Officials see the other side of the law

Published 8:40 am Wednesday, April 8, 2009

COURTLAND — At one point Monday afternoon, the commonwealth’s attorney, county attorney, circuit court clerk and a defense attorney were all locked in the slammer together.

“I demand to see my attorney,” shouted Circuit Court Clerk Rick Francis, as he dragged a tin cup across the jail bars during his short stint in the big house.

The men jovially took part in a lock-up for charity — this one to raise money for a local Relay for Life team called Judy’s Jewels.

If the prisoners raised $50 bail, they were allowed to get out of the “jail,” which was located inside of the county complex. However, anyone could bribe the jailers to keep the “suspects” in longer, including family members.

Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s primary fundraiser. The group raised more than $1,800 by locking up a dozen prominent officials, including Jack Randall, defense attorney, Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke, County Attorney Richard Railey, County Supervisor Moses Wyche, Southampton Treasurer David Britt and Commissioner of Revenue Amy Carr.

Southampton County Sgt. Michael Darden and Detective Cpl. Richard Morris put the prisoners in handcuffs and shackles before transferring them to the holding tank (a large dog cage on loan from Edwards Hardware complete with a toilet from Ace Hardware, playing cards and books about law and justice).

“Everyone we’ve arrested has been very cooperative,” shouted jailer Michelle Stivers over the din from Francis, Randall, Cooke and Railey. “This has definitely been our rowdiest crowd.”

Librarian Amy Lehman spent several hours locked up before getting paroled for good behavior.

“Everyone was giving money to keep me in,” she said with a laugh.

After making calls and raising his $50 bail money, Railey’s wife swooped in and wrote a check for $67.25 to keep him in.

“This is for a fabulous cause that is near and dear to our hearts,” Anne Railey said. “And it’s fun.”

“If I don’t get out of here soon, I’m calling a big-city lawyer in Richmond,” Railey joked as the other prisoners used their cell phones to call friends and family and solicit donations.

Wyche, who represents the Capron District on the Board of Supervisors, was the big money raiser for the day, donating $326 to the American Cancer Society.

Wyche was locked up for 2 1/2 hours, but he didn’t waste his time making phone calls to get out.

“I raised the bail money before I got there,” he said.

That Sunday, he took his case to the Franklin Sportsman Association members, who donated $102, and Mars Hill Baptist Church, which passed around a plate and collected $130.

The rest of his donations came from people trying to keep him in.

“One lady came by and said it’s been a long time coming,” he said.

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