Meridian Man Going to Prison for Arson

July 6, 2016

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Meridian man is going to prison for purposefully setting fire to two houses.

James William Wiggins, 52, was sentenced Wednesday by Lauderdale County Circuit Court Judge Lester Williamson on one count of first-degree arson and one count of second-degree arson. Wiggins entered an open plea on May 31, 2016.

Judge Williamson sentenced Wiggins to serve 20 years in prison for first-degree arson with15 of those years suspended and five years to serve, followed by five years of post-release supervision. On the second-degree arson count, Wiggins was sentenced to 10 years in prison with eight of those years suspended and two years to serve, followed by five years of post-release supervision. The sentences will run concurrently, meaning Wiggins will serve a total of five years behind bars. Additionally, Wiggins was ordered to pay more than $2,800 in fines and court costs.

The case was a joint criminal investigation led by Kevin Butler of the State Fire Marshal’s Office and Jeffrey Willis of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations. Investigator Ronnie Odom of the Attorney General’s Office assisted in the investigation.

Wiggins confessed to intentionally setting fires to two homes in Meridian that were owned by his son, providing corroborating details of how he committed the crimes that were consistent with the evidence in the criminal investigation. The first fire was August 23, 2013, and the second was on March 12, 2014.

“We appreciate the sentence handed down by Judge Williamson, putting this man behind bars and ensuring he pays the consequences of these criminal acts,” Attorney General Hood said. “We applaud and admire the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations for their leadership and hard work on this case. This case is another prime example of how our agencies collaborating will only work for us to assure criminals like this man in our state are brought to justice.”

“Teamwork is a cornerstone of good law enforcement and our thanks go to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations and the Attorney General’s Office for their assistance in solving and prosecuting this case,” Mississippi Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Ricky Davis said.

“We routinely join forces with other law enforcement agencies, from local to state to federal levels. Each entity has specific resources and skill sets,” said MBI Director Lt. Colonel Jimmy Jordan. “With a unified effort we are able to apply incredible pressure on the criminal element in our state and that was evident in this case.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander and Special Assistant Attorney General Kimberly T. Purdie.

 

 


Two Jackson Men Going to Prison for Auto Theft

July 6, 2016
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Two Jackson men have been sentenced for auto theft, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Satchel Tolbert, 21, and Jeremy Powe, 23, both of Jackson, appeared Monday before Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill, Sr., and pleaded guilty to one count of auto theft.  Judge Weill sentenced Tolbert and Powe to seven years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with two years suspended and five years to serve followed by two years of post-release supervision.

Tolbert and Powe, along with two additional co-defendants, participated in stealing a vehicle following an altercation in May 2013, which resulted in the death of R.B. Ervin, 66, of Jackson.  The vehicle belonged to the victim.  All four defendants in this case were charged with capital murder.  The joint investigation of this case between the Attorney General’s Office and the Jackson Police Department revealed that only one defendant was involved with the shooting of the victim.  That individual was sentenced to 25 years during the last term of court.

“We appreciate Judge Weill for holding all four of the defendants accountable for their horrendous actions in this heinous crime that took the life of Mr. Ervin,” Attorney General Hood said.  “As we close this case, we would like to thank the Jackson Police Department for their solid efforts and assistance which led to the successful prosecution of the defendants.”

The Attorney General’s Office was appointed to the case by the Hinds County Circuit Court after local prosecutors recused themselves.  The case was investigated by Perry Tate and prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stanley Alexander of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division.

 

 


Attorney General’s Office Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement Division Compliance Check Yields Citations in Tupelo for Selling Alcohol to Minors

July 5, 2016
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The Mississippi Attorney General’s Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement Division in conjunction with the Tupelo Police Department recently conducted alcohol and beer compliance checks in Tupelo resulting in the issuance of five citations for selling alcohol to minors, Attorney General Jim Hood announced today.

“As both Attorney General and the father of three, I strongly believe we all have a vested interest in the fight against underage drinking,” Attorney General Hood said.  “The time to address underage drinking is before it comes into court as an alcohol-fueled assault or a car crash that takes the life of a loved one.”

Under Mississippi law, any person selling alcohol to a person younger than 21 can face a fine of up to $500, up to six months in jail, or both.  Any place of business making a sale of beer to an underage person can be fined and/or face administrative charges.  For a first offense, a retailer may be fined not less than $500 but not more than $1,000 and/or be prohibited from selling beer for three months. For a second offense occurring within 12 months of the first offense, a retailer faces a fine of not less than $500 but not more than $1,500 and may be prohibited from selling beer for six months. For a third offense occurring within 12 months of the first offense, a retailer faces a fine of not less than $1,000 but not more than $5,000 and may be prohibited from selling beer for one year.

“The law simply states that it is illegal in Mississippi to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 21,” Attorney General Hood said. “At the heart of this law is the safety of our children, and we must each do our part to prevent minors’ from having access to alcohol.”

