Meridian, Miss. There's a change in the case of a former Meridian police officer, who's facing a criminal charge. Both plaintiffs, Willie and Shontae Roland, and the defendant in the case, Don Hopkins, were in court first thing Monday morning for a scheduled hearing. Honoring the Roland's wishes, city prosecutors asked the judge to transfer the case from municipal court to Lauderdale County Justice Court. The judge granted this request.
The plaintiffs and council for the defendant in the case have differing views about the court change.
"We know that now we've got a chance for justice," says Willie Roland. "I mean, I'm not saying anything against the city attorney, but she prosecuted us last year in the same court with the same police."
"The city has known this case has been set for this date for months," says Defense Attorney Bill Ready Jr. "It's rather surprising, as you heard me say in the courtroom, that they now this morning move to have it transferred to justice court."
The incident that's at the forefront of this case happened two years ago. The Rolands say Don Hopkins, who worked as an officer with the Meridian Police Department during that time, was off-duty when they claim that he assaulted them after they did not let him pull his car onto the road. Last year the Rolands were found guilty in municipal court for reckless driving and disorderly conduct in connection with what happened in 2012.
With the case now heading to justice court, Hopkins' history in local law enforcement is expected to prompt some action in terms of how the case is handled.
"Two of the justice court judges are going to have to recuse themselves because they are retired law enforcement officers that worked with Detective Hopkins," says Ready. "So, we've got two judges to choose from, and they do it on a rotation system. Once we're there, we're ready to try it, and I think that we'll get a fair trial."
Simple assault is a misdemeanor offense. If ultimately found guilty, Hopkins could face up to six months in the Lauderdale County Detention Center, and up to a $500 fine.
As of noon Monday there was no official word on when the case would be presented in Lauderdale County Justice Court.