The city of Columbus has punted a pending criminal case against a former city councilman to Lowndes County Justice Court.
City Public Information Officer Joe Dillon confirmed to The Dispatch this morning the city transferred all case files for a domestic violence charge against District 41 State Representative Kabir Karriem (D-Columbus) to justice court on Wednesday.
Karriem, a former Ward 5 councilman who was elected in 2015 to the Legislature, was scheduled to appear before Judge Rhonda Ellis in Columbus Municipal Court this afternoon. Justice court records did not indicate a new judge or court date by press time.
Dillon said both city judges — Ellis and Gary Goodwin — recused themselves from the case because they were either hired or being considered for hire while Karriem still served on the city council. He added city and county officials had communicated for weeks to determine the proper way to proceed.
“All of our court personnel, including both of our sitting judges, are city employees hired by the city council,” Dillon told The Dispatch. “We are committed to all defendants coming through our court system to receive a fair and complete trial. This case is unusual (since it involves a former councilman), and the city wants to avoid the appearance of impropriety.”
Karriem, 43, turned himself in to Columbus police at the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center on Oct. 11, following an incident where he allegedly struck his 18-year-old daughter three times in the head with a closed fist in the parking lot of Swoope Real Estate on Military Road. The state representative has denied the allegations, which his daughter first reported to police. He also claimed in October in a statement through his attorney, Austin Vollor of Starkville, that his arrest was “politically motivated.”
The daughter has since recanted her original statement to police.
Vollor told The Dispatch the municipal judges’ decision to recuse was out of his hands. He said he remains confident in his client’s case.
“The truth’s going to come out at the right time,” he said. “We’re ready to resolve it.”
Reporter Isabelle Altman contributed to this article.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.