Former Bay St. Louis mayoral candidate Jeff Harding was arrested this week on charges he harassed Mayor Les Fillingame’s daughter, Katie Stewart, while she was driving by following her in a van and honking his horn.
Stewart filed affidavits Monday alleging Harding on Aug. 13 “did purposely, knowingly and unlawfully attempt to put (her) in fear of imminent serious bodily harm by following her bumper to bumper, blasting horn, putting (her) and her seven-year-old in fear of causing accident or bodily harm.”
According to the affidavit, Stewart’s “son was in a panic due to the horn and him following so close they felt fear for their life.”
Harding was arrested on charges of simple assault, attempt by physical menace to create fear, following too closely and reckless driving.
Bay police officer James Arnold reported Stewart said she was visiting a grave site at the Gulf Coast Memorial Cemetery on Longfellow Road. After she left the cemetery, Arnold wrote, she was heading east toward Bouslog Street “when Mr. Harding began following her too closely and blowing an aftermarket horn which was mounted on the front of the van.”
Stewart said Harding “followed her as she turned onto Bouslog Street toward U.S. 90 and up to the traffic light where she was forced to wait for the light,” according to the report. “She said while at the light, Mr. Harding continually sounded the aftermarket horn behind her and she could see him in her rearview mirror laughing.”
He then allegedly followed her onto U.S. 90 east toward Turner Street and down to 10th Street, where she stopped at her father’s house “seeking protection.”
Harding was said to be driving a multi-colored Dodge minivan dubbed the “Less Fillin-machine,” which he has customized with bull horns and decals bearing statements such “Les Lies a Lot,” “corruption” and “Daddy said I get $15/hr.,” as well as faux $3 bills showing Fillingame wearing a crown.
He referred all comments to his attorney, George Healy IV, who was unavailable for comment Friday.
Harding’s supporters said he simply happened to be behind Stewart in traffic and the real reason for the charges is his longstanding critique of the mayor.
He was ejected from a Bay City Council meeting in May 2015 and charged with disorderly conduct after he reportedly made an obscene gesture at then–Council President Bobby Compretta.
In June 2015, Bay St. Louis Municipal Judge Steven Maggio accepted Harding’s no-contest plea and sentenced him to 180 days in jail, suspending 150 days and leaving 30 days to serve or to pay a $500 fine.
The sentence, however, was not enforced because Harding filed an appeal in Hancock County Circuit Court. The case was dropped after both parties reached a diversion agreement.
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