Politics & Government

‘Cochran political machine’ caused Mississippi attorney’s suicide, lawsuit says

Attorney Mark Mayfield appears in court in May 2014 in Madison, Mississippi, on a charge of conspiracy to exploit a vulnerable adult after the wife of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran was illegally photographed in a nursing home. Mayfield committed suicide a little over one month later.
Attorney Mark Mayfield appears in court in May 2014 in Madison, Mississippi, on a charge of conspiracy to exploit a vulnerable adult after the wife of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran was illegally photographed in a nursing home. Mayfield committed suicide a little over one month later. AP File

The family of deceased attorney Mark Mayfield has filed a lawsuit that blames his arrest and subsequent suicide on a “political machine” lined up behind U.S. Senator Thad Cochran during an infamous re-election campaign that involved his wife being photographed in her nursing home bed by supporters of Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel.

Mayfield’s family filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Butler Snow law firm, firm chairman and attorney Donald Clark Jr., Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler, Madison Police Chief Gene Waldrop, Madison police officers Chuck Harrison and Vickie Currie, and attorney Richard Wilbourn III.

Mayfield’s wife and two sons allege that his constitutional rights were violated, they were negligently subjected to emotional distress, the defendants caused Mayfield’s wrongful death, and that he was falsely imprisoned and kidnapped.

The lawsuit says Mayfield’s only participation in the photograph was showing Wilbourn the location of Rose Cochran’s nursing home room in May 2014, when Mayfield was there to clean out his deceased mother’s room.

The lawsuit says Wilbourn later directed to the room blogger Clayton Kelly, who then photographed Rose Cochran and used the material in a YouTube video briefly posted as part of an effort to implicate Thad Cochran in an affair while his wife lay bedridden.

Mayfield, Kelly and others were later arrested in the case. The lawsuit alleges deep political and financial ties between defendants and Cochran’s campaign. It also claims Butler Snow and the Madison officials worked together to charge Mayfield, a McDaniel supporter, with conspiracy to commit criminal exploitation.

The Butler Snow firm provided a statement about the lawsuit to the Sun Herald: “The Mayfield family experienced a deep and painful loss and we are saddened for them.

“But as to the lawsuit filed by Mr. Carson, there are no facts to support it and no basis for the claims he has made against our law firm. For that reason, we will vigorously defend that suit.”

An assistant in Mayor Butler’s office said she would be out until Friday and was unable to provide the name of an attorney representing the mayor or the police officers. Wilbourn could not be reached to comment.

The lawsuit describes Butler Snow as “the most politically connected and powerful law firm in the state of Mississippi.” It says Clark and the firm have represented Cochran personally and served as legal counsel for his election campaign.

The lawsuit says: “Rather than immediately reporting any alleged ‘crime’ to authorities, Clark and Butler Snow waited until almost three weeks later to contact authorities at the city of Madison — just weeks prior to the Republican Primary runoff election.

“Though they had the information the entire time, Butler Snow and Clark presumably spent roughly three weeks researching and formulating criminal causes of action that could possibly be pursued by prosecutors.”

Mayfield was arrested May 22, 2014, a “pawn in a political game,” the lawsuit says.

“This was not about justice, but, rather, about the Cochran political machine and its Madison branches exacting revenge for supporting Cochran’s opponent,” the lawsuit says.

The day after Mayfield’s arrest, the lawsuit says, Cochran political supporter Trustmark Bank severed its long-term representation by the attorney.

The 60-year practice established by Mayfield’s father, “vanished overnight,” the lawsuit says.

Cochran won a runoff against McDaniel on June 24, 2014.

“ . . . three days later, Robin Mayfield woke up to find Mark’s side of the bed empty. She found him on the floor of the garage, a gun in his hand and a bullet hole in his head.”

The lawsuit, filed by Dorsey R. Carson Jr. of the Carson Law Group in Jackson, seeks unspecified damages as compensation for his death, plus punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

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