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Judges views differ on banishment
Judges agree exception would be in stalking or abuse cases
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Judges often deal with their courtrooms as do parents with a house full of unruly children.

Cop an attitude with your mother and you may find yourself out of the house until it improves. Similar punishments are made in Hall County courtrooms, but with much more consequences.

Three months ago, Superior Court Judge Jason Deal banished Mautious Wise from Hall and Dawson counties for the length of his probation sentence because of Wise's role in causing a riot at the Hall County Jail.

Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh said banishing a defendant from the Northeast Judicial Circuit as a condition of probation is not uncommon and usually involves offenders that don't live in Hall or Dawson counties.

"If a particular defendant has committed a crime within the circuit but has no connections to the circuit — there's no real reason to be here — we would not be interested in that person being in the circuit in order to commit more crimes," Darragh said.

"It's a different situation if somebody has community ties."

A violation of the banishment would be like any other probation violation: Further penalties would lead to a probation revocation hearing. All felony convictions fall under state probation, and therefore the offender would have the probation transferred to the county where he or she resides.

Yet judges' opinions on banishment rulings differ.

Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver said she seldom imposes banishment as a condition of probation unless it has been negotiated by the state as part of a plea agreement.

"I think it's an extreme thing to restrict somebody's free movement once they have gotten out on probation, and especially if they were from here," Oliver said. "I generally don't take away people's constitutional rights unless they have agreed to waive that as part of a deal."

Superior Court Judge Kathy Gosselin also said she prefers not to impose banishment on a defendant. She estimated she imposes banishment as seldom as once each year.

"I'm not a huge fan of banishment partly because you're taking a problem and moving it around the state," she said. "It doesn't seem really fair."

Rather than make another circuit responsible for the offender, Gosselin said the county responsible for sentencing should provide supervision.

But judges agree there are exceptions that would call for banishment, including cases of stalking or abuse where the victim lives in the circuit, or when a defendant is heavily involved in the drug community within the circuit.

Deal said he tends to support the ruling more than other judges. He estimated banishment is included as a probation condition in about 10 percent of cases he handles.

In most of those cases the defendant does not live within the circuit, Deal said.

"I do it fairly regularly," he said. "I try to be judicious about it."

In some cases, Deal imposes banishment to set an example for a drug offender. If the offender fails to graduate from mandatory drug treatment court, Deal will banish the defendant from the circuit until he or she attends residential treatment.

"Either you can get clean or you're not going to be here,' he said. "It's really more of trying to coerce them to do what they need to do to get straight."

 

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