Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Arraignment Set For Tuscaloosa Judge’s Staff Attorney - Donald V. Watkins


Arraignment Set For Tuscaloosa Judge's Staff Attorney
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on December 19, 2017
Mattie Neal Newell was a 29-year-old staff attorney for Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge James H. Roberts, Jr., when she was arrested on June 19, 2017 and charged with two felony counts of selling a controlled substance within three miles of a school and within three miles of a public housing project. Ms. Newell was also charged with one misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia.
According to court records in Ms. Newell's case, she allegedly sold methamphetamine to a confidential informant on two separate occasions. She also allegedly possessed digital scales, packaging materials, and a drug injection needle during one of the drug sales.
A state and local narcotics task force arrested Ms. Newell after a month-long investigation. The task force also included one or more park rangers.
After her arrest, Mattie Newell was taken to the Tuscaloosa County Jail and later released on a $66,000 bond. Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy has not released Newell's mug shot.
Ms. Newell is a Phi Beta Kappa member and 2009 graduate of the University of Miami. She received her law degree from The University of Alabama in 2012.
From 2011 to 2013, Mattie Newell worked for Tuscaloosa law firm of Turner & Webb. The partners in the law firm included Judge Roberts' wife, Mary Turner Roberts, and Hays Webb, who is now the Tuscaloosa County district attorney. The firm specialized in criminal defense work, including drug cases.
Judge Roberts was a member of the law firm from 2005 to 2011. Governor Robert Bentley appointed Roberts to his judgeship in 2011.
Ironically, Judge Robert's was a member of the statewide Drug Court Task Force empaneled by Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb in 2007. Tuscaloosa County subsequently established its Drug Court, which is an alternative approach to the traditional criminal prosecution on drug possession charges. Like Tuscaloosa's Second Chance Program, the goal of Drug Court is to offer first-time offenders intensive treatment and drug education as an alternative to jail time.
In 2013, Mattie Newell joined Judge Roberts' staff as his staff attorney/judicial assistant. It is unclear whether she remains on Judge Robert's payroll today.
Court records list Assistant District Attorney Loren Amanda Rafferty as the prosecutor who is assigned to Ms. Newell's case. Ms. Rafferty is a 2016 graduate of The University of Alabama School of Law. She joined the DA's Office in October 2017 after spending 7 months working with a local law firm.
Attorney Chadwick Thomas Barnett is listed as Ms. Newell's retained defense counsel. Barnett became a criminal defense attorney in 2016. Barnett's website presents his credential this way: "I'm not afraid of the courtroom. I served as a police officer for nearly 15 years. I handled, and testified in, thousands of cases. I understand police procedure, and I know what kind of defense strategies work. I also know when a prosecutor wants a case to go away. All from first-hand experience."
Mattie Newell did not request a preliminary hearing. As such, Tuscaloosa County District Court Judge James E. Gentry forwarded her case to a local grand jury on July 25, 2017.
On September 27, 2017, the grand jury indicted Mattie Newell on all three drug-related counts. On November 13, 2017, Ms. Newell's case was assigned to Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge M. Bradley Almond, who allowed Newell to remain free on her previously posted $66,000 bond.
Ms. Newell's arraignment is set for February 26, 2018. No trial date has been set.
Even though Ms. Newell's job as Judge Roberts' staff attorney/judicial assistant gave her frequent interaction with other judges and their judicial assistants in the Tuscaloosa Courthouse, none of them has recused himself/herself from participating on court action in her case.
Hays Webb's office is prosecuting Ms. Newell's case even though she worked for Webb when he was a criminal defense attorney. Webb has failed to voluntarily recuse himself (and his staff) from handling any and all aspects of Newell's case.
As usual, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is silent in this case, despite Hays Webb's obvious conflict of interest in prosecuting Mattie Newell. Marshall is always missing in action in criminal cases involving well-connected criminal suspects and defendants.

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