The sentencing of Clayton Kelly was almost anti-climatic. There was no doubt he committed the crime of entering Rose Cochran's room at St. Catherine's Village as he had confessed to doing so. The only question was what would his sentence be after he unexpectedly pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary last week. Arguments over the case have raged back and forth over the year as some see him as a political prisoner of sorts while others see him as a creep who would stoop to breaking into the room of an elderly woman who was in a vegetative state so he could take a picture of her to use in a political video. What started as political prank planned on Facebook ended in a suicide and a man going to jail.
The prosecution put some of its case on display today as it called a detective to testify to the crime and submitted over 100 pages of documents into evidence in the public court file. Assistant District Attorney Bryan Buckley questioned Madison PD Investigator Chuck Harrison. Mr. Harrison testified that Kelly and all defendants cooperated with the investigation. He said Kelly said he was "sick to myself" after taking the picture but then changed his mind after realizing he was missing a chance to have his "breakout" news story. The police veteran said Kelly showed remorse for taking the picture but in the end, he still put up the video. Indeed, Kelly tried to portray himself as a victim in his interrogation as he said in his interview:
Just I forgot to say that I had already made the video without the picture and people ho were giving me information didn't want that video getting out. They weren't satisfied enough with that...
It wasn't good enough for them...
They didn't want to take the fall for it so they put me out here. And the thing is I'm just a victime and I'm probably going to get hit the hardest. I don't care how bad they get hurt. Because I hate this is coming down on me..... Page 18 in second exhibit in this post.
Mr. Harrison and the chat logs reveal that Hattiesburg resident John Mary, a.k.a. John Bert, was the "mastermind" behind the whole caper as he introduced the conspirators to each other via Facebook and other forms of electronic communication and then planned the entire conspiracy. They wanted to respond to negative attacks on Chris McDaniel by the Senator Cochran campaign. The goal was to show Senator Cochran living the good life with his assistant Kay Weber while his wife lay infirm in a nursing home. John Mary put together the group of Laurel soccer coach Rick Sager, attorney Mark Mayfield, and Clayton Kelly. Kelly operated a little-known blog "Constitutional Clayton" that consisted of the copying and pasting of articles along with some accompanying commentary on the subject of the articles.
John Mary tried to get Mark Mayfield to take the picture as his mother was a resident of St. Catherine's Village but he refused to do so. However, he did give Kelly specific information about the security procedures and design of the nursing home. Kelly used the information to make three attempts to take the picture. He was unable to enter SCV on the first attempt due to a ban on visitors due to a viral outbreak. He didn't take a picture on his second attempt due to a small amount of "traffic" and he didn't want to be conspicuous. He entered SCV on Easter Sunday when there is heavy visitation and it is much easier to "get lost in the crowd". He was successful in taking a picture of Mrs. Cochran as she lay in her bed and the nameplate on the door. The photo was presented as evidence and sealed by Judge Chapman. Harrison made it clear in his testimony that he thought Kelly was a pawn in the scheme while Mary directed the operation. Kelly attorney Kevin Camp offered nothing in rebuttal of all testimony.
Judge Chapman noted the sentences meted out to John Mary and Rick Sager. Sager received unsupervised probation while Mary was non-adjudicated and received only five years of unsupervised probation. Judge Chapman said Kelly did show remorse but that was common among defendants (23:50). The judge said "it appears the instigator of these events was defendant Mary with possible assistance from defendant Sager". However, Judge Chapman did not go easy on Kelly but then pointed out he was already a convicted felon. One could feel the room suddenly chill when he made that statement. Judge Chapman then called Kelly stupid in the nicest way this correspondent has ever heard someone called stupid (25:07):
And as I have said many times, in particular in relation to armed robbery, the defendant who goes into the place of business to commit the armed robbery is generally the least intelligent of all because the others have convinced that defendant to do that. I believe that in the totality of the circumstance, this defendant fits into that category.He sentenced Kelly to a prison term of five years but suspended half of the sentence. He ordered him to begin paying court costs upon release at a rate of $160 per month. It is possible Kelly will be eligible for parole after serving 25% of his offense as his offense is considered to be non-violent in nature.