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Judge dismisses Commissioner Pearson's case against Hampton, county

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Featured Olivia Pearson DouglasNow.com file photo Olivia Pearson

Thursday afternoon, a federal judge dismissed City Commissioner Olivia Pearson’s case against former Coffee County Elections Supervisor Misty Hampton and Coffee County that Pearson had filed as a result of an incident that took place at the elections office during the 2020 election.



The incident happened on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. According to witnesses who were at the elections office at the time, Commissioner Pearson was in the office assisting a voter. After completing the voting process, Commissioner Pearson allegedly began pushing or attempting to push buttons on a machine. Election officials asked her to stop but, said witnesses, she refused. Commissioner Pearson and Hampton began arguing and Pearson was asked to leave. She eventually left the premises after officials called 911.



Police officers arrived on the scene after she had left. A short time later, Commissioner Pearson returned to the elections office. Officials called police again and another officer responded. He presented Commissioner Pearson with a warning for criminal trespass. Other officers arrived as well. Pearson once again refused to leave even after receiving the warning. As a result, Pearson was arrested and charged with criminal trespass. She was transported to the Coffee County Jail where she was booked and released with a copy of the charges.



In addition to her arrest, she was banned from any polling place in Coffee County for the remainder of the 2020 election cycle. The incident report stated that “Pearson is being banned for disruptive behavior. She may only come to a polling place in order to vote and she has already cast her ballot for this year’s election.”



Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, a judge for the United States District Court of the Southern District of Georgia, presided over the case. On Thursday, Judge Wood issued a summary judgment for the defendants (Hampton and the county) and dismissed the case. 



Judge Wood provided her reasoning for doing so in a detailed 82-page ruling that discussed the facts of the case before looking at each of Commissioner Pearson’s claims in equally detailed fashion.  Commissioner Pearson alleged that the criminal trespass warning issued by the Douglas police officer was a violation of her First Amendment rights on several different grounds. She also alleged “malicious prosecution and false arrest” under the Fourth Amendment.

While the court found that Commissioner Pearson did have standing to file her case, the court ruled that she failed to prove that the criminal trespass warning and her ensuing arrest were violations of her constitutional rights for the reasons listed in the suit. As a result, Judge Wood wrote that “Defendants’ motion for summary judgment . . . is GRANTED. There being no claims remaining in this action, the clerk is DIRECTED to CLOSE this case.”

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