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New judge to preside over sheriff's appeal hearing of order of protection

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The Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts has appointed a new judge to proceed over the hearing of Madison County Sheriff David Lee Woolfork’s appeal to an order of protection. The order of the new judge’s appointment was issued Tuesday.

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Madison County Circuit Court Clerk Kathy Blount said Tuesday afternoon that Senior Judge Paul G. Summers will preside over the hearing, which has not been set, after Madison County Circuit Court Judge Don H. Allen recused himself on Oct. 24. Allen issued the order a day after he was appointed to hear the case.

Summers, who was sworn in as senior judge on Dec. 31, was most recently a partner in the Nashville law firm of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, according to TN Courts.gov. Summers also served as Attorney General for the State of Tennessee and was a judge on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Woolfork is appealing a granted order of protection, which was filed by Madison County Deputy Sharon Ann Sangster. Sangster is Woolfork’s former mistress.

Following an almost 6-hour hearing, Shelby County General Sessions Court Judge Phyllis B. Gardner, who was brought in to preside over the hearing, ruled in favor of Sangster on Oct. 23. Less than 24 hours later, an appeal was filed on behalf of Woolfork.

Though an appeal was filed, Woolfork still has to comply with the order and also had to surrender his firearms, which he did on Oct. 25.

An Oct. 10 incident at Sangster’s home involving her and Woolfork is one of the reasons Sangster asked for the order, according to the petition she filed on Oct. 11.

According to a news release from the Jackson Police Department, around 8:30 p.m. Oct. 10, Jackson police responded to a disturbance call at 52 Edenwood Drive in Jackson. Officers identified two individuals at the residence being Woolfork and Sangster.

Police said separate interviews were conducted with both parties and based upon the interviews, officers determined that it was a domestic abuse related incident.

After an on-scene investigation, officers were unable to determine a primary aggressor as required by the domestic abuse statute. Officers advised Sangster of departmental procedures as they relate to victims of reported domestic abuse.
The Criminal Investigation Division said it has assumed the investigation, which is ongoing. Investigators also met with the special prosecutor, who is assigned to handle the incident, the day before the order of protection was granted.

No charges have been filed against Woolfork.

Woolfork, who is married, admitted to having an affair with Sangster and testified that he has never assaulted Sangster and that she has never assaulted him. He also said the relationship was consensual.

Woolfork testified that it was he who had sought to end the relationship, but he was afraid that Sangster would kill herself because he thought she was displaying signs of depression.

Woolfork also testified that the last sexual encounter he had with Sangster was in September.

In an Oct. 11 statement, Woolfork said he believed “that this incident was motivated by political opponents and orchestrated as a beginning attack in the now contested, upcoming election.”

Sangster said the relationship became violent and she wanted out. But, Woolfork would not stop pursuing her. She also testified that Woolfork became aggressive the night of the incident and grabbed her like he was going to force her to have sex with him.

Aside from her order of protection being granted for a year, Sangster’s attorney’s have filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to an Oct. 11 letter faxed to Madison County Attorney Steven W. Maroney from Sangster’s attorney Deborah Godwin, Sangster claims that since her employ with the sheriff’s department started on March 16, 2011, she has been sexually harassed and sexually discriminated against by Woolfork.

The letter also said Woolfork “conditioned terms and conditions of (Sangster’s) employment on sexual favors and physically and mentally harassed her to the point that she is not able to continue to work in this sexually hostile working environment and is under doctor’s care.”

On. Oct. 21, the Madison County Commission unanimously approved the hiring of Dickinson Wright , a Nashville-based law firm, to conduct an independent investigation of Sangster’s claims. Commissioners also put a $7,500 limit on the cost of the investigation and said the county would need to approve any expenses over that limit.

Despite the allegations and the investigations, Woolfork’s family, friends and some members of the community continue to support him and offer him words of encouragement.

In an Oct. 23 Facebook post, Woolfork’s daughter Sharlene wrote:”I LOVE YOU DADDY!!! I stand with you..beside you... in front of you and I will always have your back. Keep your head up! God gives His toughest battles to HIS STRONGEST soldiers!!! #1 fan since 1969.”

David Woolfork Jr, Woolfork’s son, sat in court during the Oct. 23 hearing on the order of protection. He frequently stood at his father’s side, hugged him and talked with him during breaks.

The following morning, Woolfork Jr. posted on Facebook to his father: “You are still my hero... God made you my father for a reason. Watching you for 32 years gave me my work ethic and to strive to reach my full potential. 20 years ago my mother, you and myself were having dinner and one of your opponents offered you a job as his chief deputy not to run and a conversation you thought as a child I had no interest in I said: "He only said that because he knows you will win." A short time later you won and made your father proud. Well I graduate barber school next week and I hope I make you as proud as you made your father. Love You Pops!!”

Other supporters of Woolfork wrote that they were heartbroken over what they called “nonsense” and reinforced their support of Woolfork.

“Sheriff, you have always been there when I have needed you,” one woman posted on his Facebook page. “Thank You! You will have my vote.”

Another woman wrote, “You still ROCK, sheriff. Nobody is perfect, even the ones pointing fingers have skeletons in their closet. Keep your head up. Take one day at a time. Keep your faith strong.”

Many more posters expressed similar sentiments and Woolfork thank them for their continued support.

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