PASCAGOULA -- On Friday, the district attorney will ask a circuit judge to consider revoking Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd's bond and send him to jail, a move that would make it difficult for the sheriff to fulfill his duties.
District Attorney Tony Lawrence, in a motion filed last week, said he wants the court to revoke bond or at least "enforce the conditions" of the bond. He accuses Byrd of talking to witnesses in his case and is asking that Byrd be stopped.
Byrd's attorney, Joe Sam Owen, says what Byrd has been doing is helping his counsel prepare his case and that he has every right to help in his defense.
Either way, Special Judge William Coleman will have to sort it out, likely at the Friday hearing.
There are several things a presiding judge can do, legal sources told the Sun Herald.
If he finds Byrd is overstepping his bounds and contacting and intimidating witnesses as Lawrence says, he can remind Byrd of the terms of his bond and clarify what this means. He has the option of increasing Byrd's bond for emphasis.
And if he finds it necessary to jail Byrd, there's a law that covers that. It says if a sheriff is arrested or incapable of carrying out his duties, the circuit judge of the district may appoint a qualified elected official of the county to perform the sheriff's duties.
Having his bond revoked doesn't mean Byrd has left office. He would still be sheriff, county officials said Wednesday.
Byrd has been free on a $31,000 bond since Aug. 30, when he was arrested in Ocean Springs on 29 felony charges and two misdemeanor offenses, which included 10 charges each of fraud and embezzlement and two counts each of second-degree hindering prosecution, witness tampering, extortion, intimidating an officer in the discharge of his duties and attempting to get someone to perjure themselves, along with one count of perjury.
Bryd has waived his arraignment and pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
When Lawrence filed the motion to revoke Byrd's bond, he claimed Byrd contacted three deputies to ask them about their grand jury testimony -- Lt. Curtis Spiers, Sgt. Brad Lewis and Lt. Ken McClenic.
Lawrence said the questioning was done "in such a manner as to place pressure on witnesses to testify falsely."
"The sheriff is engaging in conduct which appears to be attempting to manipulate witness testimony and harass witnesses," Lawrence said in the motion.
Owen said Byrd admits he talked to the deputies "but not for the purpose of inquiring as to their grand jury testimony or their prospective trial testimony or to intimidate, harass or manipulate, but to elicit information about certain facts surrounding their involvement" in several of the charges pending against him.
Owen suggested the state "instruct its witnesses accordingly" if it wishes to have them interviewed only in the presence of the district attorney, the DA's staff or investigators.
In the meantime, the District Attorney's Office has subpoenaed Spiers, Lewis and McClenic and three other deputies to testify at the hearing Friday.
The Jackson County Board of Supervisors would have the job of replacing Byrd if he were to resign or leave office, but he hasn't, Board President Mike Mangum said Wednesday.
"Revoking the bond is a deal between the district attorney and the sheriff and his attorney," and doesn't involve the board, he said.
However, the board has asked its attorney "to stay abreast of what's going on and keep us informed," Mangum said. "But there's no point in speculating about all of these things until something happens."