James "Mike" Surratt, 60, still is charged with two counts of cyberstalking two members of the Heardtown Estates homeowners association to press them to correct problems in the subdivision where they reside.
But the continuance agreement struck today means the case will keep getting passed to a term of court until the sides decide to move ahead.
The questions now are, why was the agreement struck and can the case be continued indefinitely, or just go away, at some point?
2:29 - Roberts returns, attorneys in courtroom.
On record, taken a great deal of time conferring. This is an unusual case and those conversations have been justified. That said, part of the conversations of late have advised the court that even tho it’s a criminal case, the parties have reached some agreement in this matter.
I must confess, even tho court is reluctant, it may be the best thing. I think lawyers at this juncture know more about it than I do.
Gault and Smith have best interests of their clients at heart. Court obligation to see that justice is done, or at least not harmed. Hopefully, been briefed somewhat, this will either help the situation or will not make it any worse. Kind of holds in abeyance and eventually will correct this situation.
GAULT - Yes, agreement reached. SMITH - Yes, sir.
SMITH - Agreed defendant, we have agreed to order: Matter continued. Surratt will not contact McCormick and Witt, not secretly or videotape Witt, won’t communicate with press as matters pending before court. Also agrees not to include anonymous posting of Internet messages about this.
GAULT - Continuance, on motion of the defendant. SMITH - Correct.
ROBERTS - Surratt, did you understand that? SURRATT -Yes, agree to be bound to what attorney said in record.
You have full understanding? SURRATT - Yes, I do.
ROBERTS - I’m going to, reluctantly, approve this agreement and order. I have pondered a great deal before this case began ... about what best thing to do is. We never know. All of us could pool our years and all agree that it is sometimes difficult to forecast what will happen in any court proceeding. My concern is that justice be done and maintained. CAse isn’t dismissed but continues on docket, with these additional conditions.
Because it breaks some new law, I thought there might be some weakness in the charges, though I am not finding that or ruling that. And some weakness in the defense. Not sure either side was totally ready to go to trial, in terms of what might occur. Know you lawyers work extremely hard. Given your best in this case, I appreciate that. I would say that to say, if case is tried on a future date I believe each one of you in a better position to try the case. If it turns out, to try it, and I draw it, we won’t have a lot of discussion about some of the things we have now. Intent, to gear up and try the case. Y’all have talked as much as need to talk, probably.
Surratt, you have a really good lawyer. Hope that you do what he advises you to do.
All right, bring the jury in.
2:40 - Jury returns. Judge tells them it's not over, but it's over today.
• • •
Judge tells them it’s first time he knows of that this type of case was to be tried.
No perfect cases, he tells them. I’m trying to make a point. I’m not critical of the lawyers in this case.
Gault is young but has experience. Smith is an excellent lawyer, comes from a family of lawyers. They’re both mean as a snake. They’re in right place at the right time, to represent their clients - to let you know, each of them has worked hard in an unusual case.
I say sometimes when we’re in court, taking pleas of guilty, and I’m about to impose sentence. Maybe there’s been an agreement to recommend sentence, I sometimes say that either I don’t understand it or like it, but I often and usually do accept it. Not bound by it, but I often accept them because I know the lawyers have worked hard to get to a point that they believe is best on their sides. If I didn’t accept them ... all the judges try to serve well ... so, even though I might not personally have done that because it is best in that situation by lawyers who know more about it than I do.
Analogy, with today - these lawyers have recommended what they think it best. They may not all like it but agreed to it. I am going to do so, as well. But as you know, we don’t live in a perfect world.
They have agreed to some things - case remains alive, hasn’t gone away. Conditions discussed for short or long run that may be able to lay this matter to rest for everyone concerned. I would hope that’s the situation. I seriously believe ... you’re entitled to an explanation as to what happened, what’s going on. Try to be as explanatory as I can. Want you to believe you have contributed something to the court system. You have aided a great deal by being here and move this case along.
Even though this case has taken something of an unusual twist, I have gone along because I believe it’s the best thing to do. Case is alive, if this doesn’t work.
2:51 - jury released.
ROBERTS - Anything further? (Each says, no sir.) Hope this does work and aids the cause of justice.
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