Judge raises bond for woman charged with assaulting witness

Published 8:17 pm Friday, May 5, 2017

On Friday morning a Carter County judge significantly increased the bond on a woman charged with assaulting a witness in a court proceeding on Thursday, calling her actions “a slap in the face of justice.”

On Thursday afternoon, deputies of the Carter County Sheriff’s Office arrested Jessica Nicole Russell Worthington, 30, of 300 Lovers Lane, Elizabethton, and charged her with retaliation for past action, which is classified as a “Class E felony” under state law.

According to police reports and court documents, the incident happened around 12:30 p.m. in the hallway outside the courtroom at the Carter County Justice Center.

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CCSO Deputy Doug Mahan said he was informed by a Department of Children’s Services case worker that two females were arguing in the hallway following their involvement in a Juvenile Court proceeding.

“Upon entering the hall from the courtroom, I observed Nyoka Arthur backing down the hall from a woman, later identified as Jessica Nicole Worthington, who was aggressively pursuing Arthur while throwing fist punches to Arthur’s face and head area,” Mahan said. “Deputy Fred Lockett was coming up behind Worthington from the metal detector station giving verbal commands for them to stop.”

“Deputy Lockett then took hold of Worthington’s right arm as she took another swing at Arthur,” Mahan continued. “Worthington pulled her arm loose from Deputy Lockett and continued to assault Arthur.”

Mahan said he placed himself between the two women and he and Lockett were then able to restrain Worthington and take her into custody.

Arthur told officers she and Worthington began to argue as they left the courtroom because Worthington was upset about her testimony in Juvenile Court.

In court on Friday, following a request by Worthington Judge Keith Bowers Jr. appointed the Public Defender’s Office to represent the woman. Bowers allowed Assistant Public Defender Dwayne Fortner some time to speak with Worthington.

When Fortner brought Worthington back up before the court, he asked Bowers to release the woman on her own recognizance while the case is pending. Her bond had been set at $1,000.

“I think the $1,000 bond is ridiculously low,” Bowers said in response. He then increased Worthington’s bond to $10,000.

Bowers said the charge against Worthington is a serious offense, especially considering the incident took place inside the justice center as the two women exited a court proceeding. Bowers said if there is anywhere a person should feel safe it is a courtroom.

“The idea that this happened in this building is dangerous to everyone,” Bowers said. “A mother of a child was assaulted because of something that happened in a custody matter.”

“I can’t think of a more serious slap in the face of justice,” Bowers added.

While discussing the charge, Bower said he felt the seriousness of the offense warranted Worthington serving time in jail instead of being granted probation.

Fortner asked for another moment to speak with his client, which Bowers allowed. After speaking with Worthington, Fortner asked Bowers to set the case on Monday’s docket and said he might be filing motions in the matter which the court would need to consider on that day.

Bowers scheduled Worthington to return to court on Monday and then addressed the issue of increasing her bond.

“It wasn’t just a knee-jerk reaction,” Bowers said.

Bowers said Worthington assaulted a witness in a case despite the fact she was in a courthouse and despite the fact there were several officers present.

“With what she did here, it is untelling what she would do out on the street,” Bowers said. “There is a true danger here.”