A Mississippi judge was accused of striking a mentally disabled black man and yelling, “Run, n-gger, run.”
The family of 20-year-old Eric Rivers filed a complaint against Madison County Justice Court Judge Bill Weisenberger in connection with the May 8 incident at the Canton Flea Market, reported the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
The executive director of the state Judicial Commissioner said, if the allegations are true, Weisenberger would have violated multiple canons of the Judicial Code of Ethics.
Canton’s former mayor and current president of the town’s NAACP branch called on the judge, a former law enforcement officer and former emergency operations director in Madison County, to step down from hearing cases until the matter is resolved or just resign.
“This is 2014, not 1960, where someone could slap a young man and call out, ‘Run, n-gger, run,’” said William Truly, NAACP chapter president and former mayor.
Truly said defendants should not have to face judge who holds “such a high degree of racial animus and hatred.”
The former mayor said he expected a grand jury to eventually hear the case, and the NAACP plans to file complaints with the Judicial Performance Commission, the state attorney general’s Vulnerable Adult Unit, and the Justice Department.
Cathy Hendrix, a vendor at the flea market, said Rivers had asked for work so he could earn money for a bicycle.
The vendor’s sister, Tammy Westbrook, said she saw Weisenberger “rear back and slap” Rivers twice, and she said the judge yelled out “run, boy, run,” and “run, n-gger, run.”
Westbrook said the judge then bragged about what he’d done.
“I do not care if this young man was being a nuisance,” said Hendrix, who is white. “I do not care if he were breaking a law, I do not care if he were loitering, but I do care that a man of authority, one that is sworn to protect and serve, was slapping a young man.”
Hendrix said Weiseberger then told a female vendor he would make her park away from her booth, and when the woman suggested he “change his tone,” the judge said he would only talk to her husband because he didn’t take orders from women.
Both women said they initially thought Weiseberger was a law enforcement officer because he was wearing a security officer’s uniform – but they later learned he was a judge.
Under Mississippi law, elected justice court judges are required only to hold a high school diploma, although legislators recommended in 2007 that they should hold a higher degree, preferably a law degree.
Watch this video report posted online by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger: