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Miss. sheriff indicted on 31 charges

The charges ranging from fraud and embezzlement to perjury, extortion and witness tampering

By Holbrook Mohr
Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi sheriff has been indicted on 31 counts, including charges accusing him of pushing a murder case even though a detective thought the suspect was innocent and of snooping on employees at a restaurant that refused to accept a check from him.

The charges ranging from fraud and embezzlement to perjury, extortion and witness tampering.

The indictment against longtime Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd was dated Thursday and accuses of him using his office to retaliate against people he considered political and personal foes, including an Ocean Springs police chief and alderman.

One of the charges said Byrd forced a detective to sign a criminal affidavit against a man in a murder investigation in 2007 when the detective did not believe the man committed the crime. The indictment said Byrd was running for re-election at the time and wanted to be able to say there were no unsolved murders in the coastal Mississippi county.

Byrd's lawyer, Joe Sam Owen, did not immediately respond to a message left Friday at his office.

Byrd is a Republican in his fourth term.

One of the charges said Byrd ordered the surveillance of Ocean Springs Police Chief Keith Davis in retaliation for Davis "embarrassing" Byrd by disclosing a July 2012 shooting involving narcotics task force agents.

Another count in the 15-page indictment said Byrd sent narcotics agents to perform surveillance on employees of a Mexican restaurant because the eatery had refused to accept a check from him. He's also accused of sending the officers to watch a man who objected to the location of hotel in Ocean Springs.

The Mississippi Supreme Court appointed Judge William F. Coleman, a retired Hinds County Circuit Judge, to preside over the case because the Jackson County judges recused themselves.

District Attorney Tony Lawrence said in a written statement that Mississippi law prevents him from discussing the details of the case.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press

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