No charge against judge | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No charge against judge

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2008 at 3:18 PM

Pulaski Prosecutor Larry Jegley has closed an investigation without filing charges against Supreme Court Justice Jim Gunter. Gunter's sister had filed a complaint with the Hempstead County sheriff's office that he had struck her during a family dispute in 2007. The case was turned over to a special prosecutor because the local prosecutor recused. Gunter's sister, who lives in Florida, was reluctant to press the case because their elderly father is still alive and didn't want the case pursued.

The lack of prosecution doesn't mean there cannot be action against Gunter by the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission. It is likely, based on general practice, that it has been awaiting completion of the criminal investigation before deciding its next move. It could investigate on the strength of the criminal complaint filed at Hope even if Gunter's sister wasn't willing to co-operate.

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The case file included the photograph of the sister, Janet Gibson, when she filed the complaint. She said Gunter had hit her hard enough to knock her into a dresser. Another photo showed a bruise on her back.

Gunter didn't talk to authorities, but according to a letter from Gibson to Jegley, he contended their contact during an argument in the family home was an  "accident brought on by provocation on my part." He claimed, she said, that he had a "reflex action" to her touching him. In a letter Aug. 5, she wrote, "I cannot understand his new story of a 'reflex action' to validate that back-handed fist to my face."

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In a letter Sept. 27, 2007, Gibson had written to Jegley saying she wanted the case dropped because "Jim and I have already worked out our differences and come to a peaceful, Christian understanding." But she later indicated to Jegley's office that she was unhappy with statements her brother had made since the incident.

That prompted a letter from Jegley to Gibson  Aug. 13, 2008, notifying her that he intended to close the case without charges because he hadn't heard further from her. That letter apparently crossed in the mail with the one from Gibson dated Aug. 5, 2008.

Gibson said in the Aug. 5 letter it was time to put the issue to rest, although she believed Gunter's story to be "totally fabricated" and  noted that other family members generally corroborated her account. Both Gunter's father and brother told of an argument between the two. Their faither said Jim Gunter had said "kiss my ass," when he tried to intercede. Gunter's brother Mark said he'd heard a loud commotion in the next room and saw Gunter leave the room holding his sister by the arm. He told Gunter to let her go. According to the police report, Mark Gunter told authorities, "Jim told Dad that he was not going to stand there and listen to a lecture and if he didn't have an 'asshole' sister, none of this would have happened." The Aug. 5 letter from the sister continued:

"I am greatly disappointed in my brother. I have been led to believe that he is in counseling, though. I feel that he has attempted to convince his counselors that his 'revised version' of the incident is real. I am appalled that he cannot bring himself to admit the truth. He has certainly tried to make me believe that he did not do this ... intentionally. The greatest tragedy is that my brother is in a position of authority over other people's lives and my greatest concern is not necessarily for justification in my case, but how this instability in his character might impact the lives of others."

In response, Jegley said, "In keeping with our earlier discussions, we will close this matter and report to the judge that no charges will be filed in accordance with your wishes.

"I am sorry your family has had to endure this situation and wish you the best in its ultimate resolution."

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