One of the key players in the Mississippi election-night courthouse caper told TPM that the stories offered by those found in the locked building with primary ballots in the wee hours of the morning haven’t been matching up.
Pete Perry, Hinds County Republican executive chairman and a supporter of Sen. Thad Cochran, relayed the new details to TPM on the explanations being given by Janis Lane, a supporter of Cochran primary opponent Chris McDaniel, who found herself locked in the Hinds County courthouse at 2 a.m. on Election Night and called Perry for help.
Perry spoke with a Hinds County sheriff deputy Wednesday, Perry told TPM, who asked him what happened. Perry said that Lane had called him at about 2 a.m. Wednesday morning and said she was locked in the courthouse. Lane had told him that she had come with a female friend to observe the electoral process, Perry said.
As TPM reported Wednesday, Perry then contacted a sheriff deputy and Lane was let out of the courthouse some time after 3 a.m. Connie Cochran, sister-in-law to Thad Cochran and a county election commissioner, had told TPM that she was the last official to leave the courthouse at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.
But Lane’s story to Perry doesn’t match the known facts. The Clarion-Ledger reported Wednesday that Lane was found at the courthouse with two men: Scott Brewster, a McDaniel campaign official, and Rob Chambers, a Christian activist who supports McDaniel.
The sheriff deputy also conveyed to Perry during their interview that the stories given by Lane and company were not in sync with each other or Perry’s version of events.
“He said, ‘That doesn’t match with what Janis said this morning, but what she said this morning doesn’t match with what she said this afternoon,” Perry told TPM. A sheriff spokesman also told the Clarion-Ledger on Wednesday that the trio had given “conflicting stories.” Then on Thursday, the department was more assertive in a statement to the newspaper.
“It’s important to note that Janis Lane’s story and the other officials’ stories continue to change through the investigation,” he said. “They changed within five minutes, which caused us to be even more deliberate and determined to find out what was going on.”
The deputy wasn’t specific about the conflicts, Perry said, but made clear that multiple elements of the stories being told by those found in the courthouse were not harmonious.
“He didn’t say directly,” Perry told TPM. “From what he did say … the time frames didn’t seem to match, how she got in was a little different. That was a moving target. The main thing he said was different was what her purpose for being there was.”
The sheriff’s office also interviewed Connie Cochran on Wednesday, she told TPM.
Perry had already told TPM on Wednesday that he was skeptical of Lane’s explanation for how she ended up locked in the courthouse with election ballots, but elaborated on Thursday that the news that she was there with Brewster and Chambers heightened his suspicion.
“I think Janis is a pretty decent woman and she’s not really going to go out and do anything bad. Now she’s really gullible and could be talked into doing most anything, I believe,” Perry said. “I think she was there as a cover. Scott Brewster — I wouldn’t put anything past him.”
Lane was unreachable for comment. TPM has reached out to Brewster and Chambers. Neither was immediately available for comment.
This story has been updated.