Mandy Sammons: Even A Prosecutor’s Best Friend Can Push Too Far
Mar. 1, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Judge Amanda Sammons, the “blue-eyed assassin” of Campbell County, Tennessee, has it rough these days. Prosecutors don’t particularly like her forcing them to press charges when indigent defendants don’t pay their court appointed attorney fees. The Department of Children’s Services doesn’t care for her continuous separation of parents and children. Her colleagues on the Circuit level have filed a complaint with the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct over her shenanigans. Now, Judge Sammons has earned the ire of the Campbell County Sheriff’s office for arbitrarily setting charges and bond amounts, and blaming Sheriff’s deputies in the process.
On Thursday, General Sessions Judge Amanda Sammons denied a request to remove herself from the case of 26-year-old Krista Smith. Smith’s attorney, Kristie Anderson, filed the motion to disqualify Sammons from the case. Anderson accused the judge of improperly changing a charge against Smith without notifying the defendant, the police, or prosecutors.
In the saga of Judge Sammon’s latest gaffe, let’s step back to January 22nd, when Krista Smith was arrested for a violation of the seat belt law, driving without insurance, driving on a suspended license, and “child abuse endangerment and neglect.” Smith was carted to the Campbell County jail, and waited until Saturday for Judge Sammons to set bond.
As this is Tennessee, and completely unprepared in nearly every county for wintry conditions, Judge Sammons was snowed in. However, she courageously set bonds via telephone that Saturday. On learning Krista Smith needed a bond, though, Sammons ordered the “child abuse endangerment and neglect” charge escalated to “aggravated child abuse, endangerment and neglect,” and set bond at $250,000.
The excessive bond was truly a case of mistaken identity.
During this week’s hearing, Judge Sammons admitted she set bond at $250,000 because she mistook Smith’s case with a separate case of child abuse that DCS contacted her about on January 19. That case involved methamphetamine and a 4-year-old child pricked by a needle.
“When I heard the charge of child neglect, I thought it might have been that case,” said Sammons. “I said ‘set [bond] at $250,000. I did not order Officer Severson to change anything.
An “oopsie” doesn’t factor into the conditions for setting bond, but Sammons wasn’t terribly concerned about that. Fortunately, Judge Sammons was in the most generous of moods possible that weekend. Since she couldn’t verify Smith as “that girl,” she reduced the bond to $10,000.
On Sunday, after viewing the warrants for the first time and verifying Smith wasn’t her “meth-head” child abuse defendant, she struck through the “aggravated” portion of the child abuse charge with a pen and set bond at $500.
In case something doesn’t sit well with you, consider that Judge Sammons violated her duty to serve as an “independent, fair and impartial” member of the judiciary when setting bond conditions for Krista Smith and then “correcting” them. She also blatantly ignored the rules of Criminal Procedure and the factors for determining an appropriate bond, snowed in or not, and saw no problems with this.
“Don’t tell me I didn’t treat her [Smith] the same as I treat every single person. Because that is my job, alright? I’m a judge,” said Sammons during Thursday’s hearing before denying Anderson’s motion to disqualify.
Sammons also pointed out the mistake regarding bond was cleared up within one day during a weekend when the entire area was buried in heavy snow.
“Most people, before I took office, would sit in here with no bond for a lot longer than that,” said Sammons.
Judge Sammons didn’t treat one person “the same” as she treated every single person though. That would be Officer Tonya Severson, who received the full blame for charges being escalated to “aggravated child abuse,” and the bond set at a quarter million dollars initially, during the recusal hearing heard on February 25.
Judge Sammons denied the accusation and said she “never told anyone to change any charges.” Sammons placed responsibility with the jailer, officer Tonya Severson.
“I did not order Officer Severson to change anything,” said Sammons during Thursday’s hearing
Unfortunately for Judge Sammons, Severson’s superior, Sheriff Robbie K. Goins, takes umbrage with one of his subordinates being wrongfully blamed, and he has records to prove Judge Sammons lied from the bench.
The jail kept exact notes of what time Sammons placed calls and what she said. The records show Sammons called Saturday, January 23, at 1:30 p.m. and state, “Child Abuse and Neglect charge changed to Agg. Child Abuse and Neglect as per Judge Sammons via telephone with officer Tonya Severson.”
A recap of this sordid saga leads to the following conclusions. Campbell County elected a former prosecutor to the General Sessions bench, who then went on a rampage of jailing poor people, taking children from homes regardless of DCS input, and now lies to the faces of the police officers supporting her to shift blame away from herself.
Will we see the “Blue-Eyed Assassin” called to accountability? If not for what she did to Krista Smith, then maybe Officer Tonya Severson?