District Attorney Parks White filed action this month against Sheriff Kip Thomas, asking a judge to compel the sheriff to execute three arrest warrants. But county attorney Mike Pruett is seeking a dismissal of White’s action, saying the sheriff executed the warrants five days before the DA’s complaint.
White, who was elected DA of the Northern Judicial Circuit in 2012, declined to comment on the case this week, saying the matter is “pending litigation.” But Sheriff Thomas said the court action could have been avoided with a phone call.
“What he’s claiming has already been taken care of; it was taken care of back in June,” said Thomas. “All the warrants were served in June. If there was some issue he had with them, all he had to do was call and ask.”
White filed a “writ of mandamus” July 16 to compel the sheriff to execute arrest warrants against Mohammed Shafiq, Bennie Pierce and Margaret Pierce on election fraud charges. A Madison County Grand Jury returned a “true bill” on the three on April 23 on two counts of illegal acts regarding election documents, two counts of subordination of false swearing, two counts of false swearing and three counts of tampering with evidence.
The criminal charges stemmed from the involvement of the three in the contentious Republican primary runoff for sheriff in 2012 between Thomas and challenger Clayton Lowe. Shafiq was an outspoken supporter of Thomas in the race.
According to probate judge Cody Cross, who served as the county’s elections superintendent in 2012 before an elections board was established, Shafiq was charged with fraud for altering information on two cards that weren’t his own. The convenience store owner turned in a number of registration cards to the county registrar’s office. But only two were found to be fraudulent, Cross said in 2012.
White said Thomas failed to carry out his duties as sheriff in arresting the three on election fraud charges following the April indictments.
“The defendant (Thomas) prevented the unexecuted warrants from being entered into the state database for outstanding warrants,” wrote White in his complaint. “Despite being aware of the outstanding warrants and repeated opportunity to arrest Mohammed Shafiq, Bennie Pierce and Margaret Pierce, the defendant has failed to execute the arrest warrants.”
White wrote that investigator Corey Bullard of the DA’s office contacted Pierce and informed her that she needed to turn herself in to the sheriff’s office, telling her that she would be released without having to post bond.
“The Pierces arrived at the sheriff’s office for processing and were turned away without being fingerprinted or having their photographs taken,” wrote White. “The petitioner personally observed the defendant’s presence in Superior Court of Madison County when Mohammed Shafiq, Bennie Pierce and Margaret Pierce were arraigned on June 11, 2014, and the defendant failed to execute the arrest warrants and allowed all three individuals to leave the premises without being taken into custody.”
White wrote that even if Thomas executed the warrant, the matter will still not be resolved.
“Should the defendant elect to execute the above described warrants after the filing of this petition but before a Mandamus Nisi can be set down, this matter will not be rendered moot as the petitioner havs no assurance that the defendant will not continue to refuse to execute warrants obtained from the Superior Court after a return of a special presentment by the Grand Jury of Madison County,” wrote White.
A hearing on White’s action against Thomas has been scheduled before Superior Court Judge Jeffery S. Malcom at 9:30 a.m., Aug. 12.
Pruett has filed for dismissal of the DA’s action and asked that the hearing be canceled. He wrote that the sheriff executed the warrant five days before White’s filing against Thomas.
“As the sheriff’s verified response shows, the warrants were executed five days before Mr. White filed this petition and therefore it must be dismissed,” wrote Pruett in his motion for dismissal. “…I would respectfully suggest that under these circumstances, the hearing scheduled for August 12 in this matter is unnecessary and should be canceled.”
Sheriff Thomas is also requesting that the judge require the DA to cover all attorney’s fees related to his action.