Mississippi's conscience, Clarion-Ledger star reporter Jerry Mitchell, focused his attention on problems in the criminal justice system in Mississippi in a series of articles called Blinded Justice. Mr. Mitchell opened the series with an "expose" on the case of 24 year-old Rankin County criminal (Gregory) Tyler Moore. The story reported Moore is serving a fifty-year sentence for several counts of auto burglaries and house burglaries. However, Mr. Mitchell reports that Moore is serving fifty years as a "first-time felon".
Mr. Mitchell paints a picture of a troubled 20 year-old man plagued by the demons of drug addiction and bipolar disorder. The young man had a talent for singing and performing on stage but his teen years were filled with turmoil and strife. He had problems in school but earned a GED. His mother said he started using drugs when he started attending community college. Moore's life imploded as he fell behind in school and stopped attending classes.
Moore got on the ladder of crime and begin climbing the rungs. The first arrest took place in 2010 for misdemeanor possession of marijuana paraphernalia. He was arrested for more misdemeanors - contributing to the delinquency of a minor and shoplifting a pair of sunglasses. He and his family moved to Missouri and his life improved as he became more productive. Unfortunately for Moore and his family, he started using spice (which also allowed him to pass his drug tests). Moore decided to move back to Rankin County before Christmas of 2011. That decision changed his life forever.
A man has a drug problem and mental disorder but having no money and no job is a powerful temptation to start a life of crime. Lucky for Moore, there were plenty of vehicles in the Reservoir neighborhoods that were left unlocked as he prowled the streets of the Ross Barnett Reservoir area at night with his flashlight. He hit the jackpot as he stole money, ipads, electronics, and other items. All good things must come to an end as Rankin County deputies arrested him for six counts of auto burglary in February 2012. He entered into a drug treatment center for thirty days.
Moore left the treatment center after completing the program and then faced another charge, that of statutory rape from the mother of a 15 year-old girl. (Part of the case file is posted below.) He also faced an ass-whupping, as the girl's mother confronted him in the street and an altercation took place. Mr. Mitchell reports he went back to rehab for another thirty days. Mommy told the award-winning reporter that her son joined "the wrong crowd".
Moore apparently did not learn anything after going to jail and rehab. Rankin County deputies arrested him again for a series of house burglaries. However, Moore and his family found out about the charges during a weekend and did something really dumb. The family spirited him away to Louisiana where they claimed he would stay until a court appearance scheduled to take place a few days later. The deputies arrested his family for helping him evade the police. His grandmother returned him to Rankin County but he fled before he was taken into custody.
The Rankin County Sheriff charged him with five counts of house burglary in January 2013. He confessed while in jail. His videotaped confession is posted below and was obtained through a public records request (as were the documents posted below).
Here is a timeline of his criminal career:
February 2012: Arrested for 6 counts of auto burglary (indicted in October)
April 2012: Charged with statutory rape (Indicted in June)
March 2013: Indicted for 5 counts of house burglary (October to December 2012).
Moore flunked a polygraph test for the statutory rape charge as well, but such is not conclusive proof that a crime was committed.
That is the background of the case, now it's time to dissect Mr. Mitchell's story. This correspondent interviewed Mr. Guest and reviewed the case files. The relevant portions of the files as well as videos of Moore's confession are posted below.
Mr. Mitchell reported that the prosecution offered two different plea bargains to Moore. To hear Mr. Mitchell tell it, mean ole Michael Guest and Rankin County Circuit Judge John Emfinger were both persecuting instead of prosecuting Moore.
Mr. Guest told JJ that Moore was a one-man crime spree and committed more crimes and worse crimes each time he was released from jail. Mr. Guest said he was facing combined maximum prison sentences of 200 years if he was convicted on all of the charges. Mr. Mitchell didn't report that fact. He did report that the victim in the statutory rape case made a similar accusation against another man some time later. The District Attorney offered two different plea bargains to Moore:
Option one allowed Moore to plead guilty to three counts of house burglary and three counts of auto burglary while the remaining counts in those indictments were dropped. The indictment for statutory rape would be dropped as well. This option imposed upon him a 75-year prison sentence but suspended 25 years for the house burglaries. A 21-year prison sentence would also be imposed upon him for the three counts of auto burglary. Here is the rub that drew Mr. Mitchell's ire: this sentence would run concurrently to the house burglary sentence.
Option two imposed a 50-year prison sentence for two counts of house burglary but twenty years would be suspended. An additional 21-year prison sentence would be imposed upon him for three counts of auto burglary. This sentence would run concurrently to the house burglary sentence as well. This deal also included a five year prison sentence for the statutory rape charge. This charge would have to be served day for day.
