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More problems for Lee Commissioner

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 January 4, 2008

Lee County -- Jo Ealum, elected Lee County's youngest commissioner when she was only 21, is now ordered by a judge to stay away from her ex-boyfriend.

Jason McKenzie claims Ealum slapped him outside an Albany nightclub and then called and text messaged him nearly two dozen times. He also claims she keyed his vintage car.

Jo Ealum isn't charged with a crime, but a judge says she needs to stay away from Jason McKenzie.

McKenzie says he and Ealum got into it inside the CrowBar Lounge in Albany eight days ago. "She made a big scene, slapped me in the face, and I didn't do anything, no response whatsoever, and she backhanded me across the face."

In a complaint to the Lee County Sheriff's Office, McKenzie states, for the next seven hours, Ealum called and text messaged him 20 times. One specific message around 8:00 read  "It felt amazing to give you what you finally deserve."

An hour later McKenzie found his car keyed. "Down the hood, down the entire passenger side, across the trunk and down the front driver's side panel," McKenzie says.

Sheriff's investigators took fingerprints, but they didn't match Ealum's. Lt. Lewis Harris said that the fingerprints are similar, but they're not Jo Ealum's.

Without physical evidence, Magistrate Judge Jim Thurman didn't sign a warrant for charges against Ealum. "My gut feeling is either you or someone in your family, or some of your friends keyed that car, and that's just gut instinct. You have a problem at the bar, the next morning his car is keyed, but that doesn't mean there's enough evidence to issue a warrant for you," said Thurman.

But he did issue the equivalent of a restraining order, called a good behavior bond, requiring that she stay 200 feet away from McKenzie.

We asked Ealum about her reaction to the restraining order.  "I never dreamed that the case would be brought to court," she said. "I have known Jason for many, many, years and I was just ready to put the situation behind us."

And her reaction to McKenzie's charge that she did it. "He loves his car and I told him this, he loves his car more then anything, and I hate what happened to his car, but it was extremely bold, and it hurt my feelings that he would accuse me of such a thing, but you have to live with what you're dealt."

Ealum said that was all she could say because Judge Thurman has asked she not directly speak about the case.

Magistrate Judge Jim Thurman also said in court he was concerned over Ealum's abuse of alcohol. McKenzie could have pursued harassment charges, but decided not to.

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