Circuit Judge Tony Mozingo dismissed charges filed by real estate broker Richard Lokey against two Columbia police officers Friday, and the judge reprimanded Lokey for wasting the court’s resources and provoking the incidents with the officers.
“The circuit court’s time and resources have been drained, not to mention the reputations of the Columbia Police Department and the officers involved individually,” the judge told Lokey during a probable cause hearing at the Marion County Courthouse Friday morning. “You have threatened and intimidated officers of the law and threatened them with quote ‘other charges that you’re going to file.’ You’ve disparaged their reputations as well as others, and I would just tell you as an aside that there is a statute on the books in Mississippi regarding malicious prosecution, and if you file charges that do not have merit you, sir, could be charged yourself with filing false allegations.”
Lokey had accused Officer Joshua McPherson of public profanity after McPherson told him to “get out of the damn road” during an incident outside a Columbia High School football game in November. The judge watched in court Friday a video of the incident filmed by Lokey, and McPherson did say those words after telling Lokey calming before that to get out of the road.
But McPherson’s attorney, Leigh Berry of Columbia, filed a motion that McPherson had a First Amendment right to free speech based on a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court case that said that right exists unless there are “fighting words.” Mozingo accepted that motion, dismissing the charges against McPherson, saying there was no threat of bodily injury in what the officer said.
In the other case, Lokey had accused Sgt. Lanny Arinder of simple assault for allegedly telling Lokey he would “come across this table and whip his ass” during a meeting in January held at City Hall where they were discussing the November incident outside the football game.
Lokey had admitted on the stand Friday that he didn’t really believe Arinder was going to do that, and Mozingo again held that there was no eminent threat of bodily injury.
The judge then turned his attention to Lokey, saying he was very fortunate not to have been arrested at the ballfield that night.
“The court finds that you failed to obey the commands of law enforcement repeatedly. You were belligerent,” Mozingo said. “Then today the substance, integrity and credibility of your testimony was called into question by several things. The court is disturbed that you ... disparage another officer who is not even here (as) the ‘guy that's got all the charges.’ You said quote unquote ‘illegal stuff’ with the department. Your loud tone and aggressive, physical behavior in the court is very disturbing, and your continual laughing throughout your testimony, again, is troublesome. This is no joke. The resources of this city and county have been devoted to the point that the county has had to pay a special prosecutor from another county to come here. The Police Department has been forced to defend itself in the court of public opinion. Two officers have been forced to retain counsel at their expense and defend themselves.”
At that point, Lokey began to move, and Mozingo said, “I’m not through, and if you interrupt me that might be the tipping point, Mr. Lokey, it might be the tipping point for me. So just, I heard you out, now you’re going to hear the court out.”
The judge then continued, “This is no joke. I’m responsible to the people of this county and this city to conserve their resources. So far we have devoted a lot of time that could be given to these defendants and these prosecutors on legitimate business. We’ve drained the resources of this county.”
Mozingo finished by defending himself against what he said would likely be an appeal.
“This is not personal. You may bully and intimidate in this community and law enforcement, whoever, but I’m going to caution you. I caution you not to continue your irrational behavior and threaten and intimidate this court, this judge in the future because I can assure you that legally there will be consequences to doing so,” Mozingo said.
“Law enforcement officers’ commands are to be obeyed. Law enforcement and the courts are to be and will be respected as long as we’re here,” the judge said in closing.
For more details, see Thursday’s Columbian-Progress.
Caption: Circuit Judge Tony Mozingo, left, and Richard Lokey are seen Friday during a probable cause hearing at the Marion County Courthouse.