Law enforcement officers are rarely investigated or charged for crimes involving abuse of power. In a case making headlines, Jackson, Mississippi County Sheriff Mike Byrd has confessed to a federal felony involving the abuse of a prisoner. He has plead guilty in federal court to one count of witness tampering involving the abuse of a restrained and handcuffed prisoner. He was also accused of a string of other incidents involving abuses of power giving rise to a long list of state and federal criminal charges.
Individuals who are charged with a crime are at the mercy of law enforcement officer until they are released or their charges are dropped. Both citizens and potential defendants are at risk of abuse by law enforcement officers. OurBirmingham criminal defense attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of defendants and in raising awareness about the potential for police abuse. This case sheds light on the complexities of the relationship between law enforcement officers and defendants, as well as the propensity for law agents to commit felony crimes.
This case was heard in a Mobile, Alabama federal court because the ultimate charges involved a high speed chance that ended in Alabama. The sheriff allegedly pushed an arrest in a murder case even knowing that detectives thought the suspect was innocent. Charges also alleged that he used his power to retaliate against those he considered personal and political enemies. He is also facing charges of fraud, extortion, embezzlement, witness tampering and perjury.
As a politician, the sheriff was running for re-election and wanted to claim that there were no unsolved murders. To achieve this goal he forced an officer to lie on an arrest warrant Another extortion charge alleges that the sheriff pressured a female employee to engage in sexual acts and threatened to tarnish her reputation if she left the department. The sheriff also ordered surveillance of another police chief for disclosing embarrassing information about a shooting between narcotics task force agencies. Byrd has also been charged with hindering the prosecution in this case by ordering that evidence be concealed.
The image of the department has been tarnished and there will be a special election for a new sheriff. Under state law, the sheriff cannot continue to serve with a felony conviction. Sheriff Byrd will either resign or will be removed from the office. The felony guilty plea involved a federal case, but the Sheriff will not be sentenced until March. Prosecutors have recommended six months house arrest an six months of probation.
Abuse of power is a serious crime and should be prosecuted accordingly. This case demonstrates that no one is above the law. It also sheds light on the reality of police abuses, tampering with evidence, and the reality that all defendants need an advocate on their side. Byrd pleaded guilty on these federal charges, but faces a 31 count indictment on state charges, 29 of which are felonies, including perjury, fraud and embezzlement.