Court dates set for litter tickets

Published 6:15 am Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Two weeks after Panola County Attorney Gaines Baker told the Board of Supervisors he had asked the county’s two Justice Court administrators and judges to not accept guilty pleas for littering tickets, a pair of alleged illegal dumping and littering incidents will be the first prosecuted since the crackdown on offenders began.

Baker told the supervisors he intends to seek jail time and maximum fines going forward, but confirmed Monday that the two tickets written last week will not likely qualify the defendants, if found guilty, for incarceration.

“I’m working with the courts now to see what we can come up with that will stop this in our county,” Baker said. “I plan on being in court for both of these cases, and I’ve asked that the court accept no guilty pleas before the court dates.”

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County Code Enforcement Officer Hunter Lawrence wrote both tickets, one after investigation of a tire dumping incident on private property on Hentz Rd., and the other for litter on Old Panola Rd.

In the case of the illegal tire dump, Lawrence reported he was shown about 50 tires on Hentz Rd., that the landowner said had recently been dropped off. Lawrence contacted the Solid Waste Transfer Station near the site and learned that an individual had brought 57 tires to the station on the morning of Aug. 25, and returned later with about 60 more.

Transfer station employees told the person he was not allowed to bring that number of tires for dumping. Panola County will only accept 15 tires per household once a month. Employees at the transfer station were able to provide Lawrence with a vehicle tag number and he was connected the tag to Brian Taylor, 43, of 147A Connie Ross Rd.

Taylor was charged with trespassing and illegal dumping and will appear in Justice Court on Sept. 19. He reportedly admitted he unloaded the tires on the private land.

In the other case, Lawrence was able to use footage from a hidden camera that recorded the license plate of a vehicle that was used to haul three county-issued garbage containers from 258A Mary Woods Rd., in Como, to a location along Old Panola Road near the Tate-Panola line., where the cans were dumped on the side of the roadway.

Charged with littering was Christopher Wooten, 47, of the same address on Mary Woods Road. Like Taylor, Wooten admitted to the dumping charge, and was ticketed. He will also appear in Justice Court on Sept. 19.

Lawrence said Wooten agreed to clean up his litter and did so that day.

“We are glad when people pick up their garbage when they are caught, but we really want to stop them from dumping in the first place,” he said. “The Board of Supervisors want us to prevent all the illegal dumping we can and we ride the roads and get telephone calls every day about this problem.”

With the backing of the county board and attorney, Lawrence said he believes increased pressure and stiffer penalties will help curb the long-discussed litter problem in the county.