When egomaniacal Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge led what amounts to an invasion of property in the Johnson Community in July to arrest two senior citizens, it was a gross abuse of his power. He ordered a lieutenant and two deputies to round up a war hero and his wife, handcuff them, subject them to cavity searches and paraded them like sheep in front of waiting TV news cameras — all for a misdemeanor charge.

He trumpeted a three-month investigation where no stone went unturned, no “I” went undotted and no “T” went uncrossed. However, a visit to the home or even a telephone call to the residents of that property — two I’s and that went undotted and two T’s that went uncrossed — were overlooked in the sheriff’s desire for publicity. If that is how his department conducts a three-month investigation, should any of us feel safe in this county?

Well, let’s rephrase that. Can any of us WITHOUT means and WITHOUT influence feel safe in this county?

When Judge Howell Beech dismissed serious charges against one of the rich and powerful, Greg Burroughs, on multiple serious charges, it was an absolute abuse of power. He chalked it up to a then-sheriff’s department deputy for being late to court. But knowledgeable court watchers and reporters can testify that judges routinely adjust the docket when an officer or defense attorney is running late. But not in this case. 

When a prominent member of the business community got hammered and totaled his car and then was escorted home by sheriff’s deputies instead of jail — like the vast majority of us would have been — it was an absolute abuse of power.

And if you think that kind of treatment would be feted on us — the working folks — you are sadly mistaken. In this county, there are two sets of rules. And it must stop.

That is why we were heartened to see the fantastic turnout Thursday night for the first Citizens Against Corruption meeting in Laurel. People have had enough and those who had the courage, the bravery and the backbone to attend, we commend you. You are not the chosen ones. You are not the influential ones — none of them would ever show up, as that group is a threat to the preferential treatment they have been receiving for generations. One Laurel business, we are told, forbade any of their employees from attending the event, ensuring that in the South, a certain group gives its stamp of approval to rampant corruption.

What we were most heartened to see, though, was the racial mix in the conference room. Citizens Against Corruption is not just a county issue, but one in the City of Laurel as well. It is not a white issue or a black issue — it is the people’s issue. Keeping the momentum going will take dedication and steadfast resolve, because the forces that oppose this are strong. But the people will have the final word in the ballot box. If enough people from all walks of life can coalesce in pursuit of equal justice for everyone, only then will true, substantive change take place.

The theme of Thursday’s meeting was to vote them out. Period. We are on the precipice of a revolt, the common folk against the rich, powerful and influential. Stick together and the fight can be won. 


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