By Shanderia K. Posey
Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith is calling the actions of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood “outrageous” following Smith’s arrest and indictment on Sept. 7.
After learning about Hood’s plan to have him arrested on Sept. 7, Smith went to the Hinds County Circuit Court to be served and turn himself in. The arrest came one day after six misdemeanor charges brought by the AG’s office against him were dropped. Smith has now been indicted by a Hinds County grand jury on two felony charges accusing him of conspiring with an assistant DA to hinder prosecution of a criminal defendant.
In an exclusive interview with The Mississippi Link, Smith said what’s taking place is “traditional Mississippi politics in the criminal justice system. “This has been happening. The misconduct of Jim Hood is outrageous, and he should not hold office. The conduct is something every citizen should be concerned about.” Hinds County Assistant District Attorney Jamie K. McBride was also indicted and arrested Sept. 7, according to Smith. McBride faces charges of conspiring to commit the crime of hindering prosecution, conviction and punishment of a criminal defendant.
The defendant is Christopher Butler. Smith described McBride’s career reputation as “stellar” and said his colleague’s arrest was retaliation for McBride giving an affidavit in Smith’s favor. “The numerous investigations I’ve been conducting for citizens have been race neutral,” said Smith, noting that not all individuals in elected positions appreciate that type of work. As for the indictment and moving forward, Smith said the plan is “to continue to get the truth out and expose the behavior of Jim Hood and Stanley Alexander. This started some time ago, and it’s just pure hatred.
The evidence is filled with the cooperation of like-minded individuals that know that these charges are retaliatory.” Alexander is the director of the Public Integrity Division of the AG’s office. On Sept. 6, Hood filed papers to dismiss six misdemeanor charges against Smith in which he was accused of violating state law by advising, counseling, consulting or defending criminals.
All along, Smith’s stance was that he was never formally indicted and his case should have been brought to a grand jury. Smith, 45, of Jackson, is charged with two counts of conspiring to hinder prosecution in the first degree, felony charges punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 on each count. Additionally, the grand jury indicted Smith on a misdemeanor count of violating Mississippi Code Section 97-11-3, which states that a DA shall not “consult, advise, counsel or defend” a person charged with a crime.
If convicted of that charge, Smith faces removal from office and a fine of up to $500.
In a press release statement, Hood said, “As a former district attorney, I have the utmost respect for the work our district attorneys do every day to make Mississippi a safer place to live. They are my colleagues in the fight against crime,” Hood said. “So it brings me no pleasure to prosecute one of our own. But a Hinds County grand jury has indicted Mr. Smith for serious violations of the law that hamper the ability of our criminal justice system to do its job. My hope is that this case is resolved fairly and expeditiously for the sake of the citizens of Hinds County.”
The three-count indictment alleges that Smith conspired with former Assistant DA Ivon Johnson and with unnamed co-conspirators to hinder the prosecution of Butler in four different Hinds County Circuit Court cases.
The grand jury indicted Smith for violating Mississippi Code Section 97-11-3 based on allegations that Smith met with Butler at the Hinds County Jail outside the presence of Butler’s attorney, advised Butler’s attorney about ways to undermine the state’s case against Butler and sought to have Butler released from jail. Johnson pleaded guilty in federal court in July to conspiring to take money in exchange for lowering bond for a criminal defendant. Despite the charges, Smith is confident he will prevail as long as the process is fair and his legal team is prepared.
“Most of the evidence is sealed. When you finally see all of the evidence, you’ll see it’s not about me; it’s about equal fair treatment of all people. “If you do examine some of the results in our judicial system it will be very obvious (of the) disparity in African-American communities and those who do not agree with the traditional system.” Smith said he doubts his colleagues in counties that neighbor Hinds County face the same scrutiny.
Shanderia K. Posey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.