Jackson County ex-Sheriff Mike Byrd has done his time

JACKSON COUNTY -- Former Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd is officially a free man -- at least from the orders he was under when he was sentenced on state and federal felony charges.

On March 29, Special Judge Breland Hillburn signed an order terminating the remainder of Byrd’s three years of post-release supervision on a state charge of intimidating a witness.

Attorney Joe Sam Owen informed the Jackson County Circuit Clerk’s Office of the end of Byrd’s term under post-release supervision.

Cammie Cook, a state Department of Corrections field officer, said in a petition to end Byrd’s time of reporting to a field officer he had paid all fines, fees and court costs and had committed no “known violations,” since he was sentenced March 13, 2014. In the end, Byrd served a total of six months under house arrest and about two years under post-release supervision for both his state and federal crimes.

“He’s complied with the mandate of federal sentencing,” Owen said Friday. “He’s complied with the mandate of the state sentence. There has been no problem that I’m aware of. I think there should come a time in a case where there should be closure not only for Mike Byrd, but also the Sheriff’s Office and the people of Jackson County.”

However, Byrd will have to comply with the laws governing felons, such as no longer carrying a weapon.

He could not be reached Friday for comment.

“The termination of probation is between the defendant and the judge,” District Attorney Tony Lawrence said Friday. “At the time of sentencing, I asked for a longer probationary period but the judge denied that request.”

In March 2014, Special Judge William Coleman sentenced Byrd on the state charge to six months of house arrest followed by three years of post-release supervision. Coleman also fined Byrd $2,000 and ordered him to pay $5,000 in investigative costs.

Hillburn was appointed to preside over the case after Coleman’s death.

Byrd came under investigation by state and federal authorities after a July 31, 2012, shooting at the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County went unreported.

The drug unit’s commander at the time, former deputy Jackie Trussell, later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in the case. He admitted shooting former deputy Chad Powell in the leg after Powell came after him with a syringe. Trussell claimed he was deathly afraid of needles and fired at Powell, also assigned to the drug task force, when he dangled a needle in front of him a second time. The shot hit Powell in the leg, but another officer stitched up the wound and Powell never went to a hospital.

Trussell’s charge has since been expunged, meaning there is no longer a record of his crime.

Byrd later tried to cover up the shooting.

In his plea deal with the state, he admitted he tried to get Powell to lie to a grand jury and say he was hit by concrete fragments instead of a bullet.

In exchange for Byrd’s plea to that amended charge of intimidating a witness, Lawrence dismissed with prejudice 28 other felony charges and two misdemeanor offenses against him in state court.

At Byrd’s sentencing on the state charge, the late Judge Coleman told him he had brought shame and disgrace on himself, his family and law enforcement. “In particular, you brought disgrace to your own office.”

The state’s entire case portrayed Byrd as a sheriff who used his office to retaliate against perceived enemies; order deputies and office staff to raise money for private causes; conceal a shooting at the drug task force office; pressure witnesses to give false testimony in cases before grand juries; demand free lawnmower repair; and punish a deputy who rebuffed his sexual advances.

In the federal case, Byrd admitted he twice kicked in the groin a man arrested in the theft of a county patrol car after the man was handcuffed and “unresisting.” In addition, he said, he ordered a deputy to delete his patrol car’s dashboard-camera footage of Byrd assaulting the cuffed man and later ordered an employee in the information technology department to “wipe” clean his hard drive, even ordering him to drill a hole in it to ensure no one could recover any data from Byrd’s office computer.

Another former deputy, Ken McClenic, pleaded guilty to a felony perjury charge in connection with Byrd’s case.

When asked about Trussell no longer having a record, Lawrence said, “the law of expungement is determined by the Legislature and applies to everyone equally.”

“Prosecutors have tried to limit the crimes eligible for expungement,” he said. “It seems that each year, there is a push to increase the crimes eligible for expungement.”

Lawrence said it was his decision alone to allow Byrd to plead guilty to one amended felony charge and dismiss the other 30 charges. At the time, he said he knew there would be some who would feel Byrd should be in jail and that he should be punished more than what Lawrence agreed to.

When Byrd was sentenced in state court, Lawrence said, “Every act Mike Byrd took as sheriff was centered around abuse of power.”

Lawrence had requested a stiffer sentence of 1.5 years of house arrest for Byrd on the state charge, but the judge agreed to the six-month sentence.

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