Brandon Man Pleads to Possessing Child Pornography

September 13, 2019

Joshua Daniel Barrett, of Brandon, will spend five years in prison for possessing child pornography, Attorney General Jim Hood announced.

Barrett pleaded guilty Thursday to a bill of information to one count of child exploitation. A bill of information means the defendant agrees to waive the indictment process. Madison County Circuit Judge John Emfinger sentenced the 34-year-old to 10 years in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with five years to serve. Barrett must also pay $1,000 to the Crime Victims Fund, $1,000 to the Children’s Trust Fund, and register as a sex offender.

Barrett was arrested in March by investigators with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations, with assistance from the Attorney General’s Cybercrime Unit, and the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators discovered multiple child sexual abuse images on his cell phone, which he was obtaining through chat messaging apps using the screenname “horneypervert”.

“No child predator is safe in our state, even if they attempt to hide behind a screenname on one or several apps downloaded to their phone,” General Hood said. “We applaud the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations and Rankin County Sheriff’s Office for their hard work on this case. I also thank Judge Emfinger for putting another child predator behind bars.”

This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn of the AG’s Cybercrime Unit.

 


Hattiesburg Woman Arrested for Stealing from a Vulnerable Person

September 12, 2019

A Hattiesburg woman faces 10 years in prison for allegedly stealing money from a vulnerable man for whom she was managing his finances, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Elaine Dozier, 56, was arrested Wednesday by AG Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigators following her indictment by a Forrest County grand jury for one count of felony exploitation of a vulnerable person. The indictment alleges Dozier was stealing money from the victim, who resides at a health and rehab center in Hattiesburg.

Dozier was booked into the Forrest County Detention Center. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. A charge is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by Trey Rogers and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Parker Wiseman and Mark Ward of the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.


Attorney General’s Office Releases Reeves Road Report After Independent Reviews by Two Former Supreme Court Justices

September 11, 2019

The Office of Attorney General placed on its website today a nine-page opinion written by former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice David Chandler, after Chandler and former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Edwin Lloyd Pittman, who also served as attorney general, reviewed an accompanying 43-page investigative report on whether Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves directly or indirectly, through the effort of his staff or others, was involved in or unduly influenced an attempt to build a $2 million frontage road in Flowood, Miss., which would have connected Reeves’ home within a private subdivision to a nearby shopping center.

Due to the public and press interest in this matter, Attorney General Hood asked the two distinguished former Mississippi Supreme Court justices to provide a bipartisan review of this report and to offer their legal opinions based on the evidence presented in the report.

Prior to serving as Chief Justice from 2001-2004, Justice Pittman was elected attorney general in 1984, secretary of state in 1980, and state treasurer in 1976.  During Justice Pittman’s tenure as attorney general, he brought several actions for the enforcement of section 109 of the Mississippi Constitution, which addresses conflicts of interest by legislators and local government board members being on both sides of a contract in which they have an interest.  This litigation resulted in the consolidation of these cases and those brought by the Ethics Commission into landmark section 109 case of Frazier v. State by and through Pittman, 504 So.2d 675 (Miss. 1987).

Justice Chandler served on the Supreme Court from 2009-2015 and served on the Mississippi Court of Appeals from 2001-2008. In 2015, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Justice Chandler as the first executive commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services, where he served until 2017. Justice Chandler is an adjunct professor at Mississippi College School of Law.

Justice Chandler sent his 10-page opinion to the Office of Attorney General on Tuesday, September 10, which reads in part:

“A reasonable factfinder could review the evidence in the report and conclude that Lieutenant Governor Reeves wanted the frontage road to be built and additionally applied political pressure to that end. However, I do not believe any evidence in the report establishes that the Lieutenant Governor received or could have potentially received any amount of compensation for the project to an extent that liability arises under Section 109 of the Mississippi Constitution…

“With the above in mind, I will note one potential issue. According to the report, Lieutenant Governor Reeves and his spouse ‘own a membership share in the Oakridge Property Owners’ Association, In. (sic), (OPOA).’ This shareholder membership and the actions of OPOA could potentially implicate Section 109.”

