Moultrie Observer

Local News

July 21, 2012

James Ridley faces a new charge

A convicted felon, standoff suspect now charged with having gun

MOULTRIE — For a Moultrie man jailed on an assault charge, an accusation of firing a weapon at someone and trying to avoid capture isn’t just a story from July 2012.

In an incident that has some similarities with the one that led to his July 3 arrest after a roughly 12-hour standoff with police, James Ridley fired a .22-caliber pistol at a man in 1974. A pistol of the same caliber was recovered from Ridley’s 11th Court Southeast home after officers got Ridley out July 3.

About nine days after the recent standoff with officers, the Moultrie Police Department filed a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon against Ridley.

In the 1974 incident — as with the one this month — there were questions about Ridley’s mental state; his attorney at that time successfully requested a mental evaluation. The Central State Hospital in Milledgeville found him competent to stand trial and assist in his defense. The summary of that report said that he was borderline mentally retarded.

Neighbors who live close to Ridley’s current address said that Ridley displayed mental issues, and that they go back for years.

“He (will) be out on the porch all the time talking to himself,” said James Evans, who lives in the nearby Rainwater Village apartments. “This time he was out there shooting.”

Other neighbors, who did not give their names, also said Ridley acted strange.

Police Sgt. Rob Rodriguez said that any mental evaluation of Ridley would come during the legal process.

And that likely would come at the request of his defense attorney, Assistant District Attorney Brian McDaniel said.

Ridley likely will be assigned a public defender, he said.

“I think, under the circumstances, somebody will seek to do that,” McDaniel said. “They will file a petition after they meet with him. (He) then more than likely will go to one of the state hospitals after that.”

Ridley’s mental state could have some impact on how the prosecution proceeds, McDaniel said.

“Certainly it can,” he said. “We will, and I’m sure his attorneys will, look at the circumstances. We will look at his competency at the time and the circumstances at the time of this.”

Ridley has been granted a $7,500 bond by a Magistrate Court judge, but as of Friday he remained at Colquitt County Jail.

As of that time he also had not been assigned a public defender. In his criminal file at the Colquitt County Clerk of Court’s office, an application for an attorney from that office has only a few lines filled in.

Someone at that office began filling out the form, but it appears they stopped as a note attached said that Ridley, whom other reports said is legally blind, would not sign the document.

Ridley is accused in the July 2012 case with firing a gun at James Horne, court documents said.

In 1975 he was convicted of firing a .22-caliber pistol in the direction of two coworkers with whom he had quarreled on the job earlier in the day.

A Moultrie Observer account of that July 12, 1974, incident said that his boss took him home early, but that Ridley later found the men and was armed with a pistol. After firing one shot he threw the pistol into some bushes and ran, but he was arrested the same day and the pistol was recovered.

He was charged with two counts of aggravated assault at the time.

Ridley pleaded guilty to carrying a pistol without a license, court documents said, and was found guilty on one count of aggravated assault and one count of an alternative charge of simple assault in the other.

He was sentenced to a three-year prison term on Jan. 23, 1975, and was paroled on Dec. 17 that same year.

Attorney Sam Gardner, in requesting the mental evaluation prior to the 1975 trial, wrote that Ridley “appears to be in an abnormal mental state to such extent that (I) am under the impression and of the opinion that said defendant is suffering from some type of mental illness.”


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