Part-time judge's altercation with Beaufort police does not lead to arrest

Beaufort police say they did not give special treatment to a local judge who they believed to be intoxicated, but did not arrest, after an altercation with officers Saturday night on Bay Street.

Police responded to a report of an intoxicated woman outside the former Lipsitz Department Store shortly before 9 p.m., according to records released Monday. A witness told police she saw an unidentified man leering at the woman while she was lying down with her legs in the street.

Police found a woman they reported to be Beaufort Municipal Court Judge Mary Sharp. She matched the description of their subject and was having difficulty walking toward a patrol car, they said.

Sharp, who could not be reached for comment late Monday, has been a part-time Municipal Court judge since 2000, according to the city's website. She was out of town meeting with a client late Monday, according to a partner in her law firm.

Officer Kurt Dralle reported having to shout and shine a flashlight at Sharp to get her attention and stop her as she approached the car.

When police explained that someone concerned about Sharp's welfare had called them, she grew frustrated, the records indicate.

"She kept nudging me in my chest three or four times, saying, 'Really? Really?' (and) 'Come on, you're joking,' " Dralle reported.

After the altercation, Sharp walked into a nearby restaurant, where another officer saw her pick up a phone.

Several minutes later, fellow Municipal Court Judge Ned Tupper arrived and said he'd been looking for Sharp. Police directed Tupper, who also could not be reached for comment late Monday, to the restaurant.

When asked about the incident Monday, Deputy Chief Dale McDorman said officers evidently determined Sharp's actions did not warrant arrest.

"It just didn't rise to that level," McDorman said.

Police came into contact with many people downtown that night, the finale of Beaufort's busy Shrimp Festival, McDorman said. They were primarily interested in making sure all got home safely, and they did not arrest any for public disorderly conduct, he said.

McDorman said actions similar to Sharp's would not have caused anyone else to be arrested. Police did not give her a break because of her position as a judge, he said.

"I don't believe that played a part in this," he said.