A newly released report by the Hinds County District Attorney in Mississippi found that no crime had been committed when three supporters of state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-MS) accidentally locked themselves in the Hinds County Courthouse after it had closed on the night of the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Mississippi.
“There is no evidence of a crime being committed for the following reasons: no witnesses to testify that a crime had been committed; no video recording although the courthouse is equipped with video surveillance, including the west side of the door in question; Election Commissioner Connie Cochran has given statements that no tampering occurred because the office and vault was locked before she left the office of the Election Commission,” the report, released by Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, said.
Since the June 3 election, questions have swirled about how and why McDaniel coalitions director Scott Brewster, Central Mississippi Tea Party President Janis Lane, and activist Rob Chambers ended up locked in the courthouse after counting ballot had stopped in the GOP primary between Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and McDaniel, who is challenging Cochran for the nomination. The race has gone to a runoff scheduled for June 24.
The report, however, did explain how a Hinds County constable was involved in the incident. After news of the courthouse incident first broke, the McDaniel campaign said a uniformed police officer assisted the trio in letting them into the building. Smith’s report details how Constable Jon Lewis, a McDaniel supporter, told Smith that he “dispatched the tea party members to the Hinds County because there was no representation from the tea party to monitor the election process at the Hinds County Courthouse.” Lewis also told the District Attorney that the trio got into the courthouse through the west side door, “where it was known by some that this door did not work properly and that one could access entry into the courthouse.”
The report includes Lane’s recounting to police officers exactly how she and Brewster and Chambers got into the building:
Janice Lane [sic] stated that the Officer noticed the light coming from near a door located near the dumpster. Janice stated the Officer pointed out to them that the door might be open. Janice Lane stated that they went to the door and pulled on it and it opened. Janice Lane stated that they went up the stairs to the first floor and went back down to the basement looking for Pete Perry. She stated that once they made it to the Elections Commission Office the door was locked. Janice Lane stated that they knocked on the door to see if anyone was still in there counting votes. She said no one answered so they returned to the door that they entered through and it was locked. Janice Lane stated that once they discovered they were locked in, she tried to contact Pete Perry again and he answered. She stated that she advised Pete Perry that they were locked in and told him they needed help getting out.”
Hinds County Board of Supervisor Robert Graham had requested that Smith investigate the incident after a separate investigation by the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department concluded that the trio did not break any laws in going to the courthouse.
“It is what it is,” Graham told The Clarion Ledger. “We are going to consult with our board attorney and see where we should go from this point,” Graham said. It is obvious to me that (Constable Jon Lewis) changed his story.”
Read the report below: