Update Wednesday, July 5, 2017
As Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman had stated, the courts in Florida officially signed off on the pre-trial diversion Wednesday, effectively dismissing these charges against he and WCSO Major Damien Mercer. Although documents suggested Chapman had to appear in the Franklin County Court House on July 6, Chapman maintained that would not be necessary and reiterated this week that he would not be in court.
A bar fight in Florida following his successful primary win last year resulted in an arrest and charges of misdemeanor battery against Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman and Major Damien Mercer. The charges were then reduced by the courts to disorderly conduct and Chapman said those charges were dismissed this week. The charges against Mercer also were dismissed.
According to the Incident Report from Franklin County, the incident took place on May 26 at Harry’s Bar in Carrabelle, Fla. An altercation broke out between Chapman, Mercer, another deputy from WCSO and other customers at the bar resulting in the arrest of Mercer and Chapman. According to the report, the altercation began when Chapman pushed one of the men against the pool table.
“I had put money on the table and he wanted to take the money,” Chapman said. “Yes, I pushed him, but I never hit anybody. After that one of the guys approached me with a crowbar and that was when the others got involved.”
Chapman said he and Mercer were arrested, fingerprinted and released on bond. He said he never said anything until now because the case had not been adjudicated. However, the charges have now been dismissed.
The incident has generated a lot of conversation on social media because, although the primary between Monroe Public Safety Director Keith Glass and Chapman for Sheriff of Walton County had been decided at that time, former Social Circle police officer Mike Sledge was trying, unsuccessfully, to mount a run against the sheriff during that time. Sledge only managed to make it on as a write in and Chapman was subsequently re-elected in November 2016.
Chapman said he did not appear in court. He had a Florida lawyer representing him. Chapman said they were given a period of time to make sure that nothing else came before the courts, and then the charges would be dropped. That time has now passed, so the dismissal will be signed off on. He said the papers on the dismissal would be available next week.
Chapman, who is currently in Florida at property he is part owner in, released the following statement in connection with this incident.
Allow me to address an incident that happened over a year ago. After the the May election I went to Florida on vacation. At a bar and grill a person tried to take my money that I had put on a pool table to play a game of pool. He directed some threats to me and left. He later returned with another person he said was his brother. He again said he was going to take the money off the table and walked toward me. I pushed him away. He and the other person went outside and returned with a crowbar. The two threatened to beat and shoot me. I instinctively chased them outside. Local law enforcement was called. The person that I pushed said that if I paid him a 1000.00 he wouldn’t press charges. I refused and was charged with battery. This was later changed to disorderly conduct and then dismissed. I hate that this happened and I’m embarrassed that it happened. With that being said I can’t say that I would handled the situation any different. I would have brought this to your attention sooner, but I had to let the legal process take its course. I will continue to serve you to the best of my ability. Thank you.