BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A former Benton County judge disputing a contempt of court charge filed a response after a special prosecutor issued a stay in the case.
Jon 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 is seeking to have the criminal charge vacated and was granted a new trial regarding the charge. Comstock filed a motion on September 10 asking Judge Robin Green to recuse herself from the case.
“Comstock does not in any way question the fact that Judge Green sincerely believes she can be fair,” said Comstock’s attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, in that filing. “However, that is not the test. The appropriate test includes ‘the appearance of impropriety’—even if there is no actual impropriety.”
Little Rock attorney Emily White was named as a special prosecutor in the case on September 12. On September 14, she filed a response to a defense motion petitioning for a new trial, saying that the “Defendant’s request for a de novo review of Judge Griffin’s findings is procedurally impossible.”
“This court has no mechanism to grant Defendant’s request,” she added. “Judge Griffin was serving with all authority and jurisdiction of the circuit court.”
Criminal contempt preserves the power of the court to vindicate its own dignity. Criminal contempt punishes, it does not coerce. Defendant was punished for his outbursts and simply wants a repudiation of that punishment.Emily White, Special Prosecutor, September 14
Comstock was officially granted a new trial on September 19 and on October 5, White filed a motion for a stay of judgment in the case. She stated that the state intends to file a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
His attorney filed a response the same day, addressing multiple points in White’s filings.
“The defense has no objection to continuing the proceedings in this Court until resolution of the petition she seeks to file,” the response began. “The defense does not feel that a ‘stay of judgment’ is necessary, for the simple reason that there is currently no judgment of the circuit court to ‘stay.'”
The filing continued by addressing Judge Griffin’s authority to have issued the contempt charge at all.
The State asserts that Judge Griffin had the power to punish for contempt. But Arkansas code restricts that power to a ‘court of record.’ This supposed ‘court of record’ wants to dispense with the requirement to make and have a record that can be reviewed by a higher court.
This case arose out of Comstock’s attempt to observe Judge Griffin’s ongoing, probably unconstitutional and definitely rule-violative practice of holding court inside a locked jail in the early morning hours with no prosecutor, no public defender and no record.Jon Comstock response motion, October 5
The response concluded by reiterating the defense’s position that it has no objection to delaying the trial until the state’s petition is filed with the state Supreme Court.
A pretrial status hearing is scheduled for November 21.