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Ort’s Out of Jail; Here’s How He Got There

Photo Credit: Jason Thrasher


Beloved Athens man-about-town William Orten Carlton, aka Ort’s, troubles with Athens-Clarke County regarding the condition of his property stretch back at least 15 months.

After spending the night in the Clarke County Jail on a misdemeanor charge of probation violation, Ort was released on his own recognizance this afternoon, according to attorney Bill Overend. Ort commented on our previous story:


I’m back on the street (as of 2:30 this afternoon) and ready to start in working as soon as possible. Thanks for all the concern.

I await the next step: committal proceedings. It’s been tried before. Yawn.

Wholeheartedly, Ort.

P. S. I AM crazy, and I’m PROUD of it. And my house is not quite a sty… now that the carport is cleaned out, it’s looking more like a residence.

But he still has a ways to go in cleaning up his property to avoid more legal trouble. Overend set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for the cleanup. It raised more than $4,000 in six hours, and Overend has now asked that people stop donating because it’s exceeded the $2,500 goal.

Here’s how Ort got into this pickle, according to ACC Community Protection Division and Municipal Court records:

• On June 25, 2014, a CPD officer visited Ort’s house on Sharon Circle and issued warnings for accumulation of refuse, failing to repair a shed that was damaged by fallen tree limbs, accumulations of boxes and paper in the carport and a junked car with an expired license plate on the property.

• Subsequent CPD visits on July 28, 2014 and Aug. 4, 2014 showed no change to the property.

• On Aug. 8, 2014, Ort advised a CPD officer that he would move the vehicle to the carport as soon as it was cleaned out.

• On Aug. 15, Ort told a CPD officer that he had hauled a substantial amount of debris from the carport, but the officer couldn’t tell if any had been removed. She contacted the Solid Waste Department, which provided additional recycling bins to expedite the process. Ort asked for a two-week extension to finish removing the debris.

• Ort asked for another two-week extension when an officer visited the property again on Sept. 4, 2014.

• Citations were issued on Oct. 20, 2014.

• Arraignments scheduled for Nov. 19, 2014, and Dec. 8, 2014, were continued.

• Ort missed an arraignment scheduled for Jan. 13, 2015. He told a clerk he thought the date was the following day and that he had the flu. The arraignment was reset for Feb. 9.

• On Feb. 9, Ort requested additional time to speak to a lawyer.

• He plead not guilty to the charges on Mar. 9, and a trial date of Apr. 8 was set. That date was later continued to May 6. Meanwhile, both sides tried to negotiate a resolution.

• Ort did not show up in court for the May 6 trial.

• On May 11, Ort came to court and said he had been ill, providing a doctor’s excuse for May 4 and 5. The case was continued until May 20. 

• On May 20, after determining that Ort had made no effort to hire an attorney, the court went ahead with the trial and found him guilty. He received 90 days’ probation and a 30-day sentence suspended on the condition that he clean up the property by Aug. 5.

• On Aug. 5, with Ort now represented pro bono by John McArthur and Bill Overend, the court ruled that the vehicle was registered and operable. The court pushed back the compliance date for the other citations to Aug. 19.

• On Aug. 19, the court pushed back the compliance date to Aug. 26. The shed had been removed, revealing another shed and more debris. McArthur said that Ort had hauled items from the carport to a storage facility and planned to take down the second shed and further clean up the carport. The county attorney said that Ort had made an effort to comply, although it wasn’t clear if he had complied fully.

Ort's house.jpg

Photo Credit: Pete McCommons

Ort’s house on Tuesday Monday afternoon.

• After an Aug. 27 hearing, Ort was found not guilty of violating the terms of the suspended sentence. A CPD officer testified that it was a judgement call because he couldn’t tell whether the remaining items were junk or valuable. The county attorney, Carrol Perrin, argued that the vehicle was no longer operable because its tires were flat. However, the court ruled that it could not consider the additional sheds nor new evidence about the junked vehicle because the county attorney had not filed a probation revocation petition.

• On Sept. 15, Judge Leslie Spornberger Jones signed an arrest warrant for Ort for violating probation after CPD issued new citations for the junked car and sheds.  

• On Sept. 21, Ort turned himself into jail and was booked on the probation violation charge.