Chief Justice Pittman stated that Section 109 of the Mississippi Constitution may come into play, which provides that:

” …no public officer or member of the Legislature shall be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract with the State, or any district, county, city or town thereof, authorized by any law passed or order made by any board of which he may be or may have been a member, during the term for which he shall have been chosen, or within one year after the expiration of such term.”

As former attorney general, Chief Justice Pittman observed that the Office of Attorney General properly considered the matter and removed partisan considerations by leaving the matter to the next attorney general, who will take office in the next six months.

Attorney General Hood thanked Justices Pittman and Chandler for their expertise, time and diligence in reviewing the report.

“My view is that the report speaks for itself. It should be read by the press and public, which can make their own judgment as to the actions and conduct of Lt. Governor Reeves.”

The Office of Attorney General will take no further action on this matter.  Any action which might be filed by the next attorney general would allow the state to subpoena emails from the Office of Lieutenant Governor and the Senate and secure depositions, the lack of which impeded the present investigation.

Exhibits to the Attorney General’s report:

A Ware Case Summary

B Lt. Governor Letter

C Reeves Response to Litigation Hold

D Senate Response to Litigation Hold

E Attachment to Frontage Roads Message (map)

F Hall Letter

G McGrath Letter to Reeves

H Reeves Press Conference

I List of Priorities

J Brand to Rhoads

K McNair to Seal

L David Seal Email

M Drake to Loflin

N Oakridge Covenants_Part1;  N Oakridge Covenants_Part2N Oakridge Covenants_Part3

O McLemore to Brand

P Brand to Oakridge Homeowners

Q OPOA Minutes September 2017

R Brand to McLemore

S Senate Bill 2002 (Special Session)

T Ballot Signed by E Reeves


AG Jim Hood Joins 49 Other Attorneys General in Google Multistate Bipartisan Antitrust Investigation

September 9, 2019

Attorney General Jim Hood is joining 49 other attorneys general as a lead state in a multistate, bipartisan investigation of tech giant Google’s business practices in accordance with state and federal antitrust laws.

The bipartisan coalition announced plans to investigate Google’s overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may involve anticompetitive behavior, harming consumers. Legal experts from each state will work in cooperation with federal authorities to assess competitive conditions for online services and ensure that Americans have access to free digital markets.

“We, attorneys general, have a duty to protect the privacy rights of consumers and to ensure a market free of anticompetitive conduct that may be harming the public,” General Hood said. “I have investigated several different concerns regarding Google in the past seven years, including litigation over unauthorized data collection. This repeated conduct must stop. A strong drive to succeed is the American way, but not when you may be harming others and refusing to play fairly.”

This investigation will initially determine whether Google, or any other business entity controlled by Google, illegally established or maintained a monopoly or restrained trade in internet advertising. The investigation will examine Google’s dominance throughout the pipeline from advertiser to publisher, including potentially stifling emerging rival ad technologies.


Attorney General Jim Hood Responds to Opinion to Improve State Mental Health Services

September 4, 2019

Attorney General Jim Hood released a statement in response to an opinion from U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves regarding the states’ mental health services.

“Since February 2013, I have been warning the Legislature about their underfunding of community mental healthcare. I sent the Legislature letter after letter informing them of the mental health litigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against our state for failing to adequately fund mental health care in our communities. We even provided the costs paid by other states facing this litigation. The Legislature continuously chose to put money towards big corporate tax cuts rather than meet the needs of those among us who need our assistance. The result has been a lawsuit and a federal court order that will cost us more.”

U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves released an opinion Tuesday holding that Mississippi’s mental health system violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by forcing our citizens with mental illness to either live without help in the community or be institutionalized. As Judge Reeves wrote, “It should come as no surprise that when the State underfunds its large systems, whether schools, social service agencies, prisons, or mental health providers, the systems become ripe for constitutional violations. If it remains uninterested in fixing this problem, the State will be doomed to repeat it—and repeatedly have to defend it in federal court.” Now that we will be ordered to spend more money on mental health services, the state should take advantage of expanding our Medicaid program in order to use federal funds to pay for services that will be ordered by the court.

General Hood concludes, “I, like Judge Reeves, am optimistic about the future of Mississippi’s mental health system. I’ve been working with mental health professionals and law enforcement for 25 years as a prosecutor. Additionally, my office formed the Mississippi Mental Health Task Force in 2017 to bring many voices to the table to create recommendations for improving services for the mentally ill in the state. The state has made progress in expanding community mental health programs, but more needs to be done. We will continue to work with the court to increase the mental health services available to Mississippians.”

