Mayor pleads guilty to witness tampering; Pickering issues demand

WALNUT GROVE — A Mississippi mayor who also worked as a jail warden pleaded guilty yesterday to witness tampering and resigned from office after facing charges that he took a female inmate to a hotel to have sex.

Grady Sims was mayor of Walnut Grove for 30 years before pleading guilty in U.S. District Court. U.S. Attorney John Dowdy and FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen said in a news release that the plea deal required him to resign as mayor immediately and never seek office again.

Sims was warden of Walnut Grove Transition Center and was indicted in October. The indictment said he sexually assaulted the inmate in 2009. Sims also was charged with telling her to lie to investigators in 2010.

Sims was one of the longest continually serving mayors in Mississippi, having served over 30 years after being elected mayor in 1981.

In October 2009, he became warden of the Walnut Grove Transition Center in Walnut Grove. At the time, the facility was privately owned and operated and had contracts with the Mississippi Department of Corrections to house state inmates, the news release said.

Prosecutors said Sims rented a motel room in Carthage in November 2009 and drove a female inmate from the Walnut Grove Transition Center to the motel room to have sex with her.

“During a federal grand jury investigation of the sexual encounter, Sims was recorded during several telephone calls with the female inmate instructing the inmate to lie to investigators and to say they had never had sex and had never been together in that motel room,” the news release said. “Sims was subsequently interviewed by the FBI and admitted to having sex with the female inmate.”

Sentencing is set for April 24. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In a separate item, State Auditor Stacey Pickering has issued a demand against Sims of $31,530.29 for using city employees and city equipment to work on private prison facilities and allowing city equipment to be used on personal property. The investigation analyzed records from 2008 until 2010.

“The demand issued against Mayor Sims represents multiple instances where city employees were directed by the mayor to do work at a private prison facilities located in Walnut Grove,” said Pickering. “Taxpayers of Walnut Grove have been paying for equipment and labor to do work at these facilities that are for-profit, private prisons. In addition, town equipment and labor have been used on private property at taxpayer expense.”

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