Rev. Arthur D. Hage, 63, has posted the video below as part of his complaint to the state Judicial Investigation Commission about Putnam County Circuit Court Family Law Judge William M. “Chip” Watkins III. It shows Watkins, 58, going ballistic in a divorce case where he screams at Hage, including to tell him to “Shut up” and accusing him of telling a “damn lie.”
Hage was raising a termite issue in the marital home that the minister felt had to be addressed before being sold to anyone. The judge appears out of control at points, screaming “I didn’t tell you to talk. … Are you deaf?” and “Shut up! I didn’t ask you to speak.”
Watkins accuses Hage of being behind a news website’s article about Watkins and his wife being delinquent on paying their homeowner’s association dues.
It starts out with Watkins saying calmly “Mr. Hage, if you say one word out of turn, you’re going to jail. Do you understand me?” That was a bad sign since I fail to see any basis for such a threat. Hage nonetheless answers “yes.”
Watkins then accuses Hage of speaking with a reporter after the prior hearing and his wife Lillian’s lawyer asked for an order of contempt for Hage mentioning his wife’s mental health problems in violation of a court order.
That is when Hage tried to speak and touched off a judicial eruption. Watkins screams “Because of you, my wife is there alone, and my house has been vandalized four times. You realize that, of course, as I’m sure you’re probably in on it and laughing about it.” The judge continues to say “You, you disgusting piece of …” and “I swear to you. You’re responsible. I’m holding you personably responsible for anything that happens to my house.”
In what appears to be the world’s most obvious point, Watkins states “I promise you that if see so much as anyone blanketing my home, my wife, my family, you and me are going to have a problem. …”
Notably, Watkins appears to start to recuse himself after saying “Well, buddy, it’s personal. It’s personal, and I can promise you, you will not hear the end of if from me.” It would seem recusal at that point is inevitable. However, Watkins stops himself and again starts to beat up on the pastor, including some remarkable threats : “Please understand that. I will resign this bench and I will personally see to it that you never see a free day in your life. Do you understand? You’re going to jail,. I swear to God.”
Here is the most amazing thing, Watkins then proceeds to conduct the hearing and refuses to recuse himself.
The ethics charge has obvious merit given the judge’s personal interest and anger — not to mention his loss of composure and demeanor. Regardless of the merits of the allegations, Watkins was no longer a disinterested or neutral party.
Watkins was also accused of threatening two local reporters.