Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Twist in Cumberland Contempt Case; A CONFLICT the Defendant's Lawyer Is Allowed to Withdraw Because He Expects to Be Called as a Witness. A DEADLINE Jenkins Now Has 10 Days to Get a New Attorney, Then His Trial Will Be Rescheduled

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Twist in Cumberland Contempt Case; A CONFLICT the Defendant's Lawyer Is Allowed to Withdraw Because He Expects to Be Called as a Witness. A DEADLINE Jenkins Now Has 10 Days to Get a New Attorney, Then His Trial Will Be Rescheduled

Article excerpt

Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI

BRUNSWICK - Ben Jenkins was to have stood trial Friday on a contempt-of-court charge accusing him of violating a federal judge's order to stop all excavation work at a construction project on Cumberland Island.

Instead, his lawyer, John Ossick Jr., was allowed to withdraw from the case because he expects to be called as a witness when U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood tries the case.

U.S. Magistrate James Graham gave Jenkins 10 days to get a new lawyer to represent him and his Church of Verity Inc., after which the contempt trial will be rescheduled.

Ossick can continue representing Jenkins and his church in the original civil lawsuit challenging a National Park Service order halting construction of a home on leased property inside the national seashore's boundaries.

Jenkins lives in a house on property leased from the Park Service, which is at the heart of the case. The church is a nonprofit corporation of which Jenkins "is the sole owner and chief moderator." Jenkins' lease agreement says the church subleases the property, court records show.

He registered the Church of the Verity with the Georgia Secretary of State's Office in 1978. The church's principal address is Jenkins' post office box in St. Marys, state records showed.

Wood also is presiding over the civil lawsuit, which had been set for trial in December but postponed. The trial date has not be rescheduled.

Sitting in a wheelchair Friday, Jenkins leaned forward with his hands cupped behind his ears to better hear Ossick and Graham discuss why Ossick could not continue representing Jenkins in both cases.

"I understand, but I don't know why I am here," Jenkins responded in a raspy voice when Graham asked if he understood the contempt charge and its consequences.

Replying to a follow-up question from Graham, Jenkins said he understood Ossick's reasons from withdrawing from the contempt case.

Ossick told Graham initially he had no conflict of interest representing Jenkins in both cases. …

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