Jonesboro City Councilman Joe Compton
JONESBORO Jonesboro City Councilman Joe Compton’s blood-alcohol level was reportedly three times the legal limit Wednesday night when he allegedly hit a neighbor’s mailbox, said a Clayton County magistrate judge.
Compton, 55, is charged with driving under the influence, striking a fixed object and making an improper lane change. He allegedly hit a mailbox with his truck Wednesday at approximately 7:10 p.m., in the 100 block of Arnold Place, in Jonesboro and then drove down the street to his home, said Chief Magistrate Judge Daphne Walker.
Police who responded said they believed he may have been driving under the influence so he was taken into custody to undergo a breathalyzer test, she added.
“The results of your breath test showed your blood-alcohol content was 0.239 grams,” said Walker, as she read the accusations against Compton to the councilman. The legal blood-alcohol content limit in Georgia is 0.08 grams.
Walker set Compton’s bond at a total of $9,500. The largest section of that amount, $7,500, is for the DUI charge. Walker explained she set a high bond on that charge because it was not Compton’s first DUI arrest. Court records show he was charged in September 1982 with DUI and speeding — 35 miles and over. The details of that case were not immediately available Thursday afternoon.
Compton waived his preliminary hearing and his case will be forwarded to Clayton County State Court.
Jonesboro Police Chief Franklin Allen said police believed Compton was under the influence of alcohol before they had confirmation from the breathalyzer test. The chief described the councilman’s physical state after the accident in a way that goes along with the results of the breath test.
“He had a very strong odor of alcohol emanating from him, and he was [lying] on the ground in his driveway and unable to stand up under his own power,” said Allen.
Compton’s attorney, James Studdard, Sr., said the councilman — who owns his own plumbing business — was expected to make bond, although he could not specify when. Studdard told Walker Compton was “remorseful” about the incident. The attorney tried to contrast the arrest with work Compton has done in the community, such as horticultural work.
Compton, who has served on the council since 2009, also chaired this year’s Jonesboro Days festival for the city, and is a co-chair for Jonesboro’s upcoming Christmas parade. Studdard said he didn’t think the incident would have a negative impact on Compton’s position on the city council.
“He had an unfortunate accident and the rest went downhill,” said Studdard. “He’s an outstanding man who’s made many contributions to the community.”
Studdard said he did not know where Compton had been before the accident. He said he also didn’t know why the councilman was wearing a lime green wrist-band which resembled the kind of wristbands given to patrons at bars and club.
The details which were available painted a picture of a serious accident in Compton’s neighborhood, however.
Allen said city police initially responded to the incident with the mailbox as a hit-and-run. The neighbors identified Compton as the driver of the vehicle, so Sgt. Michael Foster went to the councilman’s house — where he had parked the vehicle — to find out what had happened.
Neighbors and Jonesboro police felt he was intoxicated during the accident, prompting county police to be called in. Clayton County and Jonesboro police officials said Compton was taken into custody at the Clayton County Police Headquarters, where he had been taken to undergo the breathalyzer test.
Clayton County Police spokesman Officer James Whitman said Compton was seen running off the road near his home on Arnold Place after he ran into his neighbor’s mailbox.
“Upon striking the mailbox, he lost control of his vehicle and drove across the street and left the roadway,” said Whitman. “He then backed his vehicle out and drove a couple of houses down from where the accident happened and parked his vehicle.
“The neighbor whose mailbox had been hit witnessed all of this. She went and told her husband what had happened, and he went over to confront the suspect and found he was intoxicated. Jonesboro police were called to the scene at that time.”
Allen said his department turned the matter over to county police because a city official was involved. Under department protocol, when city employees are involved, a third-party law enforcement agency is called in “to avoid the appearance of impropriety,” said the chief.
Fellow Jonesboro City Councilman Randy Segner attended Compton’s first appearance hearing Thursday. After it ended, Segner scowled at print and television news reporters who also attended the hearing.
“Why don’t you go cover Victor Hill, or something more important?” said Segner.