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Terrell sheriff files appeal

DAWSON, Ga. -- Notice was given last week that Terrell County Sheriff John Bowens is appealing his contempt of court case to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

The appeal relieved Bowens from a five-day incarceration in the Dougherty County Jail, which would have begun Monday.

Court records indicate that on Feb. 4, a criminal court hearing was held in the Terrell County Courthouse for the purpose of calling the criminal calendar and taking pleas for jury trials set to begin March 1. At 4 p.m., the judge learned that Bowens notified his employees in the courtroom that no other prisoners would be transported to the courthouse. Court was adjourned early that day, leaving eight cases unheard.

The next criminal hearing was set for Feb. 17. In order to prevent a repeat of the earlier incident, the judge entered an order the previous day. Receipt of the order was confirmed by the Sheriff's Office, but the court did not receive a response from Bowens.

At a 9 a.m. Feb. 17 hearing, a deputy sheriff arrived at the courthouse with two of the four defendants ordered to be there.

The deputy told the court that one of the remaining defendants was picked up by the state prison system.

Bowens did not transport the fourth defendant, and the deputy was told to bring two defendants at a time, court documents further state.

Bowens never made it to the courthouse on Feb. 4 or Feb. 17.

The sheriff later told Pataula Circuit Chief Judge Joe Bishop that he had received a letter but did not consider it a court order.

"Disobeying said order interrupted, disturbed, hindered and interfered with the orderly administration of the Court's proceedings and with the Court's administration of Justice," a citation for contempt of court and order scheduling hearing statement signed by Pataula Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Ronnie Joe Lane in February said.

A hearing was scheduled for March 12. Bowens has since defended his case by claiming that he was unable to fulfill Lane's order because he was short of deputies, court documents say.

He later testified that he employs 10 deputies, each with a vehicle, plus one investigator who has a vehicle.

The Sheriff's Office also has a spare car and a van available for transportation purposes.

Bowens also employs 15 full-time jailers, two part-time jailers, a jail administrator plus two assistants in his office -- making for a total of 32 employees, including the sheriff himself.

Leonard Danley of Danley & Associates in Douglasville is Bowens' attorney.

He did not return a phone call from The Herald seeking comment about the case Monday.