Judge allows FBI, U.S. attorney, to have more Jackson County grand jury testimony

Judge lets FBI, U.S. attorney have more testimony tied to Byrd

mbbaker@sunherald.comSeptember 10, 2013 

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd

JAMES EDWARD BATES — SUN HERALD Buy Photo

JACKSON COUNTY -- A circuit judge has ordered more testimony and exhibits from the two key grand juries -- the same grand juries who indicted Sheriff Mike Byrd on 31 criminal charges -- to be turned over to the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office.

The order, dated Monday, says the testimony will assist in an ongoing investigation into "allegations of impropriety," all believed to be tied to the Sheriff's Office and Byrd.

District Attorney Tony Lawrence requested and Circuit Judge Robert Krebs issued the order authorizing the state to "produce any transcribed testimony and exhibits preserved in the course of the … investigation" to assist the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office in their ongoing investigation "of a similar nature."

The latest testimony to be turned over was presented to the grand jury Aug. 22 and Sept. 6. The judge's move comes less than a month after he issued an order Aug. 15 to have other testimony from the same grand juries turned over to the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office, again to assist in a ongoing federal investigation "of similar re

lated matters."

The orders do not list Byrd by name, but he has been among the witnesses who testified during the dates listed in the order, October 2012 to present.

More than 50 current and former deputies and others testified before the two grand juries.

The indictment includes charges of fraud, embezzlement, witness tampering, perjury, trying to get someone to perjure themselves, hindering prosecution, extortion and intimidating an officer in the discharge of his duties.

Specifically, Byrd is accused of pressuring a detective to sign a criminal affidavit to obtain an arrest warrant for a man in a murder, though the deputy didn't think the man committed the crime. He's also accused of retaliating against anyone he perceived as personal or political enemies and of trying to cover up a July 2012 shooting at the office of the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County.

In addition, Byrd is accused of ordering surveillance on a city police chief, pressuring a female deputy to engage in sex acts, sending narcotics agents to follow a man who opposed the development of downtown hotel in Ocean Springs and to do surveillance on employees of a Mexican restaurant after they embarrassed Byrd by refusing to accept his check during a campaign dinner.

Byrd also is accused of ordering employees to solicit money for the Jackson County Sheriff's Annual Gospel Sing, using county property and county money to pay for their time and of attempting to get a police chief and deputy chief to pressure a witness to change her testimony in an embezzlement case against a former Ocean Springs Alderman James Hagan, though that charge and others against the former alderman were ultimately dismissed.

Byrd is also the subject of numerous lawsuits accusing him of targeting people for arrest.

A spokeswoman for the FBI on Tuesday had no comment on its investigation.

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