Update September 1, 2015: County prosecuting attorney Alan Phillips recused himself from the two cases. A Madison County Assistant District Attorney will handle the prosecution.
The local news media gave quite a bit of attention to two doctors who were arrested for allegedly hosting a party for teenagers and providing them with alcohol last October. A pair of Madison moms also drew heavy coverage when they were arrested in Florida for allegedly providing booze to minors and hosting a spring break party at a condo. However, one case that slipped under the radar took place in Flora as businessman Cliff Torrence got in trouble with the law not once but twice for hosting parties at his home and providing alcohol to teen-agers.
Cliff Torrence was arrested on July 14, 2012 for hosting a party at his Flora home for a bunch of teenagers and allowing them to drink. A wreck took place on his property and an ambulance was dispatched. Sheriff's deputies accompanied Flora rescue to the scene. One officer approached the swimming pool behind the house and observed the teens:
running and throwing beer cans as they fled. Coolers of beer and alcohol was found throughout the outside of the residence. Flora rescue arrived and treated the female teenager. Davis ultimately arrested Torrence, and together with Moffett, briefly interviewed the teenagers and called their parents." (KF note: Most of the kids were of the Northeast Jackson variety.)Madison County Justice Court Judge Bruce McKinley fined Mr. Torrence $1,000 and imposed a prison sentence of 90 days but suspended 60 days. Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Phillips handled the prosecution Mr. Torrence appealed to County Court in Madison County.
Thus, Mr. Torrence managed to escape the thirty-day sentence Judge McKinley wanted to impose and only paid a thousand-dollar fine. One would think Mr. Torrence learned his lesson, right? Wrong.
Mr. Torrence hosted another party for teens at his home on July 19, 2014. Madison County Deputies and ABC agents discovered the party, under-aged teens, and booze as the party was in full swing when they arrived. They arrested Torrence and charged him with seven counts of violating the social host law. Mr. Phillips filed a motion to show cause on July 23, 2014 and asked the court to revoke his probation and incarcerate him for 90 days. The motion also disclosed Mr. Torrence had not completed the Courtwatch analysis program.
James Scarff and Chuck McRae represent Mr. Torrence. Scarff argued the revocation was "premature" as he has pleaded not guilty and he has not been convicted of a violation. He also claimed no deadline had been given on completing the courtwatch program, so Mr. Torrence had not violated that portion of his sentence as well.
The hearing was supposed to be held on August 18, 2014 but was continued until November 10, 2014. However, the hearing did not take place as Judge Steve Ratcliffe recused himself from the case on November 7. He stated that the "court had been contacted by someone other than defense counsel on behalf of the defendant with information about this case." The Mississippi Supreme Court appointed Retired Circuit Judge Breland Hilburn to hear the case on November 13.
The docket contains no entries after that date. There are no motions to schedule a hearing, no notices, no nothing. The case is just there, collecting dust.
Meanwhile, no action has been taken in the 2014 case against Mr. Torrence. The case sits on the docket as well, awaiting prosecution by Mr. Phillips. However, Mr. Torrence has some very charitable things to say about his prosecutor on the campaign Facebook page of Mr. Phillips:
KF Note: Nothing like campaign broh-mance.
Disclosure: Attorney Pamela Hancock is a long-time advertiser on this website and is the opponent of Mr. Phillips in the election for Madison County Prosecuting Attorney. The prosecuting attorney handles misdemeanors in Justice Court and appeals in County Court. (KF note: I even enlarged the print of this disclosure just for you.).
This is the order, recusal of Judge, and 2014 charges.