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Judge grants TPO against Newton community activist Denise Williams


By Alice Queen

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    COVINGTON, Georgia (Rockdale Citizen) — Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Foster granted a temporary protective order against a community activist who the judge found had stalked a local attorney and had verbally threatened to kill her.

Attorney Stephanie Lindsey sought the order against Denise Barnes Williams after Williams confronted Lindsey on the sidewalk in front of the Historic Courthouse following the June 15 Board of Commissioners meeting. In that incident, Williams can be heard on security video yelling to Lindsey that she would “beat your ass beat to death” and “drag that ho.” Lindsey was talking with BOC Chairman Marcello Banes and his wife at the time. The incident was also witnessed by Deputy William Gordon, who was providing security at the courthouse.

Foster modified the TPO to allow Williams, who is a frequent speaker during public comment periods at BOC and other local government meetings, to continue to attend meetings where Lindsey is present, keeping a distance of 25 feet from her. In all other instances, however, Williams is to stay 1,500 feet from Lindsey and have no communication with her. The TPO will be in effect for one year, unless it is terminated or extended.

Lindsey, who represented herself during a four-hour hearing Monday, testified that she reported the courthouse incident to the Covington Police on Wednesday, June 16. Lindsey said she later learned that Williams hadn’t been arrested and was told that the case had been turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

At that point, Lindsey said, she felt she needed protection and decided to apply for a TPO. In the meantime, Williams also applied for a TPO against Lindsey. The judge issued a rule nisi, requiring both parties to appear in court and show cause.

Lindsey testified that she and Williams had a “cordial” relationship until this year when Williams began surveilling the area of Chairman Banes’ home and on May 11 videotaped or photographed Banes dropping Lindsey off at her office following lunch. Lindsey is a political supporter of Banes and has represented him in litigation over his county compensation.

Williams also filed an Open Records Act request for the chairman’s purchasing card records. A version of that information later appeared on a Facebook page for a purported media/news organization called the Newton Exposer. That page also contained a recording of a phone call between former coroner Dorothea Bailey-Butts and Lindsey that was apparently recorded without Lindsey’s knowledge. Lindsey testified that she believes Williams is one of the people behind the Facebook page, although no contact information is listed on it.

Friction between Lindsey and Williams further developed after the two differed on a couple of political issues.

Three members of the Board of Commissioners were called to testify at Monday’s hearing. District 5 Commissioner Ronnie Cowan, who was called by Lindsey, said that Williams had approached him at a BOC meeting and asked his advice about filing a Georgia Bar Association complaint against Lindsey. Cowan is an attorney.

Williams’ attorney called District 3 Commissioner Alana Sanders and District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson. Both testified about an encounter inside the BOC meeting room during a break in the May 18 meeting, saying that Lindsey and Williams appeared to be in an argument or serious conversation, although neither heard what was being said.

During her testimony Monday, Williams denied asking Cowan about filing a bar complaint. She also initially said she did not approach Lindsey in front of the courthouse on June 15, despite testimony to the contrary by Deputy Gordon and the videotape showing that she did. Williams ultimately acknowledged that she “probably shouldn’t have” made the threat to Lindsey, but that she felt Lindsey had tried to provoke her on several occasions.

“No matter where Ms. Lindsey see me, she’s going to try to provoke,” said Williams.

In his ruling, Judge Foster said in order for Williams’ version of events to be true, Cowan, Deputy Gordon and the videotape “would all have to be liars.”

Foster advised Williams that politics is “not a game for the weak or the oversensitive” and that opposing political views are not a basis for a TPO.

“That’s a basis for reconsideration of how involved you want to be in politics,” he said.

Foster found that the relationship between the two escalated beyond debate and discussion by Williams’ threat of physical harm. He also noted that, through her own testimony, Williams had admitted to committing disorderly conduct, terroristic threats and simple assault.

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