Archived Story

Case leaves unanswered questions

Published 12:05am Sunday, September 4, 2011

Has anyone seen the Mystery Machine lately? If you aren’t familiar with it, you probably didn’t watch many cartoons in the 1970s.

The Mystery Machine was the silent star of the CBS cartoon series, “Scooby-Doo, Where are you!”

The Mystery Machine was the shagged out van that carried Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne around the fictional world where they solved criminal caper after criminal caper.

Invariably, at the end of the episode the captured criminal would be unmasked and announce, “I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!”

Laugh if you will, but the two-dimensional drawings entertained my generation for years and, in the process, set the expectation that the world was a just one.

Eventually, though the process may have scared the heck of the loveable Scooby and Shaggy, good would come out on top of evil and the bad guys would be taken away.

And that’s where the story always ended. It was logical — at least in the mind of this 7-year-old at the time — to think the bad guy was going to be punished, likely locked up so he could never repeat the crime again.

A few decades of the three-dimensional real world, and it’s clear that child-like view of the world isn’t always rooted in the truth, no matter how much we’d like it to be.

Adams County residents learned of what appeared to be a horrible example of just how unfair our judicial system can be last week.

The seemingly inexplicable plea bargain and sentence of a local man originally accused of possessing nearly 1 pound of cocaine with intent to distribute it has citizens scratching their heads and law enforcement officers fuming.

Both reactions are understandable.

Not unlike a generation of Scooby-watchers, law enforcement officers have to believe what they’re doing each day is helping the community. Sure, they need to be paid, but few people would deal with the risks and frustrations of dealing with criminals just for a paycheck.

Most law enforcement officers, or at least the best of them, are motivated by the belief their work matters and their jobs are helping our community. If they lose that faith, the quality of our law enforcement could spiral down quickly.

So when a man who law enforcement officers believe to be a drug dealer is freed with only a fine and probation, something doesn’t add up.

The answers to the twisted equation need to come from Adams County Circuit Court Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders and the DA’s office.

The DA’s office should explain why they agreed to a plea bargain and why they don’t suggest sentences, as they’ve said, leaving it up to the judge to decide.

Hopefully, the judge will explain to the public — and to law enforcement officers — why she felt the accused deserved no time in jail, but only to pay $20,000.

Sanders immediately seized the fine for use by her judicial baby, the Adams County Drug Court. The drug court is a great concept, but it’s seen significant financial cuts at the state level, leaving Sanders a big hole to fill. County supervisors refused to allocate additional funding to the drug court.

It seems Sanders found a quick way to fill it, with funds law enforcement officers believe to be dirty money.

Somehow the whole thing just smells fishy.

The message to other would-be drug dealers is clear: If you get caught, it’s possible that you just have to pay a fine and promise to be good — again.

Adams County deserves better.

Scooby-Doo, Where are you!

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

  • https://plus.google.com/101785462960818953428/posts Wilson Phillips

    I was always under the impression that the fines paid went into the county’s general fund. I guess I was wrong all this time. How does a judge manage to simply seize $20,000 and use it any way she chooses? This does not sound right. As I said in another thread, “It’s easy to see where her loyalties and priorities lie.” She has dollar signs in her eyes. Can the County refuse to let her seize the money? Who has the ultimate say so? These are legitimate questions. Can we please get some answers on them?

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you Kevin, someone should answer our questions. As usual, you won’t get any answers. The local elected officials think they are above the law and can do anything they please. “Let ‘em loose Lillie” has convinced herself that as a judge she can make the law whatever she wants it to be. The DA appears to be a wimp that just lets the drug dealers and judges like Blackmon roll over him. Keep asking the questions Kevin.

  • Anonymous

    I just figured out the answers.  Her letting the major players free is what keeps the Drug Court going. No dealers, no drugs, no one to attend drug court.  That would result in a reduction of her “baby” and any funds through that department. Make sense?

  • Anonymous

    Train of thought derailed. Scoopy-Doo: a real dog in a fictional world. There’a metaphor hiding in here somewhere.

    More coffee, Irma!  

  • Anonymous

    Adams County deserves better.  So what’s the next step Scooby? Seriously 

  • Anonymous

    Cooper answered the question quite nicely. Now he wants Diamond Lil to confirm it.

  • Anonymous

    The right way, the wrong way, and the Natchez way.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    I feel that Sheriff Mayfield knows what to do in this situation and He’s not only going thru the state but federal. I still think he should put Sanders office(court room ) in the restroom in the court house. This looks bad on the DA and his staff as well for it makes you think of how long this is been going on as that of the countyman worker embezzelment of the A/C and how long this has been going on an others that are envolved??!!
    ND needs to get Sanders for a interveiw on why she did as she did on this case and about the 20,000 dollars also question the DA and staff for the smell is getting a bit rank??!!

  • Anonymous

    Kevin, go to the Judicial Performance Commission Mississippi and look at the judicial conduct canons.  One of these talks about ruling without fear of public outcry and other areas talk about not making public statements.  You will never hear any explanation from her.  The Judicial Performance Commission has the power to review the case and outcome and whether she violated any law and then can recommend removal from office, admonishment, or retirement.  There is no recall option for local officials in MS.  Since she has eyes and should recognize this article has generated almost twice the amount of comments of previous articles, perhaps she could consider voluntarily retiring and save the efforts since only about 1% of those comments were in her support.  Whether this comes to closure soon or not, if she is still around next election, she will be retired involuntarily.

  • Anonymous

    I would like to see the ND show which judge decisioned each case.  Some of us may not remember which judge is hearing in which court, let’s put their names at the bottom of each and every court decision.  Come election day we will be able to make informed decisions.  Judge Sanders is a huge part of the problem in Natchez.  She is responsible for letting most of the thugs and druggies walk the street.  She puts our lives and property at risk with every case she dismisses or puts on probation.  Sending some of these people to jail might even save their lives, give them a good reason to straighten up; instead they are rewarded for their bad behavior.  All she worries about is getting re-elected.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    Lets keep the heat on Sanders till she is in jail herself!!!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Kevin. We can always rest assured you are on the ball and in support of the bloggers who are terribly worried about issues that affect our community such as this. This article alone proves that point but I know you will follow it up until it’s resolved. The other day a friend of mine made the remark that we had someone now in charge of the paper that could not be intiminated. I had to wholeheartly agree. Keep up the good work for Natchez/Adams county.  

  • Anonymous

    Ironically, other county level elected positions have separate bank accounts for their departments and I presume remit funds to the county occasionally, perhaps on a schedule.  If you remember the Binky Vines saga, he was “borrowing” funds from those accounts for his personal use with an IOU in the hat.  Recently, the Warren County Circuit Clerk was shown in a state audit to owe around $300,000 over a period of 4-5 years to the county.  This practice still stands and, aside from the integrity that our current Circuit Clerk has bestowed back into that office, the potential remains for his eventual successor to plunder the money.  I think the same situation exists in Chancery, Justice Court, Tax Collector, and the Sheriff’s office per their website collects bail funds either in cash or property which in case of bond forfeiture, may or may not be making its way back to the county bank account.  The BOS needs to take action to eliminate these possibilities for fraud, embezzlement, or theft once and for all.

    I would assume that all “normal” fine collections from Sanders’ court goes into the Circuit Clerk bank accounts, and agree that she should have NO authority to designate where those funds are to be deposited.  It is in order for ND to do a story on these issues and really bring to light the problems with county finances.  Surpluses should be returned to the county and not held for contingency budget as the County Administrator pointed to in recent budget discussions for funding the ACSO budget increase recommendation.