CLANTON, Ala. (rootshed.com) – Chilton County resident Bonnie Sue Wyatt is now in her fifth consecutive month of incarceration for failure to pay a debt, under a civil contempt order signed by 19th Judicial Circuit Judge Sibley G. Reynolds. Earlier today several sources close to the case indicated that Ms. Wyatt is being held under indefinite incarceration, and some believe it may be motivated by corruption and not based in law. We have recently confirmed with officials in the Chilton County Courthouse that Ms. Wyatt must pay in full $197,920.19 to be released, in accordance with an order issued by Judge Reynolds on July 11.
We have also confirmed that her current incarceration has no basis in fact or law. Our investigation has uncovered that the Constitution of Alabama expressly prohibits debtors’ prisons, and numerous Alabama Supreme Court rulings have reaffirmed this constitutional guarantee as recently as 2005 in a case strikingly similar to that of Ms. Wyatt. Indeed, an Alabama municipal court was shut down and stripped of its authority earlier this year by a circuit judge in another part of the State who found that their practices resulted in nothing more than a debtors’ prison in a case widely reported on by national media. That story broke just two weeks before Ms. Wyatt was also jailed for failure to pay a debt.
Sources close to this case have indicated that the FBI and the U.S. District Attorney’s Office have been contacted about Ms. Wyatt’s unlawful incarceration, which appears to be in violation of federal civil rights law. However, at press time calls to both agencies for information on their investigations have not been returned. Sources also state that the local chapter of two unnamed national civil rights organizations have expressed interest in the matter.
Ms. Wyatt is said to have no remaining financial assets because of this legal matter despite rumors circulated in the Chilton County Courthouse that Judge Reynolds is holding her due to his belief that she is simply withholding payment of the $165,000.00 which he ordered her to pay to her former husband in 2011. The debt resulted from what some call a questionable property agreement on the marital home, but which was not referenced or incorporated in Judge Reynolds’ original order. The home was the constitutionally protected sole property of Ms. Wyatt prior to marriage, and the marriage lasted for only 10 months.
In viewing the case file and associated property agreement, the handwritten document was included with Mr. Wyatt’s motion to enforce final decree but lacks the required seal and signature of a notary public and stipulates that a formal agreement would be forthcoming. To date no formal agreement has been produced or found. It is unclear what legal basis was used by Judge Reynolds in raising the amount of the debt by almost $33,000.00 during the contempt proceeding, except for $6,000.00 which Chilton County Courthouse officials state is for Mr. Wyatt’s legal fees.
Since her incarceration in July, Judge Reynolds has also stripped Ms. Wyatt of her custody rights to her children, and was said to have asked Ms. Wyatt, “Have you learned your lesson yet?” in open court on the day he stripped her rights to her children. This has led many to question the rumors about Ms. Wyatt’s alleged ability to pay along with the judge’s own motivations in the case. Ms. Wyatt indicated in appeals documents that she could not pay the amount ordered. Her attempts to appeal the order were denied by Judge Reynolds himself.
Considering that under State law one can only be held for up to five days under criminal contempt, one has to wonder how Ms. Wyatt has remained incarcerated for over four months under civil contempt which is presumed to be less serious. Ms. Wyatt has previously retained the services of at least four attorneys on the matter. Most recently she hired Clanton, Alabama based attorney Angie Collins in the matter, though it appears that Ms. Collins has abandoned her client. Sources indicate that Ms. Collins received payment for her services, but now refuses to return the phone calls of those close to Ms. Wyatt. She has also not visited Ms. Wyatt at the jail nor has she taken any action to protect her client’s interests.
Our own multiple phone calls about the case have not been returned either. Today her secretary indicated to us that Ms. Collins was in her office, but would call us “right back within 20 minutes.” As of press time, several hours have passed and she has not done so. Sources close to Ms. Wyatt are astonished at Ms. Collins’ lack of cooperation to have her client’s right to liberty restored.
Those working on the issue have been reluctant to go on record out of a stated fear of retaliation by Judge Reynolds and his associates. It is alleged that this fear may have motivated the lack of action on the part of Ms. Wyatt’s many attorneys. Local citizens have pointed to Judge Reynolds’ alleged connections in the State Legislature – among other centers of power in the State – which, in the past, have passed unprecedented election rules for judicial candidates in the 19th circuit that are distinctly different from every other circuit in the State.
His opponents allege that these changes represent alleged corruption which was designed to help Judge Reynolds maintain his place on the bench despite perceived public disapproval. Indeed, Judge Sibley Reynolds has not faced opposition on the ballot since at least 1998. In the most recent election cycle, an area attorney was refused ballot access due to the county specific election rules in question.
We are conducting an ongoing investigation into the Wyatt case and the actions of Judge Sibley Reynolds. Anyone with information are encouraged to contact us directly at: email@example.com. All sources of information will remain anonymous.