Jackson County sheriff questions whether former sheriff, a convicted felon, violated his probation

Officer questions whether former sheriff, a convicted felon, violated his probation

mbbaker@sunherald.comJuly 13, 2014 

JACKSON COUNTY -- Jackson County Sheriff Charles Britt is questioning whether former Sheriff Mike Byrd, now a twice-convicted felon, violated the conditions of his probation when he called Sheriff's Office employees about who they were supporting in the upcoming sheriff's election.

Britt outlined his concerns in a July 9 letter to Christopher Epps, commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The letter was copied to District Attorney Tony Lawrence and Jackson County Board of Supervisor President Troy Ross.

Britt said Byrd contacted one of his employees on April 10.

"The conversation between Byrd and my employee was not a pleasant one for my employee," Britt said. "In fact, it was disturbing to the officer. Byrd's purpose in calling my employee was to attempt to persuade that employee to support and endorse a candidate in an upcoming campaign which is scheduled to

take place on the Coast."

When the employee refused, Britt said, "Byrd became abusive in his tone and language. In fact, his comments, language and threats verged on criminal misconduct and possibly a parole violation.

Byrd is currently on probation on state charge of intimidating a witness and a federal charge of witness tampering.

When Byrd entered the pleas, he agreed to follow all probation requirements, such as not leaving the state without permission or owning or carrying a gun and not using alcohol or a controlled substance.

Britt issued a statement to the press on Monday, saying the letter to Epps was sent to inform him of the incident.

"This was a professional letter sent from one director to another asking him to investigate," Britt said. "It is my intention to let this process take place.

"This type of behavoir is detrimental to the Sheriff's Office and the health and well-being of our employees. It cannot be tolerated."

Britt said he informed Byrd's probation officer after he made the call to the deputy, but since then, the calls have continued. He said the probation officer agreed to make a "site visit" to Byrd.

Despite that, Britt said, "I was recently informed this type of conduct continues. Byrd has not only been attempting to contact and coerce employees within my agency, but he has also had similar contact with local business professionals."

According to MDOC spokesperson, Grace Fisher, her agency received the letter Thursday.

"We are looking into what the sheriff said, and will take appropriate action," Fisher said.

Ross added, "I hope the legal system plays out this process in the right way and what's best for justice and Jackson County is served.

"Hopefully, Jackson County doesn't get pulled back into the cloud we've seen over the past year. It's not good for us or anyone to go through that."

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