Wright serving as Sgt. over Internal Affairs with HCSD
By Othor Cain
In an exclusive interview with The Mississippi Link, Marcus Wright confirmed that he has been employed with the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department since Feb. 24. Wright was hired as an investigator in the Internal Affairs (IA) division and was promoted to sergeant over IA effective May 1.
Wright has been working in law enforcement since Jan 2001, when he began at the police academy with the Jackson Police Department. From there he did three years on the streets as a rank and file officer.
In 2003, more than 40 officers applied for a spot in the investigations unit and only six were chosen. Wright was one of them. “I was placed in the vice and narcotics unit under then the late Sgt. Gladney,” Wright said. “I stayed there until 2005.”
In 2005, Wright was tapped by the late Frank Melton, who served as mayor for the city of Jackson from 2005-2009, to serve as one of his personal bodyguards. It was a job that would lead to Wright’s resignation in 2008. “When I left JPD in 2008, which was a mandate in my plea deal that I resign immediately, I was an acting sargent,” Wright said.
Wright’s plea deal was the result of a 2006 warrantless vigilante-style raid on a duplex in Northwest Jackson. Wright pleaded guilty in 2008 to misdemeanor conspiracy charges in exchange for his testimony against Melton and then former bodyguard Michael Recio. “I maintain that I never touched that house, I personally put my hands on the mayor and told him that we could not do this,” Wright said. “The mayor said watch me, and the raid proceeded.”
Wright acknowledged that his statements are consistent now to what they were then. “I made this statement to the federal investigators who were handling this case, and it is also in courts records that not only did I advise the mayor that we couldn’t do this, I actually tried to stop him from doing it,” Wright said.
Wright was sentenced in 2009 to one-year probation and a $500 fine. He could not work in any type of law enforcement capacity, nor could he seek work in law enforcement while he was on probation, but court officials said during the sentencing phase that he could return to law enforcement after then if it was his desire.
“Judge Linda Anderson advised the federal government during the sentencing that she was going to lift the ban and not allow it to remain as a life time strike against me and that I could return to law enforcement if I wanted to after my probation was up,” Wright said. “I never went to jail, I did my probation period, I paid my fine, and I operated according to the sentence that I was given.”
After leaving JPD in 2008, Wright began working full time at Morgan and Morgan Law Firm. In its Jackson branch, Wright served as an investigator. Once his probation was completed, Wright took on a second full-time job with the Terry, Miss. police department. “I’m amazed but not shocked by all of this media attention. I’ve been working back in law enforcement for over a year and a half and nothing has been said until now,” Wright said. “I won’t allow these distractions to stop me, I think that I am uniquely qualified to do this job and I’m thankful to Sheriff Lewis for giving me this opportunity.”
Lewis, who at the time of this interview had only been in office for 141 days, is proud of his hire in Wright and proud of the accomplishments he’s made since taking office. “We looked inside and outside for the right person for this position and Marcus was the perfect fit with his years of experience and his qualifications,” Lewis said. “When we inherited this department we took on a lot of problems and many of those problems rested in our Internal Affairs Division.”
Lewis maintains that his hiring of Wright wasn’t done in a secretive nor under-handed manner. “We are very transparent and always will be. We were prepared for the controversy but we stand on our record,” Lewis said. “In that office when we first got here, there was no record keeping, no filing system, no tracking of complaints, no computers…in a nutshell, it was antiquated. We knew coming in the problems we had with corruption.”
Lewis said his predecessor did a 20-year reign and failed to bring the department up to speed to modern times. “At some point, we have to let the cat out of the bag and say that we didn’t create these problems, they came along with the job,” Lewis said. “We are working hard daily to fix so many of them and hiring Marcus is only one step in that direction.
Lewis isn’t the first elected official that believes in redemption and giving people a second chance. “I want to know why is it wrong that I hired Marcus, when my predecessor hired Michael Recio?” Lewis asked. “He and Marcus both served their time.”
In addition to Lewis and former Sheriff McMillin, Melton also took on the role of offering second-chances.
Melton hired former city councilman Robert Williams in 2005. Williams, 35 at the time, was indicted in 1999 after an FBI shakedown of the city council on an allegations of extortion and bribery in two separate cases, one involving a council vote on then a Time Warner Cable franchise, the other on a zoning issue for a strip club. He was convicted in November 1999 of attempting to extort $150,000 from the cable company but acquitted of charges in the strip club issue. He resigned his council position and was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $2,000.
Melton also hired former city councilman Louis Armstrong who remains on the city’s payroll today under Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr.
Armstrong served over a year in federal prison, pleading guilty to accepting part of a $25,000 bribe to influence a council vote, on rezoning a strip club in 1999. He was hired back with the city in 2007 to work with a program to end homelessness. Today, he serves in the capacity of helping ex-offenders reenter the work force.
Former city councilman Kenneth Stokes said in 2005 that he too believed in second chances. He told media outlets then, “I’ve always believed in second chances. If you’ve paid your debt to society, then the slate should be wiped clean.”
That slate for Wright, like so many others, is giving them a new lease on life. “Why shouldn’t we do this, why wouldn’t we allow this to happen, why wouldn’t we give them an opportunity to start over?” Lewis asked. “I’ve been given so many opportunities in my life, it would be hypocritical of me if I didn’t do the same.”