Skipper mistakenly misses own hearing

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 30, 2005

vidalia &8212; All of the players in the James Skipper saga returned to court Thursday, with the exception of James Skipper.

Judge John Joyce, who is hearing Skipper&8217;s motion to have Louisiana Seventh Circuit Judge Leo Boothe recused from future proceedings, postponed the day&8217;s testimony due to an error on the part of the Louisiana Department of Corrections that left the court without Skipper.

At the conclusion of the Nov. 30 testimony, Joyce ordered the guards in charge of transporting Skipper back to Elayn Hunt Correctional Facility, in St. Gabriel, to return him for this morning&8217;s continuation.

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He included a copy of the minutes from the day&8217;s proceedings, which included the instructions, in lieu of sending a written order.

A call to Hunt revealed Skipper was not en route, forcing postponement.

&8220;They informed me it would take three and a half to four hours to get him ready and shipped over here, and I don&8217;t want to make all of you sit around and waste your time,&8221; Joyce told those who had been subpoenaed to testify or had come to watch.

Joyce set the next date for Feb. 16 and 17, announcing the clerk would send an order to direct the detention facility to have Skipper in court and ready to spend the night in an effort to wrap up the hearing.

Skipper has a degree in criminal justice and is serving as his own attorney. Indigent defender Jack F. Owens Jr. of Harrisonburg is serving as an advisor. Owens said Skipper was not able to comment.

Skipper has subpoenaed politicians, preachers and members of the district attorney and sheriff&8217;s departments in an effort to prove Boothe, who sentenced him to 80 years in prison, is biased against him and should not hear a motion to reconsider his sentence.

Boothe has once altered the sentence to have each of the four counts on which Skipper was convicted run concurrently, cutting the time to 25 years.

Skipper is trying to prove that a series of back-room meetings in early 2002 and then late 2003 led to an informal agreement that Skipper would help certain officials during campaigns in exchange for sentencing leniency from Boothe.

He claims that he held up his end of the deal but others reneged.