Byrd to staff: 'We will continue to serve the citizens of Jackson County'

mbbaker@sunherald.comSeptember 4, 2013 

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd

JAMES EDWARD BATES — SUN HERALD Buy Photo

PASCAGOULA -- Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd sent a memo to his employees the same day he surrendered to authorities Friday to face 31 criminal charges.

The memo, written on Jackson County Sheriff's Office letterhead and initialed by Byrd, is addressed to all employees. It says, "Despite of the obstacles that were placed in our way today, we are going to continue to do our jobs to the best of our ability. I am still available by radio or telephone.

"We will continue to serve the citizens of Jackson County as professional law enforcement officers. I will continue to see you on the streets and at the office. Keep your heads up and be proud of what you do."

Byrd surrendered at the Ocean Springs Police Department, charged with 10 counts each of fraud and embezzlement and two counts each of second-degree hindering prosecution, witness tampering, attempting to get someone to perjure themselves, intimidating an officer in the discharge of his duties, extortion and one count of perjury. The indictment says Byrd often went after people he perceived as his personal or political enemies.

Several of the charges accuse Byrd of embezzlement and fraud for ordering several Sheriff's Office employees in September and November 2012 to collect money for the 11th annual Sheriff's Gospel Sing on county time, using county equipment.

Byrd also is accused of pressuring a detective to get an arrest warrant in a 2007 murder case so Byrd could say he had no unsolved murders in his political campaign. The detective did not believe the man committed the crime, the indictment said.

An extortion charge accuses Byrd of pressuring a female deputy for sexual favors that she refused, resulting in her transfer to a new job and a threat from Byrd that he would give her a bad recommendation if she left the department.

In addition, the indictment said, Byrd ordered agents with the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County to follow Moss Point Police Chief Keith Davis in retaliation after Davis brought information to light about a July 2012 shooting at the task force office, resulting in the former task force commander's indictment.

Byrd is also accused of hindering prosecution in the drug task force shooting by covering up evidence in the case, and perjury for lying to the grand jury about trying to cover up the shooting.

Another of the charges says Byrd ordered narcotics agents to follow employees of El Saltillo Mexican Restaurant after the employees refused to accept a check from Byrd after a campaign dinner there.

In addition, Byrd is accused of ordering deputies to tail an Ocean Springs alderman and to follow another man after he objected to the construction of a hotel in downtown Ocean Springs. Byrd is also accused of using his power as sheriff to refuse to pay for various repairs to his personal law equipment.

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