It didn't help Moore's case that he told police he had committed over 70 burglaries. (See p.43 below). He even rode around the neighborhoods with deputies and pointed out the scenes of his crimes. The story reports that Moore is not eligible for parole until 2025 and his release date is 2061.
Here are some facts that were not included in the published story:
*One police report (p.4) states that "he broke into so many that he could not remember all of them."
*He would steal property and then "drive to Jackson and would sell and trade the property out for narcotics."
*One Moore cohort told (p.17) the police they once broke into seven cars in one night. He said they would break into cars in Reservoir East, Cliffview, Waterwood, Forest Point, Pelahatchie Woods, Reservoir East, and Farmington Station.
*The same witness said they took six guns.
*Moore provided a written confession (p.18). He admitted to committing the burglaries and using a "Jimmy" in West Jackson to cash out his stolen goods.
*Moore took pictures of drivers licenses.
*Moore would burglarize a house or car at the same address more than once.
*Moore's brother testified he started burglarizing cars in "2010/2011". (p.44)
*Moore also enticed his younger brother to commit several burglaries with him (p.34. A witness testified on p.37 that Moore would take his younger brother on burglary field trips until sunrise.)
Jerry the Just failed to report that Moore faced up to 200 years in prison for all charges. Keep in mind Moore was facing six counts of auto burglary, five counts of house burglary, and one count of statutory rape, twelve felonies in all. Moore might have been a first-time convict, but he was far from being a first-time offender as he committed quite a few felonies.
The prison sentence might be 50 years, but Moore will be approved for parole if he behaves himself while in prison. However, Jerry the Just didn't mention anything in his story about mandatory minimums and what might actually happen to Moore while in the custody of MDOC. MDOC can release him on the auto burglary charges after he serves 25% of his sentence. The crime of house burglary falls under the 85% rule, but MDOC has been releasing house burglary convicts when they serve 50% of their sentence. It will be surprising if Moore is still incarcerated for these crimes in 2030 unless he does something dumb while in prison.
Mr. Mitchell also did not include any statements from Moore's victims in his story even though the files and indictments state their names and addresses. Jerry the Just spent a great deal of time reporting on Moore's singing career, his troubled youth, and the unfairness of his sentence. Moore's mother even got to make her son's case in a Clarion-Ledger video. However, Jerry the Just failed to include any statements from Moore's victims. One wonders if he even spoke to them about Moore. Needless to say, none of Moore's victims received such treatment. They didn't get to make any videos for the newspaper. The only reference to the victims is a claim by the mother that the victims got back their stolen property. It's as if they didn't even exist.
What is troubling is Mr. Mitchell posts two stories attacking the criminal justice system in Rankin County while ignoring the catch & release program that takes place in Hinds County. JJ and other news media in the Jackson area have repeatedly reported examples of criminals who are arrested and put back on the streets to commit more crimes. There is no newspaper expose on the low bonds given to accused killers such as Antwain Dukes. The only catch & release reporting that occurs at the Clarion-Ledger is found in the hunting & fishing section published on Sundays.
It was easier for Mr. Mitchell to instead attack a district attorney who actually does his job. Woe to the criminal who commits a crime in Rankin or Madison County and is on probation or has a suspended sentence. Mr. Guest will do his best to send him back to prison. It is not for nothing that a black Flowood police officer told a Jackson hoodlum upon arrest that he picked the wrong county in which to commit a crime. Chiefs and Sheriffs in his district aren't complaining about repeat offenders as they are in Jackson. Cases quickly go to trial and justice is efficiently meted out to criminals.
Of course, one shouldn't be too surprised at the slanted reporting. This is the same star reporter who published a big scoop on alleged misspending at Downtown Jackson Partners but somehow neglected to report DJP sued the whistleblower for embezzlement. Make no mistake, Mrs. Moore went through hell as many parents of troubled teens have. She had an out of control son who was on drugs and thought of committing crimes as akin to playing a video game. She was probably at her wit's end. He was 20 years old and traveling fast on a path leading to jail or possibly death.
However, it would have helped if Mr. Mitchell had spent some lines on what will actually happen to him in the sentence instead of a "tentative release date" that won't be realized. 2061 does make for a pretty headline. Despite what Mr. Mitchell reports, it is Ryan Moore who put himself in prison. Perhaps the newspaper should change the title of the series from Blinded Justice to Blinded Reporting.
Kingfish note: Watch the videos below. Does Moore seem intimidated or scared to you?
P.1: Plea offers
P. 4: 2012 Auto burglary case
P. 26: 2013 House burglary case
P.46: Statutory rape case
(Relevant portions are highlighted in yellow.)