BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Former Benton County Judge Jon Comstock has filed a motion to have a contempt of court charge against him vacated or to be granted a new trial.
Comstock, 72, was jailed on July 8 after disrupting a bond hearing at the Benton County Jail. Judge Chris Griffin ordered him to serve a five-day sentence at the Benton County Jail, with four and a half days suspended. Comstock has already served the twelve-hour sentence but seeks to have the criminal charge vacated or to be granted a new trial regarding the charge.
On July 27, Comstock’s attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, filed a court brief asking the Benton County Circuit Court to recuse itself from the case, vacate the contempt finding or grant Comstock a new trial.
“The fact that the criminal contempt finding purportedly occurred ‘In the Circuit Court of Benton County, Arkansas’ gives Comstock the right to pursue a motion for new trial,” the brief states. It also cites case law that “would appear to give Comstock the right to immediately appeal to the Supreme Court.”
Prosecuting attorney Nathan Smith submitted a response to the court on August 3, stating that, “Procedurally, it appears that this matter could be heard by the Arkansas Court of Appeals,” while adding that “a motion for a new trial should likely be lodged with Judge Griffin, rather than this court.”
Since Judge Griffin found Mr. Comstock in direct, criminal contempt while sitting as a circuit judge, the appropriate remedy for Mr. Comstock to seek is not a new trial before another circuit judge, but appellate review before the Arkansas Court of Appeals or the Arkansas Supreme Court.
The State contends that the granting of a new trial in this instance undermines the purpose of contempt power of courts—to preserve their dignity and authority.Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Smith, Augst 3 reply brief in Benton County Circuit Court
On July 8, Comstock was seen gesturing outside a window into the courtroom at the Benton County Jail and was called in by Judge Griffin. Comstock then aggressively pointed at the judge as he continued speaking, and Griffin held Comstock in contempt of court.
Representatives from the Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition (AJRC) told KNWA/FOX24 that Comstock is a board member of their organization, and he had made it known in advance that he planned to attend the bond hearings. Comstock was taken to an area outside the court where he could see but not hear the proceedings.
Comstock ran for a seat in the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2020 but lost in the general election. His term as a judge in the Nineteenth Circuit Court West expired in 2012. Before that, he worked as in-house counsel for Walmart for nearly 20 years.