Attorney: Could be weeks before grand jury considers Rose Cochran photo case

    Chris McDaniel

Chris McDaniel

Thad Cochran

Thad Cochran

MADISON — An attorney said yesterday that it could be weeks before a Mississippi grand jury considers a case against his client and others charged with conspiring to photograph Sen. Thad Cochran’s ailing wife in a nursing home and then using those images in an anti-Cochran video before Mississippi’s Republican primary.

Kevin Camp is the defense attorney for Clayton Kelly, a conservative blogger who was arrested in May and charged with exploitation of a vulnerable adult, filming without permission and conspiracy.

Camp said a Madison County grand jury begins meeting this week, and he knows the case against Kelly and two others won’t be presented during this court term, which lasts about five weeks.

Another grand jury will begin to meet in several weeks.

District Attorney Michael Guest did not immediately respond to a message yesterday.

Camp said it normally takes prosecutors weeks to prepare to present a case to a grand jury. If it had been done in the current court term, “it would’ve been a real, real quick turnaround,” Camp said.

The unauthorized image of Rose Cochran was included in a video that was briefly posted online. The arrests in the incident dominated headlines in the weeks before Cochran, a six-term incumbent, defeated tea party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel in the Republican runoff. McDaniel said he and his campaign had nothing to do with the incident, which he called “reprehensible.” His campaign also said Cochran exploited the situation for sympathy and political advantage.

Four people who had publicly supported McDaniel’s campaign were charged in what Madison police said was a conspiracy for Kelly to photograph Rose Cochran, who has dementia, on Easter Sunday in the Madison nursing home where she has lived since 2001.

One of the four, attorney Mark Mayfield of Ridgeland, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home June 27, Ridgeland Police Chief Jimmy Houston said.

Kelly was arrested May 16 and released from jail May 29 after posting a $75,000 bond. He has had pro-McDaniel photos on his Facebook page and anti-Cochran statements on his blog, Constitutional Clayton.

Mayfield was a Central Mississippi Tea Party board member and had helped raise campaign cash for McDaniel. He posted a $250,000 bond on one count of conspiracy on May 22, the day he was arrested.

Richard Sager, a physical education teacher from Laurel, was arrested May 22 and charged with evidence tampering and conspiracy. He was released from jail May 29 after posting $50,000 bond. Sager had posted a McDaniel campaign event on his Facebook page.

John Mary of Hattiesburg, a former talk radio host, was charged May 22 with conspiracy involving the exploitation of a vulnerable person and photographing or filming of a person without permission where there is an expectation of privacy. Police did not jail him, citing health problems. Mary took over hosting a conservative talk radio show after McDaniel left that job.

Certified results show Cochran defeated McDaniel by 7,667 votes in the June 24 runoff, but McDaniel has not conceded. McDaniel campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch said yesterday that he doesn’t know when an election challenge will be filed with the state Republican Party. McDaniel has not released documents to support his claim that his campaign has found thousands of voting irregularities.

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