After being cursed at by an inmate at the close of a hearing, a Crawford County judge followed the man out into the hallway and assaulted him, according to ethics charges recently filed by the state’s judicial watchdog agency.
The charges were brought against Chief Magistrate Cary Hays III, who was sworn into office in January 2017. The inmate, whose name was not disclosed, was both handcuffed and shackled at his feet when he was assaulted, said the complaint, filed by the investigative panel of the Judicial Qualifications Commission.
“I did not injure the guy in any way,” Hays told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday.
“The inmate continued to curse me over and over and over and over again,” the judge said. “At some point, I’d just heard enough of it.”
On Dec. 18, 2020, Hays presided over a first appearance hearing for a man recently taken into custody. When Hays set a bond the man didn’t like, the man began cursing at Hays, the complaint said.
Hays and the inmate both got into it verbally and when the man was being taken out into a hallway, he turned and cursed at Hays again. Hays then followed the man out into the hallway, grabbed him and pushed him into and up against the wall, the complaint said.
Before Hays assaulted the man, the inmate never physically threatened the judge or tried to escape, the complaint said. It added that the GBI has an open and ongoing criminal investigation against Hays.
The complaint noted that Hays acknowledged to a Judicial Qualifications Commission investigator that he followed the inmate into the hallway, grabbed him and pushed him up against the wall. It also said the entire incident was captured on video by a security camera.
“The inmate continued to curse me over and over and over and over again. … At some point, I'd just heard enough of it."
- Crawford County Chief Magistrate Cary Hays III
Hays told the AJC that he knew from the get-go there were security cameras that would record what happened. What he did not know was that the camera did not record what was being said.
“I only wish the commission could have heard it,” Hays said. “I think they would have viewed this differently.”
Credit: Rebecca Breyer
Credit: Rebecca Breyer
Chuck Boring, director of the watchdog agency, said, “The formal charging document speaks for itself.”
The case now goes before the JQC’s hearing panel, which will decide whether to recommend to the Georgia Supreme Court if any punishment should be imposed against Hays. Potential punishment ranges from a reprimand to removal from office.