A circuit judge dismissed an indictment against the Quitman County Circuit Clerk and Deputy Circuit Clerk after Attorney General Jim Hood asked the court to do so in a motion filed last Friday. Attorney General Jim Hood asked a Quitman County court to dismiss an indictment against the Quitman County Circuit Clerk and Deputy Circuit Clerk. A Quitman County grand jury indicted Circuit Clerk Brenda Wiggs and Deputy Circuit Clerk Bobbie Buggs for one count each of violating the laws concerning absentee ballots (Section 23-15-751 of the Mississippi Code).
The indictment charged Ms. Buggs signed more than fifty absentee ballots as a witness while she was a candidate for Justice Court Judge. State law bars candidates from acting as a witness when absentee ballots are signed by the voter. Ms. Wiggs was charged with allowing her Deputy Clerk to violate the law. A conviction is a misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $1,000. The Circuit Clerk can be removed from office upon conviction. Ms. Wiggs is the mother of WLBT meteorologist Barbie Bassett.
The Attorney General said in his motion the statute (23-15-631(1)(a)) mandates the circuit clerk, i.e. the registrar, must serve "as an attesting witness". General Hood said even though the law decrees the cicruic clerk shall be a witness, Section 15-15-631 bars a candidate from serving as an attesting witness on an absentee ballot. He said this created a conflict where circuit clerks or their deputies were on the ballot. General Hood stated "in elections training by the Office of Attorney General, this office has advised circuit clerks that the conflict within the statute should be construed to mean that they must do their duty to serve as a witness, even if they are a candidate on the ballot, for absentee voters in their office, but they shall not serve as a witness for ballots delivered outside the clerk's office via mail." The absentee ballots in question in the indictment were signed in the clerk's office.
What is interesting is how General Hood threw his prosecutors under the bus in a letter sent out to all circuit clerks:
"Our prosecutors presented all of the evidence they gathered relating to the various alleged irregularities and the grand jury chose to indict both. However, after our senior attorneys reviewed the facts and the law, we concluded that there were no facts to show that the actions of the clerk and the deputy clerk resulted in a violation of the misdemeanor statute upon which they were indicted.
We are in the process of having the indictments dismissed."
The indictment was dismissed.
Earlier post containing copy of indictments.