Bar dismisses complaint against Hood over political ad

JACKSON — The Mississippi Bar has dismissed a complaint against Attorney General Jim Hood over a political ad tied to the killing of a Louisiana priest.

Attorney Brian Alexander of Bay St. Louis filed the complaint last November. It alleged that Hood’s ad tainted the prospective jury pool by referring to Jeremy Wayne Manieri as someone who “murdered a 70-year-old priest in cold blood.”

Manieri died in prison in January in an apparent suicide before going to trial. Alexander was his lawyer.

The political ad was aired during last year’s campaigns. Hood, the incumbent Democrat, defeated Republican Steve Simpson in the Nov. 8 election. The commercial portrayed Simpson, a former judge, as being weak on crime.

The commercial showed a picture of Manieri while a narrator said Simpson, a former judge, let a “child molester” out of jail who later “murdered a 70-year-old priest in cold blood.”

The bar dismissed the complaint April 13 because it said there wasn’t “clear and convincing evidence” that a violation occurred.

“It’s a bit underwhelming and I feel very unsatisfied, but I have to respect the commission’s decision,” Alexander said yesterday. He had no other comment.

Adam Kilgore, general counsel for the bar, said yesterday rules prohibit him and other bar personnel from commenting on a complaint or even confirming one exists unless public discipline is imposed.

Hood’s office didn’t immediately respond to messages.

Manieri was found dead in a prison cell in Rankin County with a sheet wrapped around his neck. He had been charged with shooting the Rev. Ed Everitt of Hammond, La., in July 2011 at a beach house in Waveland.

Manieri had been charged by police but had not been indicted by a grand jury.

Alexander’s complaint said all people accused of crimes have the right to the presumption of innocence.

“That Mr. Hood did, in knowing and willful dereliction of his duties and ethical constraints prescribed by the Bar, the constitution and basic morality, harm my client’s cause for personal gain is irrefutable,” Alexander said in the complaint.

In a response to the complaint, filed with the bar and obtained by The Associated Press, Hood said through his attorneys that the complaint “seeks to punish a candidate for public office who engaged in constitutionally protected free speech about matters of public importance.”

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