Last night, local businessman and media personality Jeff Harding was acquitted by Bay St Louis Municipal Court Judge Stephen Maggio of simple assault and following too closely charges brought against him by Bay St Louis Mayor Les Fillingame’s daughter Katie Stewart. Maggio found Harding guilty of reckless driving for having a vehicle that had engine trouble on the roadways. Harding has not made a decision as to whether or not he will appeal the reckless driving conviction, which stemmed not from the facts alleged in Stewart’s affidavit but rather on defense’s admission the vehicle’s engine would not allow it to exceed 10-15 miles per hour on the roadways.
In her affidavits, Stewart alleged that Harding “did purposely, knowingly and unlawfully attempt to put (Stewart) in fear of imminent serious bodily harm by following her bumper to bumper, blasting horn, putting (her) and her 7-year-old in fear of causing accident or bodily harm”, an assertion that was directly contradicted by video evidence in the form of surveillance camera footage from various local business along the route that showed Harding’s vehicle was at times more than 150 feet behind Stewart, only catching up to her when she brought her vehicle to a virtual stop after hitting the curb at the intersection of Turner Street and U.S. 90 in Bay St Louis. Defense witness Aaron Whitney speculated that Stewart was trying to photograph the “Les Fillin’ Machine” before she sped away down 10th Street to the her parent’s residence, again well ahead of Harding, who apparently only sounded his horn once while passing the Mayor’s house instead of continuously, as alleged by Stewart.
The entire chain of events along the route taken by Stewart and Harding from Bouslog Street to 10th Street was witnessed by a Bay St Louis police officer that followed all of the vehicles. That officer took no action to stop Harding or local businessman Aaron Whitney, who was following Harding due to the poor running condition of the vehicle’s engine. Continue reading “Poolman not guilty of simple assault, following too closely in “made up” road rage incident”