Madison DA ties McDaniel camp to Cochran break-in
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 1:00 PM
A man who on Wednesday pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the Rose Cochran nursing home break-in may have communicated with the McDaniel for Senate campaign about the time a video showing her infirmed was released, Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest told the Journal.
"There were communications between the campaign and the co-defendants at or about the time the video was released," Guest said.
Three others were charged in May in connection with the April break-in.
Guest revealed the link to the campaign on Wednesday after accepting a plea agreement from John B. Mary, one of the alleged conspirators, but he declined to offer further details about what the campaign knew or when they knew.
Mary of Hattiesburg confessed to conspiring with Clayton Kelly, Rick Sager and Mark Mayfield in the Cochran nursing home break-in in exchange for no fine and five years probation.
Guest said Mary has cooperated with the investigation since he was first approached by law enforcement.
"Mary has cooperated throughout the entire investigation," he said. "We feel it is important that as this case progresses we have cooperation from at least one of the co-conspirators."
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran defeated challenger Chris McDaniel by nearly 8,000 votes in a heated Republican primary run-off on June 24. McDaniel on Monday filed a challenge with the Republican Party. (See story, page A1.)
Following the plea agreement, Mary was debriefed by Madison police and the DA's office and told investigators more about the break-in.
"I think based off our debriefing we learned more today than what we had prior," Guest said.
When asked if Sager would be receiving a plea agreement in exchange for testimony and cooperation, too, Guest said, "At this point we're taking them one at a time. There have been no communications with Sager or his attorneys at this point."
The Cochran case has not been presented to a grand jury.
According to a Bill of Information filed by the DA's office, Mary "did willfully, feloniously, and knowingly conspire with Clayton Kelly, Rick Sager and Mark Mayfield to commit the crime of Posting of Messages Through Electronic Media for Purpose of Causing Injury to Any person, in that said individuals conspired to enter Saint Catherine's Village, a nursing home, to photograph R.C., a vulnerable adult, with the intent to post said photographs..."
Mary, a former talk radio co-host alongside McDaniel, was transported to and from Wednesday's court hearing by ambulance, his attorney Doug Lee said.
"The transportation by ambulance was absolutely necessary," Lee said. "It is a very severe medical condition. His condition has gotten a great deal worse since he was first arrested, in large part because of all the stress and everything else."
Lee said his client has been remorseful, regretful, and open to cooperate with law enforcement since he was first questioned in May.
"He's been very regretful," Lee said. "One of the main two things he's told me from the very beginning was he wanted to take responsibility."
As far as the conspiracy charge, Lee said, "There's some difficulties in looking at the (other charges) about how, what his actions were and how they fit with the statute. But, he did conspire with others to do something which was an invasion of Rose Cochran and the Cochran family privacy. He's regretful for the that. That's the reason he pled to the charge."
Lee said his client and alleged co-conspirators' goal was to try and project Cochran in a negative light. Mary had been communicating with others discussing the same topic via social media.
Lee said Mary knew Mayfield because Mary did title work for him in the past. Mary met the others online.
There was no communication with Mary and the McDaniel campaign, Lee added, saying there was communication after from someone "appalled" by the video.
Lee said Mary didn't even know when the video was posted and it was pulled down before he saw it.
Rose Cochran is the wife of Sen. Cochran and she has lived at St. Catherine's Village in Madison for 14 years.
Mary was arrested and charged on May 22 but due to health reasons was never jailed.
Kelly, an aspiring blogger from Pearl, was the only suspect to allegedly have gone into Rose Cochran's room. The other three were charged with conspiring with Kelly.
Kelly was arrested on May 16 and charged with multiple counts, including exploitation of a vulnerable adult. He was released from jail on May 29 after posting a $75,000 bond.
At his initial hearing, Madison Police said Kelly hoped by posting the pictures it would be advantageous for his goals of being a blogger/journalist. Kelly runs the blog Constitutional Clayton.
The other three suspects were arrested on May 22.
Mayfield, a Ridgeland resident and Central Mississippi Tea Party board member, committed suicide on June 27 at his home in the Bridgewater subdivision. He was facing conspiracy charges. He immediately posted a $250,000 bond after his initial hearing.
Sager, a Laurel P.E. teacher and soccer coach, faced conspiracy and evidence tampering charges. He, too, was released from jail on May 29 after posting a $50,000 bond.
The case was initially expected to be presented to a Madison County grand jury during July but was not.
Guest said there were still some pieces of electronic evidence they wanted to ascertain so they could present a full case to a grand jury.