The investigation into political blogger “Constitutional Clayton” Kelly took a big step forward on Thursday when three more men were arrested and charged with conspiracy in connection to Kelly going to the nursing home of Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) wife and taking a picture of her for an anti-Cochran video.
While it’s currently unclear right now how closely connected the three men, John Mary, Mark Mayfield, and Richard Sager are to state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), Cochran’s opponent, who Kelly was allegedly trying to help.
McDaniel has denied any connection between his campaign and Kelly. He told The Hill on Sunday that “any suggestion that this campaign had anything to do with that is outrageous, and we reject it outright, fully and completely.” He also said on Thursday that anyone involved with the conspiracy should be “prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
All three men are explicit McDaniel supporters. So far, at least, it’s somewhat unclear how they’re connected to each other. Kelly, through his lawyer, has also denied that he knew who the three men are. Previous reports noted that Kelly’s wife alleged anonymous emailers encouraged Kelly to take the photo.
On Thursday Michael Guest, the district attorney for Madison County, Mississippi, said “no persons [sic] or persons” including McDaniel had been cleared in the investigation of the photographing at this time.
Of the three, John Mary seems to have the most public history with McDaniel himself. Mary, a political activist, has a background in radio. He used to serve as one of the hosts on The Right Side, a radio show that was hosted by McDaniel himself on occasion, according to the Clarion-Ledger. Mary became a co-host of the radio show after McDaniel went to the Mississippi state senate. But their relationship didn’t end there. McDaniel regularly went onto The Right Side as a guest host alongside Mary, who went under the name John Bert on the radio.
Mary lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. According to the Madison, Mississippi police, Mary was released “on his own recognizance due to extensive medical conditions after consulting with his attorney and the Madison/Rankin County District Attorney’s Office.”
Attorney Mark Mayfield, the first of the three whose name was publicly released, seems to have the closest connection to the campaign.
A photo from the McDaniel campaign’s Facebook page depicts Mayfield and other volunteers canvasing for the state senator’s bid against Cochran. Mayfield was reportedly an active volunteer for the McDaniel campaign. He distributed reading material and yard signs for the campaign, according to the Clarion-Ledger. He also personally contributed $500 to McDaniel’s campaign.
Mayfield is listed as the vice chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party and one of the board of directors of the Central Mississippi Tea Party, which was quick to endorse McDaniel early in his campaign. Notably, after Mayfield’s arrest the Central Mississippi Tea Party on Thursday sent out an email telling its members not to talk to the press and “pray, pray, pray for Mark.”
“Those who know Mark personally know that he is a very tender-hearted man and one who avoids controversy,” the email said. “He has served our Board and our Patriots faithfully and with distinction for many years. He deserves our prayerful support.”
Sager’s connections to McDaniel seem to be the least clear of the trio. Sager is an assistant soccer coach at Laurel High School in Mississippi. Unlike with Mayfield or Mary, Sager doesn’t have much of a public connection to McDaniel. But Sager’s Internet persona is clearly a supporter of McDaniel. Sager has also shared pro-McDaniel links on Facebook from Scott Brewster, the McDaniel campaign coalition director. Brewster seems to have contacted prominent Mississippi Republicans to have the video of Cochran’s wife taken down before arrests had been made. Sager’s connection to the alleged conspiracy or the campaign beyond social media is as of now unclear.
Sager was charged with a count of “Conspiracy to Photograph or Film Another without Permission where there is an Expectation of Privacy as well as a count of Tampering with Evidence.” As of now, it’s not quite clear how Sager is alleged to have tampered with evidence.