Lawyer faces fine, county administrator still faces charges

CONWAY (KATV) - The lawyer representing Jeff Johnston, a Faulkner County employee accused of theft, was fined $5,000 for "delaying justice" with a "frivolous" motion to dismiss the charges.

Joe Don Winningham was chastised in court by Circuit Judge Rhonda Wood on Wednesday for "an improper pleading" that sought to dismiss charges against Johnston.

Johnston, a county administrator, is accused of using $3,800 of county money to pave the driveway at his former house.

Winningham claimed Johnston's arrest warrant was signed by a judge who was acting in an outside jurisdiction.

Shortly into the hearing Circuit Judge Rhonda Wood emphatically struck down the motion.

She said it was "frivolous and without a scintilla of merit" and came at "the expense of justice."

Wood fined Winningham $5,000 and ordered him not to charge his client for the time spent filing the motion.

Judge Wood gave the attorney 21 days to withdraw the motion but Winningham said afterward has no plans to do so.

Jeff Johnston only had a few words to say in defense of his lawyer.

"I have no problem with Mr. Winningham," said Johnston, leaving the courthouse. "He's doing his job to the very best of his ability."

He'll be in court before on November 30 for a pretrial hearing. Johnston's trial date is set for December 6.