A Riverdale attorney, Loletha Denise Hale, was in Henry County State Court this week, defending herself against charges that she made terroristic threats against the husband of a woman she was representing in a divorce case.
Hale was arrested and has bonded out of the Henry County Jail. No date has been announced for a trial, but she is supposed to appear before a judge Friday asking for a temporary order of protection against the husband, Tommy Thompson.
Hale threatened “to commit a crime of violence to the person of Tommy Thompson ... when she stated in front of several witnesses that ‘if he came near her she would kill him’ and ‘if she saw him on the street she would put a bullet in his head,’ ” according the warrant signed for her arrest.
Hale allegedly made the threats April 11, during divorce proceedings involving Thompson, and his wife, Patricia, in the courtroom of Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero.
On Monday, witnesses testified in a hearing before State Court Judge Jason Harper, that Hale appeared upset when she allegedly made death threats before a Henry County court clerk, and later in Amero’s courtroom.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the General Council for the State Bar of Georgia, Paula Frederick, said there are some serious consequences for Hale if the charges against her are upheld.
“If she is convicted, then we would look at whether she has violated our rules of professional conduct, in what would either be a felony, or a misdemeanor, involving moral turpitude,” said Frederick. “If she is convicted, we would bring an ethics complaint against her. If she is convicted of a felony, we would ask the Supreme Court of Georgia to disbar her.”
Hale maintains Thompson threatened her before divorce proceedings began. She alleges Thompson made a fist, and asked her if she was scared, and called her “a b---h,” before scheduled divorce proceedings began.
The incident unfolded Monday during a court hearing.
Thompson’s attorney, William West, said Hale knew what she was doing she allegedly threatened him, and called for Hale’s arrest.
Hale countered that Thompson should be arrested.
“Everything was going fine until we started talking about child support,” said Hale of her conversation with the Thompsons in the hallway of the courthouse in McDonough. She said the three were agreeing on the divorce settlement.
Then, she said, “He began to curse me as we were walking towards Judge Amero’s courtroom.” She said Thompson lifted his arm, and made a fist, as if he was about to hit her. She asked Judge Harper to have him arrested. He did not grant it. Both sides said the hearing could go on with Judge Amero.
West called Tammy Collier to the stand. She is Senior Deputy Clerk for superior court and serves as Amero’s court clerk. West questioned Collier about an e-mail she received on April 11, about Hale’s conduct.
“Yes, the message was alarming, because of who it was from, and what was said,” testified Collier.
“She [Hale] walked straight up to the podium and said she wanted this put on the record,” said Collier. “ ‘If I see this man out on the street, I will shoot and kill him.’ She seemed to be disgruntled.”
She was then cross-examined by Hale regarding Judge Amero’s instructions following the outburst.
“I recall he told Mr. Thompson to stay away from you,” continued Collier. “He also told you not to have any contact with Mr. Thompson, and told you, you could withdraw from the case. You seemed upset, frustrated and a little bit agitated. You turned around and you said to the judge, ‘If I see him out on the street, I will shoot and kill him.’ That is what I heard you say,” she said.
Attorney Kenneth Lawrence, of Jackson, was in court that day.
“Her [Hale’s] voice went up an octave, she turned and pointed in his [Tommy Thompson’s] direction and said, ‘He has cursed me, threatened me, and he has a history of violence,’ ” said Lawrence. “ ‘If he were to come around me, I will shoot him and kill him dead.’ She said she wanted it put on the record. I don’t know that I have ever heard anything of that nature from an attorney.”
Janice McCart, a Henry County Superior Court deputy clerk, testified she overheard conversation between Tommy Thompson and Hale.
“She couldn’t believe he had drawn back his hand to hit her,” said McCart. “She said she would be whooping his a--. She said, ‘If I see him on the street, I am going to put a bullet in his head.” ... I wrote it down, dated it, then I e-mailed it to Tammy [Collier]. McCart testified she sent the e-mail out of “concern of what could happen in the courtroom.” It was entered in as evidence.
Then, West called to the stand Eboni Lemon, a legal advocate for the Haven House, a shelter for battered women and children.
“I heard her say, ‘If he comes anywhere near me, I will kill him,’ ” said Lemon.
Under cross examination by Hale, Lemon admitted she did not hear any statements that led up to alleged threat.
“No, I did hear you say you wanted it on record, ‘If he comes anywhere near me, I will kill him,’ ” said Lemon.
“Are you aware that I filed a TPO (temporary order of protection) against Mr. Thompson, at the Haven House?” asked Hale.
“Yes,” answered Lemon.
“Well, was the TPO granted?”
“No, the date was set for May 4,” responded Lemon.
Hale told the court she alerted Amero’s courtroom bailiff Henry County Sheriff deputy, Terry Duffey.
Duffey testified that Hale told him Thompson was threatening her. He said he approached Thompson about Hale’s concerns.
“He very calmly denied it,” said Duffey. “He said she had paperwork that he wouldn’t sign. She wanted it on record if she met Mr. Thompson on the street she was going to put a bullet in him. Judge Amero tried to defuse the situation.”
Thompson then took the stand and denied Hale’s allegations.
“I did not raise my hand to strike her,” he said. “I called her a b---h, and a liar and I went on into the courtroom. ... She said your honor, I will put a bullet in his head. I was terribly upset,” said Thompson. He repeatedly denied raising his hand to the Clayton County attorney.
Hale questioned him about being arrested for harassing his estranged wife.
He admitted the arrest, and said in 2002, he was instructed to attend anger management classes as a result.
The lone witness Hale called to testify on her behalf Monday, was her client, Patricia Thompson. She told the court she had been married to her husband for 14 years before filing for divorce.
“You were really being nice to him,” testified Patricia Thompson. “You told him you would let the judge decide on the child support. He started putting his hand up like this (gesturing a fist) and said now you scared. I am so shocked I can’t believe I am here today.”
West asked Patricia Thompson about Hale’s alleged threat to her husband.
“I didn’t hear her say anything,” she said.
West told the court, Hale’s threat was a conditional threat.
“There are certain restraints by the Georgia Bar, even if it’s a conditional threat. That is not proper conduct for an attorney. We asked that Ms. Hale be taken into custody today.”
In her closing argument, Hale said she and Mr. Thompson did not have a problem until he started cursing her.
“He is out of control. ... I’m afraid if we don’t do something, we will be here again because Mr. Thompson has killed somebody,” the attorney said.
Judge Harper said he was considering both threats made by Ms. Hale, the first in the clerk’s office and the other in open court.
“When a threat is made to a third party, the threat is valid,” said Harper. “You are an officer of the court. The second threat made in the courtroom... is a conditional threat, if you use a term they cannot avoid. I certainly do not do this lightheartedly.”
The judge charged Hale with making terroristic threats and had the bailiff to take Hale into custody. She was taken to the Henry County Jail. Hale was released from jail the same day on a $1,500 bond.