Marchers plan to protest Judge Cato’s rulings

Published 6:25 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2012

An Attapulgus man is organizing a march planned for this Wednesday morning, to protest recent rulings made by South Georgia Judicial Circuit Chief Judge A. Wallace Cato.

Christopher Williams, of Attapulgus, told The Post-Searchlight that he felt his cousin, Timothy Tarver, was not treated fairly in recent courtroom proceedings. Tarver was one of 46 suspects in a Bainbridge Public Safety investigation into street-level sales of illegal drugs, dubbed “Operation Clean Sweep.” Those suspects were arrested in late April and early May, indicted in late May, and tried and sentenced in August.

According to court records, Tarver was convicted of felony possession of marijuana, and pleaded guilty to the charge on Wednesday, Aug. 8. He was sentenced to five years of confinement and five years of probation.

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Williams said he felt his cousin was forced to plead guilty, and was not given enough time to make his case before the judge.

“He had 15 minutes to look over his information with an attorney,” Williams said. “I understand that everybody in this world has a job to do. But if you’re going to be a harsh sentencer, I think you should give the defendant more time.”

Williams said he and many concerned citizens plan to march the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 29, in front of the Decatur County Courthouse.
Williams added that he thought Tarver may have been unfairly treated, because he is black.

“He was neatly dressed, he isn’t a gangsta thug-looking type,” he said. “He’s got dreads, like me. I just think that Judge Cato made my cousin plead guilty and that it was a black-vs.-white thing.”

District Attorney Joe Mulholland said that Cato is a strict, but fair judge, and there was nothing out of the ordinary with his recent courtroom proceedings.

“It’s unfortunate that relatives of criminal defendants would try to play the race card because they are not happy with the sentence,” Mulholland said. “The judge has been on the bench for 30 years and is known as a conservative, and firm, but fair, judge. If you look at the sentences across the board in our particular area, there is no question that he is firm and fair with defendants across the board — regardless of their background or ethnicity.

“I will say that, without a doubt, this community is incredibly fortunate to have judges like Cato and [Judge Kevin] Chason. They send messages to the community that we are not afraid to enforce the law and make our community safe for everyone.”