeded to call the arresting investigator and asked him if he could “help him out” on the prostitution charge against Howard because he knew her family. Investigator Brown declined. That same day of February 1, 2018, Judge Sutton, without following procedure, remanded Howard’s prostitution charge to the file, subject to recall.
COUNT TWO: On June 26, 2018, Investigator Keith Burnett with the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department arrested Barry Jones and charged him with possession of marijuana. Jones’ mother, who is a parishioner at Fairfield Missionary Baptist Church where Judge Sutton serves as pastor, approached Judge Sutton and asked if he could help her son.
Judge Sutton called Investigator Burnett and inquired about Jones’ arrest and pending charges, and also asked about the weight of the marijuana collected from Jones and whether the charge was a misdemeanor or felony.
Investigator Burnett informed Judge Sutton that 35.2 grams of marijuana had been collected from Jones’s apartment and that he was charging Jones with “possession of a controlled substance felony.” The record does not state what Judge Sutton did with this information.