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‘Amnesty Day’ brings more than 60 people back to court

Judge Kathy Garner gave citizens a fresh start as she helped them put their misdemeanor legal troubles behind them.

Dozens of people left the Gadsden County Courthouse with smiles on their faces Saturday.
More than sixty people appeared before Judge Kathy Garner that day as she lifted warrants, waived speeding fines and court costs for misdemeanors criminal and misdemeanor traffic offenses.
Octavius Evans, who owns a trucking company, said a speeding ticket he received in May would’ve made his automobile insurance go up.
 Garner waived his fine, and also withheld points from his license.
Although the event began at 10 a.mGarner said when she arrived at the courthouse at 8 a.m., people were already lined up outside.
As the day went on, the word had spread, and even more people showed up.
“Some people are probably a little scared,” Garner said. “We don’t set traps.”
One man said he found out about the event from his twin brother. His brother, who had his own legal matters, initially didn’t come, out of fear.
“When he told me I just walked boldly,” Marco Davis of Greensboro said. “I didn’t look back.
When he walked in the courthouse that day, Davis owed $6,000 in unpaid court costs. The judge drop his court costs down to $600 and gave him 180 days to pay it. Some of the cases dated back to 2002.
“Lord, I thank Gadsden County,” said. “This is my county; I was raised here.”
Davis said with the fines hanging over his head, getting his license back seemed impossible.
He also said he had taken the risk of driving without license, while taking his wife back and forth for multiple surgeries.
“By the grace of God I never got pulled over,” Davis shared. “God touched their hearts, and they helped me.”
A Chattahoochee woman found out about Amnesty Day while taking her daughter to court for a traffic ticket. Although she didn’t have any legal matters of her own, she brought several people into the courthouse on multiple trips on Saturday to take care of theirs.
“I think it was a great outcome,” Tillina Jackson said. “A majority of people are afraid.”
Jackson said she hopes Garner will host another Amnesty Day so she can bring even more people.
Jackson’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed by Judge Garner.
“You’ve brought at least 5-10 people in here,” Garner said. “I’ve seen you; I’m watching.”
Garner told Jackson to see her afterwards, so she could give her a token of appreciation.
“That’s what we need…to get people in the community to let people know,” Garner said.
“This is a big deal for Gadsden County,” Sheriff Morris Young said.
The sheriff said the event was life-changing for many.
“Even traffic, if they don’t pay that fine, it can lead to criminal charges,” Young said. “We can see them in jail if they don’t take care of those fines.
The sheriff also touched on the fiscal impact the event has on the county.
“People with suspended licenses and old warrants can now seek employment,” Young said.The sheriff said he hopes to see something similar on the felony side for some non-violent offenses.
Garner said she worked with the state attorney’s office, public defender’s office, clerk’s office, and the probation department to make the event a success.

Erin Hill – Gadsden County News Service