TV judge, Glenda Hatchett, says Gov. Kemp should have removed Georgia Sheriff who admitted to groping her
Bleckley County Sheriff Kris Coody has resigned in disgrace after pleading guilty to groping Judge Glenda Hatchett at a Sheriff’s convention in January 2022. The misdemeanor charges stem from an incident at a social event in Cobb County. As a result of his guilty plea, Coody had to give up his elected position. The former sheriff was sentenced to 12 months of probation, ordered to complete community service, and must pay a $500 fine. Additionally, he is required to undergo an alcohol and drug evaluation.
Hatchett, a prominent figure known for her television shows “Judge Hatchett” and “The Verdict with Judge Hatchett,” expressed her general satisfaction with the outcome regarding Coody, however, she voiced disappointment in how Georgia Governor Brian Kemp handled the situation. Hatchett mentioned that the governor stayed away from the case until Coody had already submitted his resignation letter.
Hatchett held a news conference following the hearing where Coody pled guilty and expressed her gratitude to her legal team as she recounted the events of the incident. Hatchett said she was attending a convention hosted by the association representing Georgia’s sheriffs in January 2022 when Coody came up to her at a reception “uninvited.” During introductions, the sheriff poked her briefly in the chest after the judge said she was not familiar with Bleckley County, and he said it was “right in the heart of Georgia,” Hatchett said. “But then he grabbed my breast. He grabbed my left breast. He squeezed it, he then started rubbing on my breast,” until someone removed Coody’s hand and pushed him away, Hatchett said. Hatchett reported Coody to authorities in Cobb County, where the incident occurred. Coody, who had been Bleckley’s sheriff since 2017, was later charged with misdemeanor sexual battery.
Former DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown, who was present during the incident between Coody and Judge Hatchett, testified that he intervened when he observed Coody grabbing Judge Hatchett’s chest. His intervention during the incident played a significant role in ensuring the safety of Hatchett and ensured that the situation did not escalate further. Brown told CNN, “I grabbed his arm and threw it off of her chest.” He added that he asked Coody what he was doing, and the interaction ended.
Hatchett said during her news conference, “I am a very strong woman, I pride myself on being strong and I really thought I was fine.” But in the days after the incident, she “could not stop crying,” could not get out of bed and went to therapy. “I needed help. My life had been changed. And as I said to the judge in the court this morning that I never expected that I would be so deeply affected by this,” said Hatchett. “I cried and cried and cried in court.” Hatchett went on to say, “There is a scar that he left and what I really resent is that someone could have that kind of power over me. That somebody could make me, in that moment, feel helpless. I’ve never felt so helpless in my entire life. And I was angry. I was absolutely frozen.
Prior to Coody’s plea and resignation, there were immediate demands for Governor Brian Kemp to suspend Coody for the assault, but Kemp did not take any action. Hatchett and others expressed disbelief and argued that the governor should have taken matters into his own hands and used his administrative powers to at least temporarily sideline Coody before his eventual resignation.
Hatchett, along with Bleckley’ chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) argued that Kemp should have done something against Coody. Gwenette Westbrooks, of the NAACP, pointed out the apparent inconsistency in the handling of disciplinary actions against Georgia sheriffs and highlighted a case where Kemp’s office had issued a 60-day suspension to another Georgia sheriff who had been charged with sexual battery and violating his oath of office. Westbrooks emphasized the need for consistent and equitable treatment of all sheriffs across different counties when it comes to disciplinary actions, suggesting that similar standards should be applied in all cases.
Under Georgia law, Kemp had the authority to convene a panel to investigate Coody before his guilty plea and resignation. Depending on the panel’s findings, Kemp could have taken that information to suspend Coody for up to 90 days. If the panel determined that Coody’s actions warranted it, Kemp could have requested the local district attorney to remove him from office.
In a letter addressed to Kemp, Coody resigned as sheriff following his guilty plea. Kemp’s office defended his actions with respect to Coody as appropriate. A Kemp spokesperson contended that any panel convened by the governor could only recommend a temporary suspension for a misdemeanor like Coody’s.
Bleckley County is located in central Georgia, approximately 120 miles southeast of Atlanta. Coody’s interim replacement is chief deputy Daniel Cape.