Michigan — December 28, 2012 at 7:27 am

UPDATED: Say the magic (cuss) word, win a trip to jail (on Jesus’ birthday)


Eff this effing stuff, indeed

Larue Ford is an Arizona woman who was trying to move back to the Midwest, Indiana specifically, to be near family. However, she was unable to get a job as a driver because of an upaid ticket in Berrien County, Michigan. She paid the $444 ticket but, because of a bureaucratic foul up, she still couldn’t get it erased from her record. While in the Berrien County Clerks office, she finally learned they had screwed up and forgot to collect a $50 “reinstatement fee”. Ford, who has a masters degree in social work was told to appear before the judge when she returned to pay the $50 fee and, on the way out of the Clerk’s office, muttered “fuck this fucking shit”, a pretty understandable grouse considering all they had put her through.

They arrested her and she spent the Christmas holiday in jail for “contempt of court” despite the fact that she had never actually appeared in court before the judge. Before ANY judge, in fact.

Ford was trying to get her Indiana driver’s license so she could a job, but first she needed to take care of an unpaid Michigan traffic fine. She paid all $444 of it, but there was a $50 reinstatement fee that the Berrien County Clerk’s Office in Niles overlooked and that led to a lot of confusion.

“She didn’t really swear at anybody in particular, but as she was leaving she said ‘f*** this f***ing s***,'” said Targowski.

Those words were heard in the clerk’s office. Someone told Judge Dennis Wiley and he held her in contempt. This all happened back on December 4. She spent one night in jail, but had to go back on the 18th. That’s when her bond was set to $5,000. Ford has been in jail since then.

“She’s demure, she’s positive, but she’s realizing that this is dragging on for quite a long time and she’s being deprived of liberty,” said Targowski.

Ford’s defense team says Wiley had no right to put Ford in jail in the first place since the judge didn’t actually witness her curse.

“Normally criminal contempt is a crime you know you can’t swear and use foul language in front of a judge in a courtroom, the judge has the power to hold you in contempt, that’s lawful, but that has to happen in the judge’s presence, the judge has to see what happened here wasn’t those set of facts,” Targowski said.

If going to jail wasn’t bad enough, it got worse:

“I thought it was a joke,” the 49-year-old woman told 24 Hour News 8 in a phone interview from the Berrien County Jail, where she has been locked up for nine days.

“I thought I was on a hidden camera. I really thought it was a joke. I just didn’t believe what was happening to me.”

Then, she was taken to the jail in St. Joseph and strip-searched, she said.

“It was disgraceful, embarrassment, and they make you feel like I was a criminal,” said Ford, who has no criminal record. “They were judging me before they even know me.”

Ford is charged with contempt of court, a misdemeanor, for what records call: “profanity in the clerk’s office” in Niles.

She is claiming racism. She is black; the judge is white.

“I think it’s because the color of my skin,” she said.

Strip searched. For swearing.

I’m flabbergasted at this. Ford tried to fix things, got frustrated at the hoops she was put through and cursed in her frustration as she was leaving and for that she spent Christmas in jail. She can’t even get herself out of jail because “the judge revoked her $5,000 bond because she had no permanent address in Indiana.” I don’t blame her for thinking this is racism. It’s hard to imagine why else a judge would jail her, particularly over the Christmas holiday, simply for swearing in a Clerk’s office. The strip search and revoking of her bond are salt in the wound.

Michigan, the country already thinks we’re trying to take the crown as the most dumbass state in the Union. Do we really have to invent new ways to prove that we are?

UPDATE: It appears the Ms. Ford will be released this afternoon. A little over an hour ago, the judge reduced her bond to the amount she’s already paid:

A circuit court judge ordered the bond for a woman jailed for swearing reduced to the $500 she already paid, and she is expected to be released Friday afternoon, said ACLU attorney John Targowski.

The ACLU filed an emergency appeal to get LaRue Ford released from the Berrien County jail, where she’s been since Dec. 18 for cursing in the court clerk’s office.

She originally posted $500 (10%) of the $5,000 bond, but had her bond revoked because she was moving to Indiana and had no permanent address.

Circuit Court Judge Alfred Butzbaugh reduced the bond just after 1p.m. Friday.

Minna Hong, aka asiangrrlMN from Angry Black Lady Chronicles, put it best:

[H/T to Imani Gandy, owner of the Angry Black Lady Chronicles, for bringing this egregious garbage to my attention. As she points out in her piece on this story embarrassment to the state of Michigan, Berrien County is the home of Benton Harbor, a place I have written about countless times over he past three years.]

[Jesus Facepalm photo credit: jc-pics | Flickr]