On the fourth day ... | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, April 30, 2009

On the fourth day ...

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2009 at 12:44 PM

... Circuit Judge Willard Proctor testified before the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, which is holding a hearing into 11 charges of ethical misconduct against the Pulaski County judge. Proctor told the commission that the Cycle Breakers Inc. non-profit and the Cycle Breakers program he administers from his courtroom "mirrored" one another, and that he'd negotiated a mortgage for the non-profit using the court's own profit and loss statements. His lawyer has been trying to make a distinction between the two.

A probation officer also testified that she'd heard Proctor pray that God would strike reporter Mara Leveritt dead. His prayers weren't answered. Mara's report, updated at 3 p.m., from the hearing is on the jump.


Lawyers for the JDDC called Fifth Division Circuit Judge Willard Proctor Jr. to testify in this the fourth day of a hearing to decide whether he should be removed from office.


In soft-spoken responses to questions posed by JDDC Deputy Director David J. Sachar, Proctor acknowledged that he had negotiated a bank mortgage for Cycle Breakers Inc., a non-profit corporation, by providing the bank with profit and loss statements from his court to establish how the corporation was going to pay the mortgage.


Throughout the hearing, Proctor’s attorney, Austin Porter Jr., has attempted to draw strong distinctions between Cycle Breakers Inc. the non-profit and the Cycle Breakers program run out of Proctor’s court. However, in questioning today, Proctor acknowledged that the two “mirrored each other.” Proctor acknowledged he had attended at least 85 percent of the corporations’s board meeetings, reviewed minutes of its meetings for accuracy and presented opening remarks at the corporation’s annual meetings. He further acknowledged that probationers made up part of the Board of Cycle Breakers Inc. at all times, that they were to be removed from the Board if their probations were revoked, and that he had power to revoke their probations.


Proctor was next asked about the practice he called “civil probation,” in which a probationer’s records are sealed but he is kept on probation by the court and required to attend meetings of Cycle Breakers Inc. Proctor, who said he’d placed 3,000 people on “civil probation,” explained that the practice evolved so that probationers could honestly say they had not been convicted of a crime. He and Sachar differed on whether the practice was legal. Proctor insisted that when it began it had the consent of prosecutors. When Sachar asked, “but these probationers could be put in jail for civil contempt for fees not paid to a private corporation?” Proctor responded, “True.” The judge acknowledged further that he gave rides to probationers in his car, that probationers had done work on his home and that some probationers worked in his office, ate lunch with him and took deposits to the bank.


When Sachar asked if he had ever baptized probationers, Proctor responded, “I have baptized hundreds of people.” Then Sachar asked, “And some of them were your probationers?” Proctor responded, “Yes.”


Earlier attorneys continued to question Alice Abson, a probation officer in Proctor’s court. Part of that questioning focused on violent statements reportedly made by the judge, such as that he sometimes got so angry at members of his staff that he could kill them. Porter asked Abson, “Isn’t it true that mothers, especially strong mothers in the black community, will sometimes say to their children, ‘I brought you into the world and I can take you out of it’?" Abson responded that it was. Porter then pointed out that as a probation officer, Abson was allowed to carry a weapon. Porter then observed, “Judge Proctor doesn’t have a weapon. If anybody has anything to fear about being killed it ought to be Judge Proctor, isn’t that right?”


Sachar then asked Abson if she had ever heard the judge make a threatening statement about this reporter. Abson replied that he had said he had told members of his staff “let’s touch and agree that God will strike her dead.”



Judge Proctor returned to the stand briefly this afternoon and when Sachar finished with him, Sachar told the panel that the JDDC had concluded its presentation of evidence.

Proctor lawyer Porter said that a witness he wanted to call was unavailable this afternoon but would be available tomorrow. He told the panel that he expected to conclude the presentation of his evidence by tomorrow afternoon.




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