The Clarion-Ledger published a story about Judge Melvin Priester, Sr. recusing himself from State v. Robert Shuler Smith Wednesday. JJ broke the story on Tuesday but the newspaper reported some very interesting information:
The affidavit said Smith unlawfully advised and provided counsel to Christopher Butler, who had been charged with embezzlement, wire fraud and possession of a controlled substance, and Darnell Turner, who had been charged with aggravated assault and domestic violence. Smith represented Turner before he was elected district attorney, court records show.
All but one of the six counts focus on Smith’s actions related to Butler.
According to the affidavit, Smith gave Butler’s attorney, Sanford Knott, a letter that outlined ways to attack the state’s case against Butler; met with Butler twice at the Hinds County jail without his attorney present; met with Butler’s family and referred to him as his client; and used the grand jury to pressure a circuit judge to dismiss drug possession charges against Butler.
When Smith met with Butler’s family, he attempted to retain an attorney to represent him and worked with defense counsel to release Butler from jail, according to the affidavit.
According to his letter to Knott, Smith filed a motion for contempt of court in March “due to blatant and contemptuous behavior of Assistant Attorneys General Patrick Beasley and Shaun Yurtkuran.” The attorney general's office scheduled a hearing without telling Smith, and the court held that Smith had waived his right to object because he didn’t attend, according to the letter.
The affidavit said that this month, Smith gave Turner’s attorney, Dennis Sweet III, emails that touched upon information that had previously been sealed by the court, court records show.
Sweet filed a motion to dismiss Turner’s case that alleged improper, ex parte communication between the court and the attorney general's office, which had been investigating whether Hinds County was properly indicting individuals. Two circuit judges recused themselves from Turner’s case and from hearings conducted by the attorney general's office.
Sweet said Smith didn't provide any info that the defense wasn't entitled to.
Smith's attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, filed an amended discovery motion on behalf of Smith this week in County Court. Among the things he is requesting are the names and addresses of all state witnesses, all written statements obtained by any witness, the substance of any oral statement given by any witness, all expert reports, all documents, videos, photographs, phone records, emails, or any other tangible things relevant to the claims against Smith. Rest of article.
So the District Attorney apparently filed a contempt of court motion against two prosecutors from the Attorney General's office in March over the Christopher Butler case. JJ reported on the hearing that so irked the D.A. and posted the transcript.
However, a review of court files reveals no contempt of court motion as mentioned in the letter to Mr. Knott. The lack of the motion begs the question: does the letter actually exist or does it exist under seal? A judge can impose a fine upon the defendant or throw him in jail for contempt of court. Thus it must be asked if the D.A. tried to throw them in jail or at least fine them for that hearing?
The D.A. and his attorney have protested mightily over sealed motions and reports. Mr. Waide and his client should release any similar sealed motions if any exist.