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Originally published: 2014-04-14 10:51:36
Last modified: 2014-04-14 13:51:12

Sneak preview to air: 'Southern Justice': Ashe County subject of National Geographic special

by Staff Reports

National Geographic Channel invites viewers to explore a dangerous world where upholding the law requires a mix of bravery, grit, and readiness to spring into action at a moment's notice. The new weekly series "Southern Justice" will premiere on National Geographic Channel this fall, but viewers can catch a special preview episode at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, April 15.

Produced by Electus and the Weinstein Company, "Southern Justice" explores the work of law enforcement agencies in Sullivan County, Tenn. and Ashe County, N.C. headed up by Sheriff Wayne Anderson and Sheriff James Williams, respectively. These sheriffs share a philosophy best described as "Andy Griffith in the 21st century," and are tasked with protecting these unique, close-knit communities, which often requires a mix of action and compassion. And if a peaceful solution proves impossible, both agencies are ready with SWAT teams to handle the most violent situations.

Where moonshine was once the most difficult banned substance to control, now it's meth, prescription-pain killers and designer drugs like bath salts and "gravel". Drugs or alcohol play a role in 90 percent of arrests. Sullivan County jail holds 700 inmates, Ashe 165 and both are nearly filled to capacity. Sullivan County, at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, covers 400 square miles and is home to 150,000 residents. Seventy miles to the East, at a higher mountain elevation of 4000 feet, Ashe County also covers 427 square miles but is home to just 27,000 residents.

"'Southern Justice' is totally unique -- filmed by experienced documentary filmmakers in a cinema verite' fashion, the series captures stories from start to finish, from initial emergency calls to encounters with victims and suspects, all the way through the investigations, bookings, court arraignments and sentencing," said Jim Lindsay, executive producer. "Nothing is staged.  Sheriffs Anderson and Williams, and their staffs have been wonderfully cooperative, resulting in a show that's unlike any previous law enforcement series."

In the debut episode, titled "Bath Salts and Battery," Sullivan County deputies launch a successful manhunt for a suspect who allegedly assaulted both his girlfriend and father under the influence of bath salts.  In Ashe County, a middle-aged woman thought to be pregnant is beaten by her boyfriend, who denies any wrongdoing despite evidence to the contrary.