Officials in the Sheriff's Department said a warrant was not obtained early Saturday morning to go inside a house where over 20 allegedly beer-drinking teens were partying because a magistrate said he was about to get off duty and wouldn't wait over.
Sgt. Robert Starnes said he was standing by a deputy who called Magistrate Larry Ables at 4:30 a.m. seeking the warrant after Charles and Jo Deeann Crumley would not allow access to their Apison Pike home.
He said Magistrate Ables said he was getting off at 5 and would be leaving then.
When there was a dispute about the time of the calls, Sgt. Starnes pulled the records and said the first call to the magistrate was at 4:20. He said they called back at 4:30 "asking him to stay, but he said he was going home."
The officers never went inside the house, though a deputy said he saw through an open door to the basement numerous teens and ample beer. Three youths outside were cited to court for underage drinking. The Crumleys were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Chief Magistrate Randy Russell said Magistrate Ables was not obligated by his county contract to stay past 5 a.m., but he said it was "highly unprofessional for him not to have waited to sign the warrant."
He said it was the first time he could remember that an officer requested a warrant and was not able to get one.
He stated, "Our responsibility as magistrates is to be available to fulfill our duties when required. Mr. Ables should have stayed over."
Magistrate Ables said the call from the deputy came at 4:35 or 4:40 a.m. He said he advised that he got off at 5. He said he did not leave until 5:05 and no one had shown up by then seeking the warrant.
Noting that the next magistrate was not due to come in until 8 a.m., he said when he was chief magistrate there was continuous coverage on the weekends. "But I'm not in charge anymore," he said.
He said he understood the officers had not started filling out the warrant, and he said the whole process would have taken an hour.
The County Commission earlier elevated Mr. Russell and moved Mr. Ables back to a regular magistrate with a drop in pay.
Chief Magistrate Russell said there are not enough magistrates to provide coverage around the clock seven days a week.
He said it is very rare to get a warrant request between 5-8 a.m.