A federal judge has rejected the efforts of a local man to back out of a settlement agreement with the last remaining defendants in his federal court lawsuit.
Tristan James Hall previously had charges related to criminal solicitation to commit murder, making a fraudulent insurance claim and intimidating a participant in the legal process all dismissed.
In late December 2016, Hall filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the City of Williamsburg, Police Chief Wayne Bird, Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen Trimble, Whitley County Attorney Bob Hammons, Special Prosecutor Jackie Steele, USAA Casualty Insurance Company, USAA General Indemnity Company, Veracity Research Company, James Potter Wilder Jr., and former Kentucky State Police Detective Richie Baxter, who investigated the criminal solicitation to commit murder case.
The only portion of Hall’s federal court lawsuit that wasn’t dismissed involved a portion of the allegations against Bird and the City of Williamsburg. All other defendants were dismissed.
On Oct. 13, 2017, Hall agreed to settle the lawsuit against the city and Bird for $1,000.
On Nov. 6, Special Prosecutor Brian Wright, who wasn’t involved in Hall’s other matters, presented a case to the Whitley County Grand Jury, which indicted Hall later that day on eight counts of tampering with public records and eight counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.
Each count of tampering with a public record and each count of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the indictment corresponds to one of eight criminal cases against Hall, which he had apparently tried to have expunged from his record on April 25, according an analysis of the indictments.
According to the indictments in the tampering with public records portion of the indictment, Hall allegedly “knowingly made a false entry in or falsely altered a public record,” which was a false Kentucky State Police Expungement Eligibility Certification Notice that Hall attached to a petition for expungement in the eight cases.
Hall has pleaded not guilty to those charges, and has a Feb. 19 pre-trial conference in the case scheduled in Whitley Circuit Court.
On Nov. 10, Hall sent Bridget Dunaway, an attorney representing the city and Bird, an e-mail indicating his desire to back out of the settlement agreement citing the new indictment.
“Things have changed. I fully intended to settle, and as you are duly aware I was simply tired of litigation. Unfortunately, then others … decided to obtain a retaliatory indictment. Until I determine what has occurred and who is involved, there will be no settlement or other decisions made,” Hall wrote in the e-mail. “In short, I simply cannot settle or end litigation only for others to continue attacking me.”
On Nov. 22, Bird and the city filed a motion seeking to enforce the settlement agreement and to collect costs and attorney fees incurred as a result of this motion.
U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves issued an order on Jan. 26 to enforce the settlement agreement between the two parties.
“Plaintiff Tristan Hall has not filed a response to the defendants’ motion, and the motion may be granted for this reason alone,” Reeves wrote. “It is well established that courts retain the inherent power to enforce agreements entered into in settlement of litigation pending before them.”
Reeves noted in his order that Hall made an offer to settle the case for $1,000, and the defendants agreed to accept that offer, and Hall manifested his assent to the settlement agreement by responding “that’s fine.”
Reeves declined to grant Bird and the city’s request for costs and attorney fees but noted the motion could be renewed should Hall fail to comply with the order.
“Hall’s refusal to adhere to the parties’ settlement agreement was done not in good faith. He assured the defendants that he had sent them the requested settlement documents, but the defendants never received them,” Reeves wrote.
“The following week, Hall informed the defendants that there would in fact be no settlement, and that he would not be making any other decisions regarding this litigation. Hall’s refusal to proceed with settlement or to otherwise move forward with this litigation has resulted in obstruction and delay in the resolution of this action.”
Reeves further wrote in his order that Hall’s conduct resulted in a violation of the Court’s order to tender an agreed order of dismissal.
“This comes on the heels of Hall’s repeated failure to comply with other deadlines and Court orders, including his failure to comply with a Court order to fully respond to certain discovery requests and his failure to attend his own deposition,” Reeves wrote.
“As a result, Hall has abused the judicial process, and the Court has discretion to award costs against him. Although the Court declines to exercise that discretion at this time, the defendants may renew their motion for costs if Hall’s non-compliance with the parties’ settlement agreement continues.”
Hall disagreed with the Reeves’ ruling.
“There is a difference between enforcing an agreement and forcing an agreement. I anticipated Judge Reeves’ decision because he is directly tied to Trimble and Howard Mann; and, I will be taking appropriate action soon,” Hall wrote in an e-mail to the News Journal. “I will no longer remain idle while others act nefarious. The complaint against Judge (Wendell) Hammons was the first of many.”
Howard Mann is Trimble’s former law partner.
Wendell ‘Skip’ Hammons is a district judge in Knox and Laurel County, and is the special judge who has overseen some of the misdemeanor cases involving Hall.
Hall said he filed a complaint against Hammons with the Judicial Conduct Commission on Jan. 17.
The complaint includes a 15-page memorandum in support of the complaint, and 124 pages of supporting documentation.
Hammons was the special judge, who presided over Hall’s harassing communications case that was ultimately dismissed.
Hammons was also the special judge in Hall’s hindering prosecution or apprehension case that ended with a guilty plea by Hall, but Hall reserved the right to appeal and appealed that case to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
Hammons was the judge in an expired registration plates, expired registration receipt and no insurance case. He was also the special judge in a case where Hall is charged with shoplifting at Walmart in Williamsburg.
Both of these cases are still pending, but Hammons recently recused himself.
Hall’s complaint alleged that Hammons intervened in Hall’s efforts to get his prior cases expunged, and that he entered an order on May 5, 2017, in Knox District Court stating “The Office of the Knox Circuit Court was contacted by the KSP on May 3, 2017, and informed that the certification certificate had been altered.”
Hall denies any wrongdoing in that case.
Hall also claims that Hammons seized every opportunity to disadvantage him, abused his discretion and disregarded the law.