Attorney General Jim Hood joined attorneys general from all states and five territories today in a letter urging Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) before it expires this year.
VAWA originally passed in 1994, and over $6 billion in grant funding has been awarded since to government and nonprofit organizations nationwide. In a letter to Congressional leaders, the attorneys general emphasized the importance of VAWA to reducing the rate of sexual violence toward women and addressing the devastating effects of these crimes.
“In the past, funding under the VAWA has allowed the Domestic Violence Division to add a resource prosecutor and conduct statewide trainings,” General Hood said. “Since its creation in 2006, our Domestic Violence Division has provided training to thousands of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges and medical personnel in Mississippi. Additionally, through authorized funding under the VAWA, we partnered with the Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault in October 2014 to launch the Mississippi Encourage Sexual Assault ARREST Project to improve the investigation and prosecution of sex crimes in our state. The importance of funding under this act cannot be overstated.”
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, VAWA encouraged “community-coordinated responses that brought together, for the first time, the criminal justice system, the social services system, and private nonprofit organizations responding to domestic violence and sexual assault.” In encouraging this coordination, it also recognized and supported the thousands of shelters and organizations across the country that provide resources, protection and assistance to those in crisis.
A copy of the letter can be found here.
A former office manager of a Meridian nursing home must pay back the facility over $5,000 after pleading guilty to stealing money from 91 residents, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Christy Moulds, 40, entered an open plea Thursday in Lauderdale County Circuit Court to two felony charges of embezzlement and exploitation of a vulnerable person. Judge Charles Wright sentenced her to pay full restitution to Poplar Springs Nursing Home in the amount of $5,423.50. Moulds falsified Trust Fund Cash Request Forms and took the money from the facility’s Resident Trust Account over four months, resulting in 91 patients having funds stolen.
Moulds was also sentenced to pay Lauderdale County a $5,000 fine. Judge Wright suspended a two year prison sentence and ordered five years of probation, pending Moulds maintaining continuous employment to pay the fine and restitution.
“Caring for our state’s most vulnerable people is a role that should be reserved for the most trustworthy of employees,” said General Hood. “Families with a loved one in a care facility in Mississippi should know that this office is committed to holding those employees accountable, no matter their role.”
This case was investigated by Trey Rogers of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Katie Moulds, who is not related to the defendant.
A 24-year-old man was arrested at his Moss Point home Wednesday and charged with one count of child exploitation for possession of child pornography, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Kevin Martin was arrested after an investigation into his suspicious online activity. Martin was booked into the Jackson County Adult Correctional Facility and is awaiting his initial appearance. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, which is an affiliate agency of the AG’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, assisted in the investigation.
If convicted, Martin faces up to 40 years in prison. 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 will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn.
A total of 157 people have been convicted of child exploitation crimes to date by General Hood’s ICAC Task Force.
The man who killed Antonio Jackson in a Marks retail store parking lot in 2015 will spend 23 years in prison after pleading guilty to the crime, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Alonzo Buggs, Jr., 39, of Marks, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 23 years Thursday by Quitman County Circuit Court Judge Linda Coleman. Buggs shot and killed the 26-year-old in April 2015.
“Another murderer is behind bars thanks to coordinated efforts between state agencies,” said General Hood. “Thank you to Judge Coleman for bringing some peace to this victim’s family.”
This case was investigated by agents of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations and Attorney General Investigator Larry Ware of the Public Integrity Division. It was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander.
A man charged with second degree murder in the 2014 killing of a 17-year-old woman pleaded guilty to the crime Tuesday, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Dewayne Thompson, 23, will spend the next 25 years in prison for murdering Katelyn Beard before taking her body and dumping it into a ditch in rural Hinds County on August 31, 2014. Beard was a friend of Thompson’s family.
Thompson pleaded guilty before Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison with 15 years suspended and 25 years to serve, followed by five years of supervised probation.
“I hope Katelyn’s family can find comfort in knowing that this evil man will not see daylight for many years,” said General Hood.
This case was given to the Attorney General’s Office upon recusal due to conflict of interest by the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office. It was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander and Special Assistant Attorney General Steven Waldrup. It was investigated by the Jackson Police Department with assistance from AG Investigator Perry Tate.
An investigation into online child pornographic images in Alabama led investigators to a 23-year-old McComb man, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Trivette Leonard was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of child exploitation for possession of child pornography. He was booked into the Pike County Sheriff’s Department. The McComb Police Department and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, which are both Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force members, assisted in the investigation.
If convicted, Leonard faces up to 40 years in prison. 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 will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn.
A minor victim was rescued from the care of a 56-year-old man in Southaven who was arrested for sexual battery and producing child pornography, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Rudolph Lurding was arrested Friday in Southaven on a warrant out of Louisiana, which is where the alleged crimes occurred. He was charged with three felony counts of production of pornography involving a juvenile under the age of 13 and three felony counts of sexual battery under the age of 13. An investigation into a previous, unrelated case of child pornography led investigators to Lurding.
The minor victim is safe, and Lurding was booked into the DeSoto County Adult Detention Center before being extradited to Louisiana this week. He had an initial appearance Thursday morning where his bond was set at $250,000. Lurding had recently moved to Mississippi from Louisiana.
Assisting agencies in this case include the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, Gulfport Police Department, Southaven Police Department, DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office, and FBI Child Exploitation Task Force.
If convicted, Lurding faces a sentence of up to 372 years. Each sexual battery charge carries 25 years, and each production charge carries 25-99 years under Louisiana law. 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 will be prosecuted by the District Attorney for the 21st Judicial District of Louisiana.
Derrick Bankhead, 41, will spend the rest of his life behind bars for masterminding the 2011 murder of his disabled cousin in Columbus, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.
Bankhead, who was convicted of capital murder, was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole by Lowndes County Circuit Court Judge Lee Coleman. On July 11, 2011, Derrick Bankhead and three others robbed his cousin Eddie Bankhead’s Columbus home. One of those men shot and killed Eddie Bankhead, who was handicapped and wheelchair-bound. The three men who were with Derrick are currently in jail awaiting trial.
“This criminal used his cousin’s disability to his advantage and targeted him because of that. It doesn’t get much greedier,” said General Hood. “I thank Judge Coleman for giving him exactly what he deserves.”
This case was investigated by AG Investigator Lee McDivitt and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Patrick Beasley and Assistant Attorney General Stanley Alexander. The case was assigned to the Attorney General’s Office after the local district attorney recused himself due to a conflict of interest. Bankhead was originally convicted of this crime in 2016, but that conviction was overturned.