News 4 Investigates: Woman says St. Ann court threatened jail if - KMOV.com

News 4 Investigates: Woman says St. Ann court threatened jail if she were to miss first court date

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ST. ANN, Mo. (KMOV.com) -  Everyone going to St. Ann Municipal Court has a story, but on one night, a particular story stood out.

"I was going a bit fast... I was delivering some Chinese food for a Chinese restaurant," Susan Warren told News 4.

Warren admitted she was speeding on Interstate 70 and that she deserved the ticket St. Ann police gave her.

She was delivering a special order, Warren said, and the boss wanted it there in a hurry.

"I got a $10 tip and a $200 ticket," said Warren.

A lot of people wouldn't risk a $200 speeding ticket for a small tip on Chinese fast food, but Susan is low-income, lives in a small home in Ferguson, and sometimes places a higher value on the money right in front of her, than the potential cost of pursuing it.

The day before court, she had gastric bypass surgery, and still wore the plastic hospital bracelet because she checked out of the hospital early, convinced she had to come for her first court appearance on the ticket, or she could be arrested.

"If I miss this court date, I'm going to be arrested, that's what they told me," said Warren.

A court employee told she would have to appear in court, or hire an attorney to appear for her, or she could be arrested for failure to appear. So, Warren checked out of the hospital early and rushed to court.

"I just feel that was so cruel...because I was speeding in your city...I have to leave a hospital where I'm having surgery because you would not give me another court date?" Warren told News 4.

St. Ann Municipal Court Clerk Angela Chatman insisted that none of her employees would have said that and that if Susan Warren had written a letter to the judge well in advance of her surgery, he may have not required her to be in court. Even if Warren hadn't shown up, Chatman said the judge would not have issued a warrant for failure to appear on a first court date.

The more News 4 learned about Ms. Warren, the more we understood why she might have reacted the way she did, regardless of what she was told. 

Last fall in nearby Bel-Ridge, she got a $75 ticket for making a rolling stop at a stop sign and a $10 citation for not having her seat belt buckled. She missed a court appearance, and was later arrested and taken to jail. She paid the fines, but she may never forget the experience.

When talking about her arrest she told News 4, "After they handcuffed me, I started to cry."

So when Susan Warren was told, or not told, that she had to be in St. Ann's court or face arrest, what she heard was something she never wanted to risk again. So, she checked out of the hospital and drove two hours to make it to court.

She said, "I had to do what I had to do to keep my freedom."

Once again, St. Ann Court insisted she was not at risk of getting arrested for missing her first court appearance, but Ms. Warren still doesn't believe it and insists she was told that she could be arrested if she missed court that night.
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