Everyone Is Blaming Everyone Else For Mississippi Courthouse Caper

Chris McDaniel addresses his supporters, Tuesday June 3, 2014, at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg, Miss. It could be days or weeks before the results of the Mississippi Republican Senate primary bet... Chris McDaniel addresses his supporters, Tuesday June 3, 2014, at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg, Miss. It could be days or weeks before the results of the Mississippi Republican Senate primary between six-term incumbent Thad Cochran and McDaniel. The race was too close to call on election night Tuesday. With a third candidate on the ballot, neither Cochran nor McDaniel managed to get at least 50 percent plus one vote, the threshold to win outright and avoid a June 24 runoff. (AP Photo/George Clark) MORE LESS
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An elected Hinds County official may have been responsible for a trio of supporters of Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) entering the Hinds County Courthouse after hours where ballots were kept on June 3, the night of the Mississippi Republican primary.

That’s according to Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith who plans to release the findings of his investigation into the incident either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday.

Smith, in an interview with the Associated Press, said that the person that let the three McDaniel supporters into the courthouse, where the ballots are stored, was an elected official.

“I can confirm that it was a county employee,” Smith said, but refused to identify who the county employee was.

The supporters that went to the courthouse (and got locked in) were Central Mississippi Tea Party President Janis Lane, McDaniel coalitions director Scott Brewster, and McDaniel supporter Rob Chambers. The McDaniel campaign has claimed the three were sent to the courthouse after ballot counting had stopped to monitor the election process and that a uniformed official let them into the building.

Hinds County Supervisor Robert Graham, who asked for Smith to conduct an investigation into the incident, said he had been briefed by Smith on Tuesday. Graham said Smith was briefing all the county supervisors ahead of publicly releasing his findings.

“It is a Hinds County elected official,” Graham told TPM. “The official holds the position of Constable.”

TPM then asked if the official was Jon Lewis, a McDaniel supporter who told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger that he was the one being investigated for helping the McDaniel supporters into the building. Graham refused to “confirm or deny” whether Lewis was the one Smith identified as helping the trio in.

Lewis denied that he was the one who helped the trio in.

“Also-one million-percent it was not me,” Lewis told the Mississippi newspaper. “I’ve talked to the DA. I think that’s their assumption. But no one let them in. The damned door was jammed, and that’s how they got in.”

But Graham also told TPM that the constable who let the trio in was definitely not one of the four other Hinds County constables.

“We have some specifics, this is not a guess,” Graham said. “This is not an investigation where anything is, I guess you would say, insinuated or guessed upon or inferred. The District Attorney is very specific in his investigation. He was very specific in his briefing to me. He does have good reason to say what he’s saying in his investigation.”

Lewis told the Clarion Ledger that he called the McDaniel campaign at roughly 10:30 p.m. to urge them to go to the courthouse to monitor the ballot counting process, but then went home afterward. The trio reportedly entered the courthouse around 2 a.m., according to the Associated Press.

Lewis also told the newspaper that he’s conducted his own investigation of the incident in order to clear the McDaniel supporters once and for all.

“What they told me was that they talked to a Jackson police officer across the street,” Lewis said. “He came over and said he didn’t have access, but ‘look, that door’s propped open.’ They went in, and the door closed behind them.”

TPM had previously reached out to both the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department and the Jackson police about the incident. The sheriff’s office has flatly denied that officers helped the trio in and the Jackson police said officers for their service are not regularly at the courthouse that late at night.

The runoff between McDaniel and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate is on June 24.

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  1. Avatar for sjk sjk says:

    A five year old could come up with a better lie.

  2. Lemme guess: the “uniformed official” carried only one bullet, in his shirt pocket, in case of an emergency?

    And the McDaniel supporters were found locked in a Courthouse cell with Otis Campbell?

  3. The counting was over by the time they entered the courthouse. Why were they really there for?

  4. But why bother? This investigation is going nowhere. The DA is being called in merely to so the Sheriff’s department can continue to say they had nothing to do with anything (that was ALL they were concerned about answering in their own investigation). There will be no charges brought up on anyone…hell, there is nobody even asking for charges to be drawn up. Cochran just doesn’t care.

  5. Mississippi resident here. Let’s assume these people are pure-as-the-driven-snow innocent. Given what’s known at the moment, it’s still perfectly reasonable to suspect them of screwing around with votes.

    Which makes the real story here Cochran’s inability to make this a campaign issue, just like he was unable to capitalize on a different serious crime committed by McDaniel supporters.

    To be clear, it is for lack of effort on his part. How insanely lackluster a race is he running? McDaniel’s message at this point is all but saying “Poor sad tired old sad old tired Thad Cochran–he can’t even muster up the energy to fight back when we do this kind of thing.”

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