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Erskine Oglesby

All five judges from the five divisions of Hamilton County General Sessions Court have recused themselves from hearing a case involving former Chattanooga City Councilman Erskine Oglesby, who has been accused of stealing items from two supermarkets.

Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Alex McVeagh said during a hearing Tuesday that the judges were recusing themselves to avoid any appearance of impropriety. The case will now be heard July 13 by Kevin Wilson, city judge for East Ridge and Collegedale.

Oglesby served on the council from 2017 to 2021. Last year, Mayor Tim Kelly selected him to serve as the deputy administrator for community development, but Kelly placed Oglesby on administrative leave pending an investigation after his arrest. Oglesby resigned from that post May 6.

Oglesby did not make a statement to media after his brief appearance Tuesday, but his attorney, Dan Ripper, said the sessions court judges "do an excellent job of minding their ethical responsibilities."

"They're just going above and beyond to make sure it looks like it's supposed to look," Ripper said. "The public has to have confidence in what happens. That's part of a judge's role, and that's what our judges are doing is whatever the result is — good, bad or indifferent — whatever the result is the public needs to have confidence we got there the right way."

Ripper said Walmart and Food City have asked Oglesby to stay out of their stores. In the meantime, the supermarkets will provide Ripper with video, he said, of the incidents.

"They're going to provide me with video of what they say happened so that we can take a look at it and get some idea of whether we agree with them on what they say happened," Ripper said.

Oglesby, 67, was arrested by Chattanooga police after Walmart and Food City accused him of not paying for several items while going through the self-checkout aisle. He faces one count of theft under $1,000 and three counts of theft of property, according to Hamilton County General Sessions Court records.

"There are 22 incidents from Food City totaling approximately $347.11 in miscellaneous consumable goods," one affidavit said. "Oglesby passed all points of sale without paying during each individual incident."

Food City management told police the incidents date back to December.

According to Walmart, Oglesby "selected two packs of steaks, scanned one and placed both packages in the bag" during a Feb. 11 incident at the store on Cummings Highway, according to court papers. Store officials told police Oglesby returned March 5 and again "left with an unpurchased steak."

Oglesby turned himself in April 19 after two warrants were issued for his arrest related to the two separate thefts of steaks at the Walmart on Cummings Highway.

He turned himself in again April 27. He was charged with a single count of theft under $1,000 after a loss prevention manager at the Food City at 3801 Tennessee Ave. told police she had identified Oglesby as a suspect in 22 separate theft incidents. He was released on his own recognizance.

Reporter La Shawn Pagan contributed to this story.

Contact David Floyd at dfloyd@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @flavid_doyd.

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