*Copies of letters sent to the Legislature available here.


Bentonia Man Sentenced for Auto Theft

September 3, 2019

Johnny Gann, 31, of Bentonia, will spend three years in prison following his conviction for auto theft, Attorney General Jim Hood announced.

Gann appeared Friday in Yazoo County Circuit Court before Special Circuit Court Judge L. Joseph Lee. Gann entered a guilty plea to an auto theft that occurred in March 2018. Judge Lee sentenced Gann to five years in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with two years suspended and three years to serve followed by two years of post-release supervision. Gann was also ordered to receive mandatory drug treatment while incarcerated and during his supervised probation. Additionally, Judge Lee ordered Gann to pay $500 to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund.

The case was investigated by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations and prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stanley Alexander due to a conflict by the Yazoo County District Attorney’s Office.


AG JIM HOOD LEADS STATES SEEKING CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT FOR AUTISM SERVICES

August 28, 2019

Attorney General Jim Hood today announced that he and Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill are leading a bipartisan coalition of 44 attorneys general calling upon Congress to authorize the Autism CARES Act of 2019. This legislation provides federal support for research into autism spectrum disorders (“ASD”) and services to those affected by these conditions.

“We are committed to providing a wide array of programs and services to support children and adults with autism, and their families,” Attorney General Hood said. “The Act responds to this national concern with a cohesive interagency effort, including programs for America’s rural and underdeveloped communities.”

A previous version of this legislation is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2019. The Autism CARES Act of 2019 currently exists as H.R. 1058 in the U.S. House of Representatives and S. 427 in the U.S. Senate. Congress began addressing autism in 2000 with the first enactment of the bill. The Autism CARES Act of 2019 will continue Congress’ ongoing mission to ensure that those living with ASD receive the necessary support and research.

“The United States is a caring and compassionate nation,” Attorney General Hill said. “As Americans, we must stand together to help alleviate the challenges imposed by ASD upon families across the country.”

Click here for the coalition’s letter to Congress and the House and Senate versions of the CARES Act of 2019.


AG Continues to Urge the FCC to Strengthen Efforts to Stop Robocalls

August 26, 2019

Attorney General Jim Hood today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to encourage telecom companies to implement call blocking and call authentication solutions that would protect consumers from illegal robocalls and spoofing. Today’s comment letter to the FCC comes after Attorney General Hood and a bipartisan public-private coalition of 51 attorneys general and 12 phone companies  unveiled the Anti-Robocall Principles to fight illegal robocalls last week.

“Mississippians are fed up with the amount of illegal robocalls they receive each day,” General Hood said. “That is why my fellow attorneys general and I continue our work with phone companies and industry leaders and are urging the FCC to take action to help customers cease these unwanted calls.”

The Coalition supports the FCC’s Declaratory Ruling, confirming that voice service providers can make call blocking a default setting for unwanted robocalls, based on their analysis, rather than requiring consumer opt-in. The attorneys general also support the FCC’s proposal to require voice service providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN Caller ID authentication framework, if the providers do not implement it voluntarily.

The comments make clear that the call-block services should be based on reasonable analytics and should not block important calls, including emergency alerts or automated calls that customers have signed up for, like medical reminders. The comments further state that phone companies should monitor network traffic to identify patterns consistent with robocalls and take action to cut off the calls or notify law enforcement.

Lastly, since STIR/SHAKEN will not work on all older landlines, the comments call upon the FCC to develop caller ID authentication to prevent robocalls to all landline telephones. This is particularly urgent because of the people scammed by robocall scammers are elderly consumers or live in rural areas and primarily use landline technology.

Many of these actions are also covered in the Anti-Robocall Principles, a set of eight principles focused on addressing illegal robocalls through prevention and enforcement. Twelve phone companies, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, have already signed on to the principles. Earlier this summer, General Hood and other attorneys general urged the Commission to adopt proposed rules to implement enforcement against caller ID spoofing on calls to the United States, which originate overseas, and to address spoofing in text messaging and alternative voice services.

Attorney General Hood is joined in signing these comments by attorneys general from all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

A copy of the comments is available here