Hinds County DA's secretly recorded tapes revealed
Updated 6:02 pm, Wednesday, October 19, 2016
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — In transcripts of secretly-recorded conversations, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith uses profanity and says "we going to get him free" about a criminal defendant. But, Smith's attorney says, he doesn't implicate himself.
Smith is accused of aiding Christopher Butler, who's facing several charges including possession of marijuana and embezzlement.
Attorney General Jim Hood's office alleges Smith visited Butler in jail, improperly aided his defense and ultimately hindered his prosecution. A Hinds County grand jury indicted Smith on conspiracy charges and Assistant District Attorney Jamie McBride for hindering prosecution.
Hood's office alleges the two conspired with former Assistant District Attorney Ivon Johnson, who began working as an informant for agencies pursuing criminal charges against Smith, The Clarion-Ledger reports (http://on.thec-l.com/2ehButw ).
Johnson recorded conversations in May and June with Smith, which were revealed Tuesday in court filings. In July, Johnson pleaded guilty to conspiracy in an alleged bribery scheme involving lowering the bonds of criminal defendants in exchange for money.
According to the transcripts, on June 18, Johnson asked Smith, "So basically our goal with the grand jury is to get them, and ultimately, this should result in (Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill) having the pressure to do what he needs to do with Butler's case and him getting free?"
"Uh-huh," Smith said. "Well, no - yeah, that and the fact that they really are - I mean, they're committing all these crimes."
"They're bending and breaking the law," Johnson said, referring to the law enforcement agencies involved.
Smith believes that the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics planted drugs during a 2011 raid of Butler's girlfriend's home. Smith came to that conclusion after Butler's former attorney, Kevin Rundlett, visited him early in the case. Rundlett later removed himself from the case.
Smith has repeated the drug-planting allegation for years, especially after difficulties with surveillance footage taken from cameras in the home caused him to question whether officials had tampered with the tape.
When Johnson asked Smith to explain his "goal" and the "overall big picture" in terms of Butler's cases, Smith responded: "I'm going to get Weill next. See, I - let me show you what I'm talking about. But, see, this whole system, like I said, they've been just f(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) over and make - you know, like - like we just f(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) weak and this and that. ... I just had the wrong idea when I got in office. I thought everybody was going to work together and this and that," he said.
"No, I'm not a criminal," Smith says shortly after.
Smith's attorney, Jim Waide, told The Clarion-Ledger that the transcripts are not relevant to the charges against Smith. "Nor do they contain any evidence that incriminates Smith or McBride on any criminal offense," the filing states.
The tapes only show that Smith had contacted him to see if there was "standing to file a civil suit to have Butler released," Waide said.
Hood's office used the tapes as justification for asking that Waide be disqualified, saying Waide could be a witness in the case.
Waide, on the other hand, wants the transcripts excluded from the case evidence.
"In any event, the Court should exclude all the profanity and use of the influential term n(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) used on the tapes. Such profanity and use of the influential term n(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) is irrelevant. The prejudicial effect of such language far outweighs the probative value," Waide writes in a court filing.
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com