Tuesday, July 22, 2003

An atmosphere of fear and intimidation exists in the Berrien County Courthouse.

Rev. Pinkney acts as "watchdog" by attending court hearings EVERYDAY, 9-11:30am and 1-3pm. Every Tuesday at 9am he leads a march, picket, and rally at the courthouse. He welcomes concerned citizens from everywhere to participate.

The most recent incident of intimidation came from a bailiff. The majority of bailiffs in the court, including the supervising bailiff, behave in a manner which incites fear. They verbally abuse anyone who walks into the courtroom; it's gotten to the point where citizens are afraid to go into the building. This behavior is tolerated by the Berrien County Administration and is not reported. Rev. Pinkney would very much appreciate it if people would contact the courthouse and administration in protest of this situation. He is requesting the immediate dismissal of Bailiff John Behnke, and the formation of a committee to oversee the courthouse. Contact info is at the end.

This is only the most recent incident: On Friday July 18 at approximately 2pm the fire alarm in the courthouse went off. Rev. P. was in hallway and entered courtroom to inform everyone since the alarm is not heard there. He told a father that he would help carry the man's daughter down 3 flights of stairs as she was in a wheelchair. A grandmother requested help as she had just had back surgery. The alarm stopped and Rev. P. commented on how glad he was not to have to come up and down 3 flights twice. Bailiff John Behnke said, "This is no joke." Rev. P said, "I wasn't talking to you." Mr. Behnke "went off", shouting, following Rev. P., and shaking his finger in his face. This continued as Rev. P. tried to escape from Mr. Behnke, but was unable to do so for quite a few minutes. This attack was racially motivated. For several months Mr. Behnke, his supervisor (first name only is known: Larry), and some of his staff have attempted to provoke Rev. P. on purpose. Again, Rev. Pinkney requests the immediate dismissal of Mr. Behnke. His behavior reflects adversely on the Berrien County Courthouse. A bailiff serves as an officer of the courtroom and shall, without regard to race, gender, or other characteristics, treat every person fairly, with courtesy, and respect. Mr. Behnke failed in these important rules of professional conduct.

Berrien County Courthouse
811 Port Street ? St. Joseph, MI 49085
(269) 983-7111

James A. Cherry Prosecuting Attorney jcherry@berriencounty.org

Arthur Cotter Chief Asst. Prosecuting Atty. acotter@berriencounty.org
Henry Ruis Chief Trial Prosecuting Atty. hruis@berriencounty.org
Margaret Penninger Asst. Prosecuting Atty. mpenning@berriencounty.org
Beth Wild Asst. Prosecuting Attorney bwild@berriencounty.org
Michael Sepic Asst. Prosecuting Attorney msepic@berriencounty.org
Mary Malesky Asst. Prosecuting Attorney mmalesky@berriencounty.org
Jeffrey Taylor Asst. Prosecuting Attorney jtaylor@berriencounty.org
Gerald Vigansky Asst. Prosecuting Attorney gvigansk@berriencounty.org
Jack Struwin Asst. Prosecuting Attorney jstruwin@berriencounty.org
Greg Cleveland Asst. Prosecuting Attorney gclevela@berriencounty.org
Mark Sanford Asst. Prosecuting Attorney msanford@berriencounty.org
Caryn Hebets Asst. Prosecuting Attorney chebets@berriencounty.org
Aaron Mead Asst. Prosecuting Attorney amead@berriencounty.org
Russell Szwabowski Asst. Prosecuting Atty. rszwabow@berriencounty.org
Jennifer Smith Asst. Prosecuting Attorney jsmith@berriencounty.org
Kelly Travis Asst. Prosecuting Attorney ktravis@berriencounty.org
Thomas Mize Investigator tmize@berriencounty.org

Berrien County Administration Center
701 Main St.
St. Joseph, MI 49085
County Coordinator: Mike Henry - mhenry@berriencounty.org


here are some of the Berrien County Commissioners:

Bret Witkowski, chair bwitkows@berriencounty.org
Bob Wooley, vice-chair rwooley@berriencounty.org
Larry Clymer, chair, admin. comm. lclymer@berriencounty.org
Debra Panozzo, chair, personel& human services comm. baba1614@qtm.net