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Attorney glad 'rule of law' determining Covington statue's fate
Statue hearing2
From left, attorney Kyle King, representing the Sons of Confederate Veterans, speaks to Judge John Ott as plaintiff Tiffany Humphries listens during a July 2020 hearing in Newton County Superior Court. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — An attorney representing one of the groups seeking to halt a historic statue's removal from the Covington Square said his clients appreciate "the rule of law" determining the fate of the monument.

Kyle King, representing local and state Sons of Confederate Veterans camps, said Newton County Superior Court Judge John Ott "made it clear" at a July hearing and in orders he gave to keep the statue in place on the Covington Square "that he appreciates the gravity of the legal issues involved and is committed to ensuring that all interested parties get the full benefit of a fair process."

"We appreciate — as we believe all citizens should — Judge Ott’s conscientious insistence upon making certain that all sides will be heard and that the rule of law will determine the ultimate outcome," King said.

However, sources with the Covington Police and Newton County Sheriff's Office said there was no truth to rumors that a crane was in place late Monday night to remove the Confederate memorial statue from its location in the middle of the Covington Square since 1906. 

The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted on July 14 to remove the monument despite county resident Tiffany Humphries' legal filings the day before that sought an injunction against the board's action. The Confederate Veterans groups joined Humphries in the effort soon after the board's vote.

Ott then held a hearing in late July on the two groups' injunction request and told the county he did not want the statue removed until after all appeals had been exhausted in the case. 

On Sept. 14, Ott dismissed the complaints from Humphries and the Confederate Veterans groups in part because a county government cannot be sued for official actions it takes in Georgia — after which both indicated they would appeal Ott's ruling to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

However, County Chairman Marcello Banes said the county would move forward in the process of removing the statue and gave no indication it planned to wait for the appeal process to end. 

Ott said Tuesday an order he was issuing to temporarily bar removal of the statue should be "personally served" on Banes because of plans to remove the statue before the appeal process is exhausted.

"It has come to the Court's attention that despite the agreement of the parties in open court that the losing party would appeal the Court's decision, and the county would not remove the Confederate Monument until the appropriate Court had rendered a final decision, that the Commission Chairman is now seeking to remove the Confederate Monument while the case is on appeal," Ott wrote.

Ott wrote that the county agreed not to remove the statue during a Superior Court hearing on the complaints in late July.

"The Court has earlier, based upon the open court agreement by the County, made the agreement an Order that mandated the statue not be removed until further order of the Court," Ott wrote.

He said the order was issued "to cement what the Court has already ordered." However, Ott stopped short of issuing any other action against Banes.

Banes did not reply to a request for comment on Ott's order.