Felon's lawsuit against former D.A. fails

Ken Hodges

Ken Hodges

ALBANY, Ga. -- A convicted felon lost a lawsuit Monday that said former Dougherty District Attorney Ken Hodges violated his rights as guaranteed under the Constitution in 2005.

Woodson "Woody" Hart, former Dougherty County assistant police chief, sued in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia in Albany saying that his Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated.

Those amendments guarantee protection from unreasonable searches and seizures and deprivation of life, liberty or property by the federal government and the state government respectively.

The court found that Hart "has established no Fourth, Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment violations by the defendants," ruled Judge W. Louis Sands. "...Instead the court finds that based on the foregoing analysis of the plaintiff's (Hart's) Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims defendants are entitled to qualified immunity because no constitutional rights under those amendments were violated by defendants."

Because Hodges and the two other government officials involved from the prison systems did not violate the Constitution, they are not liable in the case. It was dismissed without prejudice.

Hodges, now an attorney in Atlanta with the Ashe, Rafuse & Hill firm, said he was pleased with the ruling.

"I feel good about the ruling. It has been a distraction," Hodges said. "It has been going on for 10 years. This lawsuit was frivolous."

Hart's attorney, Mark S. Redden of Albany, said he had no comment about the case. He then said he had not tried the case in the media and did not intend to change his policy.

The case stemmed from a 2001 case in which Hart pleaded guilty to federal and state corruption charges. He was sentenced to 27 months in an Arkansas federal prison to run concurrently with a 27-month sentence from Georgia.

Hart also had a 10-year probationary sentence to be served after the 27 months. He was released from probation in 2005 because he has "demonstrated progress evidencing rehabilitation," according to Kimberly Cheevers, his probation officer.

Hodges then insisted that Hart turn himself in to Jackson State Prison to serve out the three months left on his Georgia sentence.

If Hart didn't he would be charged with escape, Hodges told The Albany Herald at the time. Hart turned himself in and served 36 hours until he was freed again.

Hart's lawsuits stated that because of this threat he was subjected to an unlawful imprisonment after he had already been released from prison.

"He wants money for the time he spent in jail (after he was released)," said Hodges. "Woody Hart was and is a felon at the time he disgraced the police uniform. The documents said 27 months and then they let him out. That was wrong. I stood against it in 2003 and I'd gladly do it again today."