DA: No evidence of crime involving tea party officials in locked courthouse

Chris McDaniel

Chris McDaniel

JACKSON — In a letter to the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, District Attorney Robert Smith repeated what he has said before: he found no evidence that a crime was committed when three tea party members became locked inside the courthouse on June 3 election night.

The report delivered to supervisors yesterday included a cover letter, a copy of a written statement from county Constable Jon C. Lewis and a copy of a sheriff’s department incident report.

Smith said Lewis had indirect contact with tea party members from Hattiesburg, whom McDaniel’s campaign identified as Janis Lane, Scott Brewster and Rob Chambers, dispatching them to the Hinds County courthouse because there was no one from the tea party movement to monitor the election process there.

Smith said Lewis “explained that the tea party members gained access through the west side door of the courthouse where it was known by some that this door did not work properly and that one could access entry into the courthouse.”

Smith said Lewis did not open the door for the three. Lewis said he only told the tea party members to go to the courthouse. He claimed he never opened any doors.

A staffer for state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s U.S. Senate campaign and two other McDaniel supporters were locked inside the county courthouse the night of the June 3 primary election night. McDaniel, incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran and a third candidate were vying for the Republican Party nomination. Cochran and McDaniel are in a June 24 runoff.

Brewster, Lane and Chambers were found inside the courthouse. They reportedly entered sometime shortly after 2 a.m. and, after realizing they were locked in, called for help.

Brewster is McDaniel’s campaign coalition coordinator, Lane is president of the board of the Central Mississippi Tea Party and Chambers is a consultant with the Mississippi Baptist Christian Action Commission.

“There is no evidence of a crime being committed for the following reasons: no witnesses to testify that a crime had been committed; no video recording although the courthouse is equipped with video surveillance, including the west side of the door in question; Election Commissioner Connie Cochran has given statements that no tampering occurred because the office and vault was locked before she left the office of the Election Commission,” Smith said in the report.

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