Circuit judge's Walmart altercation under review | Arkansas Blog

Friday, May 18, 2012

Circuit judge's Walmart altercation under review

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2012 at 2:58 PM

Cleanup needed on aisle 13!

Circuit Judge Sam Pope of Hamburg faces review by the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission for a physical altercation with his ex-wife and a male friend April 5 in the Crossett Walmart.

No charges will be filed as a result of the dispute, Crossett Police Chief Tommy Sturgeon said Friday. "Neither party wanted to file charges," he said.

Judge Pope returned my call, but declined to discuss specifics of the incident. "I'm going through a divorce and our lawyers are working on it and I don't want to make any statement except through my lawyer," he said.

With the investigation closed, the Walmart security video of the altercation should be available. Sturgeon said his only copy was in the hands of Prosecutor Thomas Deen of Monticello. Deen has not yet returned my call about the case. Sturgeon said the video wasn't that great. He said it lacked audio to show what was said among the combatants, though it did show some contact between Pope and the others.

The Crossett police report indicates that Pope, 58, greeted Bill Murray, 57, of Crossett, with the words "Hello, ass" when he saw him with his ex-wife Gale Zimmerman in the Walmart. Murray replied "Hello, ass" and the two began fighting. Pope complained that his wife had struck him three times and he wanted to press charges. Walmart security separated Pope and Murray, the police report says, and when police arrived, Pope reportedly "kept trying to get to Bill Murray," who "had blood on both sides of his face." Police arrested both men at the store, but released them shortly after when both agreed to not press charges. No citations were issued.

Here's the full report.

David Sachar, deputy executive director of the Judicial Commission, said his agency can comment only to the extent of confirming a review of a matter that has otherwise become publicly known, as this one has. "The Commission has opened a case file on the circumstances you described. The judge certainly has a right to a fair hearing and all procedural safeguards will be followed. No other public information is available at this time."

Among others, judicial conduct rules require judges to act in ways that promote public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.

The domestic dispute has been ongoing. The Ashley News Observer reported in March that the sheriff's office was called about a number of items taken from Pope's home while he was on a mission trip in Central America, but an investigator concluded it was "likely the result of a domestic dispute and pending divorce." Missing items include artwork, books, a bookshelf, outdoor iron and wicker furniture, glasses, silverware, dining table, 200-piece set of china, living room furniture, desk and gun closet holding rifles, shotguns, pistols, gun stocks and scopes.

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