For at least the 26th time since the beginning of last year, a felony suspect has avoided a day in court due to the failure of the previous administration of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department to serve timely warrants.
A felon who had served time for armed robbery and was reportedly found with a firearm was released by Judge Dal Williamson last week. He had lived in the same home and worked in Jones County for years while an indictment against him did not get served.
We do not know how many more of these might come to Williamson’s bench. But we are confident that none of those will be attributed to the current administration. Sheriff Joe Berlin made it clear that not serving indictments will not be the norm under his administration. And we believe him.
In the final year or two of the Alex Hodge Administration, he became too concerned with his social media presence and easy re-election bid — he reportedly told many people he would win 70 percent of the vote — to get out of the office to serve indictments.
When it finally did come out in this newspaper after Mark Thornton connected enough dots to find a disturbing patten of released felony suspects, Hodge got on the courthouse steps and blamed, mostly, this newspaper. He also said that those being released were not the fault of his department and ballyhooed the success rate of serving indictments.
We know no one is perfect and occasionally there will be those who slip through the cracks. But the pattern of felony suspect after felony suspect avoiding justice exposed Hodge and those responsible for serving those indictments in a timely manner. Had the sheriff been giving 100 percent of his time to doing the people’s work, maybe we wouldn’t have ever faced so many cases getting thrown out.
While it is not always prudent to look into the rear-view mirror, it does have value. We can learn of where and how the mistakes were made and the levels it will take to avoid this happening in the future. The cloak of complacency has been lifted for the betterment of the people.
A teaching moment, indeed.