The family of Eric Rivers has filed a police complaint against Madison County Justice Court Judge Bill Weisenberger, who witnesses say hit the 20-year-old mentally challenged man and called racial epithets.
Weisenberger, who is white, is a former law enforcement officer who was elected as a Justice Court judge -- a position that in Mississippi does not require more than a high school diploma and six hours of training per year. On May 8, he was witnessed by two vendors, at the Canton Flea Market slapping a young black man on the back of the head and saying "run *n-word*, run."
The two witnesses, sisters Cathy Hendrix and Tammy Westbrook, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, were appalled by the attack. One of the sisters says she heard Weisenberger subsequently brag about hitting the young man.
Weisenberger was also witnessed arguing with a female vendor, and eventually demand to speak to her husband, because he did not like taking orders from women.
Hendrix does not believe the Judge should work with the public, "if he is going to slap a mentally challenged child and be rude to vendors that are paying good money to be there."
William Truly, former mayor of Canton, and current president of the Canton branch of the NAACP, agrees. He said this is 2014 not 1960, and this racial abuse will not be tolerated. The NAACP plans on filing complaints with many different agencies including the state attorney general's office, the Judicial Performance Commission and the Vulnerable Adult Unit and the Justice Department, according to the Clarion-Ledger.
"No citizen should have to face justice before a judge who holds such a high degree of racial animus and hatred," Truly said at a press conference on Friday.
According the Clarion-Ledger Darlene Ballard, the executive director of the state Judicial Commission, explained that if the complaints against Weisenberger are proven true, it would be a violation of the Judicial Code of Conduct, on multiple levels.
Hendrix, one of the witnesses, summed up the alleged racially charged abuse of power:
"I do not care if this young man was being a nuisance. 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."