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09/24/2017

Garrard to face trial over public threat

Garrard to face trial over public threat

  • Incident dates to meeting in Hackleburg in March

garrard.JPG

James Odis Garrard

Article contributed by The Journal Record

By TRACY ESTES
News Editor

HAMILTON - Retired Marion County Circuit Court Clerk James Odis Garrard will stand trial for making public threats in an open forum in March in Hackleburg.


A Marion County grand jury was set from Aug. 21-23 and ruled there was sufficient evidence to move the case to trial. No trial date has been set in the case.


Garrard was arrested and charged with making a terrorist threat, harrassment-threat and disorderly conduct. Making a terrorist threat is classified as a felony while the other two charges are misdemeanors. Garrard was released the same day as his arrest, on Tuesday, Sept. 12, at the Marion County Jail in Hamilton on a $3,000 bond.


The meeting was held at Hackleburg Town Hall on Monday, March 6.


The event was designed to seek public input from officials with the Bear Creek Development Authority regarding the conversion of local lands for a rails and trails project.
Questions were asked by various local residents with Garrard offering his opinion in the final closing minutes, as most in the crowd had risen from their seats to leave.


Conducting the meeting was Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, who perceived the outburst as threatening.


The lawmaker stressed the meeting was being held only to determine public interest with no definitive plans being made at the time.


He stressed no individual would be allowed to take over a public meeting, especially making references to items such as guns in the process.


Morrow eventually elected to file charges against Garrard. The state lawmaker officially filed charges against the former clerk three days later with the Hackleburg Police Department.
The public event had been attended by a writer with the Northwest Alabamaian, the Journal Record’s sister newspaper. The journalist captured a photo showing Garrard standing to his feet behind the town council table.


Morrow could be seen with his briefcase over his shoulder preparing to leave at the time Garrard interjected what proved to be the incendiary remarks.


“I would just like to say something,’’ Garrard said to introduce himself to the debate.


“That railroad goes through property I have leased. Before it goes any farther, I want ya’ll to know, all of you concerned, whoever you are, that we do not want a trail down there going through our property.’’


To which Morrow replied, “Thank you, sir.’’


“Alright, is that the way it’s going to be?’’ Garrard asked in a harsh tone. “I tell you right now, we will fight it. I guarantee you it will be fought, Mr. Morrow. Ya’ll have a fight on your hand, if they try this. I’m talking about guns.’’


Background


This encounter was not the first time Garrard has found himself in the headlines.
In April 2006, Garrard was charged in connection with the missing monies in his office in the amount of more than $78,000.


The missing funds were discovered during a state audit governing the period from Aug. 1, 2001, through May 31, 2003. These missing funds were in addition to the more than $216,508 missing from the office in a previous audit. None of the missing funds have ever been recovered. The state noted Garrard would be held accountable for all missing funds.
Garrard vehemently denied the charges at the time. The former clerk retired prior to the end of his six-year term in 2006, having spent more than 15 years in office.


His office was cited for missing funds following a state audit for the period ending in September 1997.


Records show where Garrard paid back those missing funds from the 1997 report personally.


(When a defendant is charged with a crime, the charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.)

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