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Alleged Ransacking Judge Sought

May 4, 2000

NEWPORT, Tenn. (AP) _ A judge wanted for allegedly ransacking the county executive’s office was let go after a traffic stop because deputies weren’t aware of warrants out against him, a sheriff said.

Authorities were still searching for Circuit Court Judge Ben W. Hooper II today.

He was charged Monday with destruction of county property and public intoxication _ both misdemeanors _ after the incident at Cocke County Executive Charles Lewis Moore’s office.

Police said Hooper admitted to the vandalism in a profanity-laced call to 911 dispatchers. The two had several arguments over political issues.

The judge was escorted off the property Monday and later waited at the county jail as the warrants were filled out. But he left with his son, lawyer Ben Hooper III, before the warrants could be served.

Friends took Hooper to a psychiatric hospital in Louisville, Tenn., but he left after breaking the lock off a door.

Hooper was with his son and a former judge in Blount County, when a sheriff’s deputy pulled them over Tuesday after hearing about him leaving the hospital, authorities said.

On a video recorded from the deputy’s car, Hooper’s son is heard trying to explain that his father had been on a three-day drinking binge and desperately needed intervention.

The men were let go after being told of Hooper’s legal options.

Blount County Sheriff James Berrong said the deputies made the right decision in letting Hooper go because hospital officials had not indicated whether they wanted to press charges.

He said the deputies had no way of knowing about the warrants from Cocke County because it sometimes takes up to a day for such records to be entered into the National Crime Information Center’s computer system.

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