Lawyer wants sanctions for Miss. lawmaker

Published 5:15 pm Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A lawyer wants a federal court to sanction state Rep. Willie Perkins for allegedly calling him a “young punk” during a deposition in a civil lawsuit.

Perkins, a Democrat from Greenwood who also is a lawyer, called Grenada attorney Carlos Moore the name on April 25, according to the complaint filed electronically Sunday with U.S. District Court in Greenville.

Moore issued a statement Monday saying Perkins called him a “young !(expletive).” The word “punk” was blacked out in documents Moore sent to the media but was included in federal court records.

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Moore wants the court to force Perkins to pay the legal fees associated with the deposition. He also wants the court to issue any sanctions necessary to “prevent or discourage such unprofessional and unbecoming conduct in the future,” the complaint says.

“I’ve given him several months to apologize. It’s been almost four months and he hasn’t said anything, so I was like, ‘well I’ll just take it further,’” Moore said in a telephone interview Monday.

Perkins’ attorney, Jack Hayes Jr., said he planned to file a response with the court.

“We consider the allegations to be totally unfounded,” Hayes said.

The deposition was being conducted as part of a lawsuit Moore filed in March 2007 on behalf of Latara Kemp, a then 17-year-old Greenwood High School student.

Kemp claims she was threatened in 2005 with baseball bats by Perkins’ sons, then railroaded into a juvenile correction center for 20 days by the powerful Perkins family with help from the Greenwood Police Department, a judge and others. Willie Perkins’ wife, Sheriel Perkins, is now the mayor of Greenwood.

“We’ve alleged a civil conspiracy,” Moore said. “The Perkins boys were never charged with anything, and my client goes to jail based on somebody’s word. It’s all in who you know.”

Hayes, the Perkins’ attorney, said the entire lawsuit is “totally baseless.”

In a counter claim filed last year, the Perkins family accused Kemp, the teen’s mother and a sister of malicious prosecution for filing the lawsuit.

As for the requested sanctions, Moore claims Willie Perkins used the offensive language in an attempt to “impede, delay or frustrate the fair examination” of the case. Willie Perkins made the remark after trying to object to questions even though he was not the witness’ lawyer, Moore said.

Kemp’s lawsuit claims she visited the Perkins’ home on May 5, 2006. What exactly happened there is key to the lawsuit, and each side tells a very different story.

Kemp said she was threatened with baseball bats. The Perkins family says Kemp threatened another girl with a gun.

Whatever happened, Kemp was detained that day by Greenwood police officers.

“No gun has ever been found. They came to my client’s house. They didn’t search the house, they just arrested her based on somebody’s word,” Moore said.

The Mississippi Supreme Court ordered Kemp’s release from the juvenile center on March 26, 2006, saying the judge had no reason to keep her locked up that long, according to the lawsuit, which seeks at least $10 million in damages.