The Southern Standard, by Duane Sherrill —
Grand jurors refused to indict two members of the Champion family over their alleged run-in with deputies, prompting a pledge by prosecutors that the cases will not go away quietly.
Charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest against Janice Champion, 48, and her eldest son Lance Champion, 23, were dismissed by grand jurors who refused to issue an indictment against the pair after hearing extensive evidence in the case Friday. Prosecutors chose not to present the case of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct against Hal Champion, 47, given the tribunal’s decision in the other two cases.
The defense for the Champions is well pleased, saying grand jurors could not find probable cause a crime was committed. Prosecutors say grand jurors were confused about the law and the cases will be re-submitted.
The Champions are charged with misdemeanors after an alleged confrontation with officers which began when Lance Champion pulled in behind Lt. Stan Hillis in a parking lot on Sparta Street this June and accused him of speeding. Lance was arrested following a dispute with officers.
Lance’s younger brother, Stephen, 17, was the next to be arrested after the teen and his mother reportedly had words with officers at the scene of Lance’s arrest. Lawmen say Stephen slapped the officer’s hand, an allegation Stephen denies. Mrs. Champion was arrested minutes later following a continued exchange with lawmen.
A few minutes after that, Mr. Champion was arrested when he arrived to find his family in jail. Lawmen say they had to struggle with the angry father, subduing him with a taser gun before taking him into custody.
The suspects were each bound to the grand jury by General Sessions Judge Larry Ross following a recent preliminary hearing, with the judge dropping resisting charges against Lance and Janice Champion. However, a refusal to indict means the cases can go no further since the grand jury decides what cases will appear in circuit court.
“This is good news for Lance, Janice and even Hal because this shows the grand jurors couldn’t even find probable cause a crime had been committed,” said defense attorney Michael Galligan. “Regardless of what the prosecution does, this has to be viewed as a positive outcome for my clients.”
However, District Attorney General Dale Potter says Friday’s grand jury decision will not prevent his office from presenting the cases again, this time before a new grand jury foreman in Jeff Golden. Friday marked the final day for Sandra Haynes who was at the helm of the tribunal for two years. Friday was also the first day for an entirely new panel of grand jurors.
Prosecutors believe jurors may have been confused over the law which covers the cases, therefore, Potter said the cases will be re-submitted to the grand jury along with a proper explanation of the law. The exact cause for the reported misunderstanding is unclear since the events which happen behind closed doors in the grand jury room are kept secret by law.
“I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about no indictments coming out, because this is a case we will present again,” Potter said. “We understand there was some kind of misunderstanding so we will be trying to take care of that when we present the cases again.”
All three cases are minor misdemeanor offenses, most often punishable by fine, probation and public service work for first offenders.