Phone call empties courts again

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 11, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

In a sweltering 90 degrees that threatened to blister sidewalks, the employees and visitors to the Godwin Courts Building were chased out of the building Thursday in response to a call telling authorities that anthrax powder had been planted in the building.

One of the people toasting in the summer sun was Richard Clark Jr., an employee at Clark’s Body Shop. He was definitely hot under the collar.

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&uot;It’s really kind of pathetic and definitely inconvenient,&uot; he said. &uot;I should have been at work two hours ago. I’ve got customers waiting at the shop now.&uot;

Gloria Newton had barely arrived inside the air-conditioned courts building when deputies from the Sheriff’s office requested that she exit the same way she’d come into the building.

Sitting on a bench outside the courthouse, Newton said she’d been headed to a hearing in Juvenile Court.

&uot;They told me I couldn’t even go sit in my car,&uot; she said, gesturing at her vehicle parked next to the courthouse door. &uot;It’s ridiculous. I think it’s someone who didn’t want to go to court today.&uot;

Another courthouse visitor, Bobby Langley, said he’d just sat down in the court when the order to evacuate the building came. He offered the suggestion that the courts and law enforcement officials should consider making things a little more comfortable during such incidents.

&uot;The city definitely needs to put more benches out here,&uot; he said, sitting down in one on North Main Street,&uot; said Langley. &uot;And, maybe a few umbrellas for shade, too.&uot;

Lt. Debbie J. George, Crime Line coordinator for the city of Suffolk, said the courts were temporarily closed after a threat was called into the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office.

&uot;The building was evacuated and fire and police personnel responded after being notified of the phone call, which was received at approximately 8:55 am,&uot; said the lieutenant. &uot;Federal officials were also notified and responded.&uot;

In answer to the question of what the threat was, fire and police officials would only say &uot;an unspecified threat was received.&uot;

Lt. George added that the building was searched and declared clear of any type of danger. Circuit Court resumed at 2 p.m. General District and Juvenile Domestic Relations court remained closed and they will be open today as usual.

This is the second time in recent weeks that the courts building has been emptied out in such manner. The last time, people were chased out into the rain as officials searched for a bomb inside the courts building. Investigators said that call came from a telephone booth across the street from the courthouse.

Fire, Police and Federal officials are following up possibly leads on the call. Anyone with any information is asked to call Suffolk Crime Line at 1-888-Lock-U-Up. Callers to Crime Line never give their names but instead, remain anonymous and they never testify in court. If a caller’s information leads to an arrest, the caller is eligible for up to $1,000 from Crime Line.