- Ellen Eldridge The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A DeKalb County municipal judge jailed a woman — over a traffic violation.
Decatur Municipal Court Judge Lindsay Jones heard the case of Shari Hurston Tatum, who was released from jail on Thursday after serving one day of a two-day sentence, Channel 2 Action News reported.
Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Shari Tatum demanded a bench trial during her Nov. 8 court hearing, and waived her rights to an attorney and a jury trial at that time.
Tatum told the news station she never expected to find herself in jail over a ticket for blocking an intersection. But that’s what happened when Jones found her guilty of not only the infraction but also of misrepresenting material facts.
“Tatum’s perjury was characterized as misbehavior before the court, and treated as a contempt of court process, for which she was sentenced to two days in jail,” Jones wrote in a letter to The AJC.
Shari Tatum’s husband, Karl Tatum, said he thinks her sentence was punishment for contesting the ticket.
“If you dispute a ticket in the city of Decatur, you’re going to jail,” Karl Tatum said.
Shari Tatum told Jones in court on Wednesday she didn’t block an intersection when a traffic light turned red. But when the judge pulled the video and decided she hadn’t cleared the intersection in time, he retaliated and found her in contempt of court, she said.
Before viewing the video, Jones said he warned both the officer and Shari Tatum of lying under oath.
“Both of them were offered several opportunities to qualify or recant their testimony, which each declined, and made aware that if the court found either of them had committed perjury or falsely testified then they would be subject to a penalty for perjury including a potential jail sanction,” Jones wrote. “Perjury is a felony offense.”
Jones imposed a fine for the traffic infraction of $150, which he said was usual fee.
The woman spent her 20th wedding anniversary in jail, Shari Tatum said.
“It just seems so much over so little,” Karl Tatum said.
Attorney Vickie Sadler said Shari Tatum had a constitutional right to be heard in court and was appalled at the result.
“She had to spend the night with criminals,” Sadler said. “She’s not a criminal.”
Jones said he has not been reprimanded nor has he been suspended, as previously reported.
“In response to news media citing Decatur City Manager Peggy Merris claiming that I resigned my judgeship from the City of Decatur Municipal Court, I have not offered my resignation to Ms. Merris or the City Commission, nor have I spoken with Ms. Merris or the Commissioners as of this date relating to my judgeship,” Jones wrote.