The following businesses in Tupelo received citations when checked for compliance on selling alcohol to minors:

Mugshots                                             374 E Main Street                      VIOLATION

Rita’s Grill Bar                                       789 Moncrief Building 1             VIOLATION

Kyoto Japanese Steakhouse                 1044 Commonwealth Blvd         VIOLATION

Chili’s Grill and Bar                                3196 N Gloster Street                VIOLATION

Fast Lane 1                                           3914 N Gloster Street                2 VIOLATIONS
                                                                                                    2nd Offense w/in a year    

The following businesses in Tupelo did not receive a citation when checked for compliance on selling alcohol to minors:

Blue Canoe                               2006 N Gloster Street

Fairpark Grill                             343 E Main Street

Outback Steakhouse                 1348 N Gloster Street

Stables Downtown Grill              206 N Spring Street

“We appreciate the good working relationship we have with the Attorney General’s Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Unit and will continue to combat underage drinking and the selling of alcohol to minors in Tupelo,” Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre said.  “I encourage our retailers to obey the law and always check IDs as we continue to do everything we can to try and keep alcohol out of the hands of our kids.”

During the past fiscal year, the Attorney General’s Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Unit has conducted more than 6,677 alcohol compliance checks with 208 buys for a 3.12% buy rate across the state.

 


Attorney General Jim Hood Issued the Following Statement on Judge Carlton Reeves’ Ruling Regarding HB 1523

July 1, 2016
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“The federal court’s ruling was straightforward and clear.  On page 9, the court quotes statements made by legislators, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.  The court found that those statements, along with the inclusion of the term “sincerely held religious beliefs” and the definition thereof in HB 1523, were strong evidence that the law was unconstitutional.  “In 2014, the state enacted the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, which created a right of citizens to sue the state in state court if they felt that their religious freedoms were being overburdened. The federal court observed that this act was already in law when those officials went for a second victory lap to reinvigorate the support of churchgoing people by passing HB 1523 in an overtly political fashion.

“I can’t pick my clients, but I can speak for myself as a named defendant in this lawsuit. The fact is that the churchgoing public was duped into believing that HB1523 protected religious freedoms. Our state leaders attempted to mislead pastors into believing that if this bill were not passed, they would have to preside over gay wedding ceremonies.  No court case has ever said a pastor did not have discretion to refuse to marry any couple for any reason.  I hate to see politicians continue to prey on people who pray, go to church, follow the law and help their fellow man.

“Our attorneys will evaluate this decision to determine whether or not to appeal all or parts of Thursday’s ruling. We do intend to appeal the Court’s decision earlier in the week to extend the injunction to cover circuit clerks, who were never parties to the case.

“I believe in the free exercise of religion and there will be a case in the future in which the U.S. Supreme Court will better define our religious rights.  This case, however, is not that vehicle.  “In consideration of the individual rights of all our citizens, the state’s current budget crisis and the cost of appeal, I will have to think long and hard about spending taxpayer money to appeal the case against me.  An appeal could cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, North Carolina has set aside $500,000 for defense of its bathroom law. Even if we won and the injunction were set aside on appeal, the case would be remanded and proceed to trial over about two years.  Because of the huge tax breaks handed out to big corporations by these same leaders, the state is throwing mentally ill patients out on the street.  This is hardly protecting the least among us as Jesus directed.”


Attorney General Jim Hood Announces Results of “Operation Broken Heart III” at Conclusion of Internet Safety Awareness Month

June 30, 2016
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Attorney General Jim Hood announced today the results of “Operation Broken Heart III,” part of a nationwide investigative operation to intensify efforts to identify and arrest accused child sexual predators.

In Mississippi, the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit, the Mississippi Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force and its affiliate law enforcement agencies conducted the operation. The Attorney General’s Office leads the ICAC Task Force in the state. Across the country, more than 3,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the two-month long operation with the purpose of arrests, as well as internet safety education and outreach.

“With the rise in online predators in Mississippi, our office and the 61 ICAC task forces across the country work hard daily to identify, arrest and prosecute the individuals who are harming our children by exploiting them online,” Attorney General Hood said. “Through collaborative investigations such as Operation Broken Heart, our efforts toward the ultimate goal of keeping our children safe are strengthened.”

During this year’s operation, the Mississippi ICAC Task Force entities executed 23 search warrants resulting in 12 arrests of individuals throughout the state. Some of those search warrants were issued for property of individuals that have not yet been arrested. In other cases, multiple search warrants were issued to the same defendant. The forensic examiners of Attorney General Hood’s Cyber Crime Division examined more than 35 terabytes of digital media.

“By arresting and prosecuting alleged child predators across the state, we are sending a clear message that we are dedicated to working together to bring these perpetrators to justice,” Attorney General Hood said.

The Attorney General’s Office formed the state’s ICAC task force in 2007. The task force is dedicated to enhancing investigative responses to offenders who use the internet, online communication systems or computer technology to exploit children, as well as, improving the forensic analyses of electronic evidence. In addition, the task force focuses on educating the public and training law enforcement affiliate agencies. The Mississippi unit has conducted numerous internet safety presentations and training courses.

“As a father, I worry about how the internet has become a refuge for pedophiles and child pornographers targeting our young people,” Attorney General Hood said. “This is an area where we cannot fall behind the curve. My office is committed to making sure parents and teachers are equipped with the knowledge and ability to keep up with the latest technology and keep our kids safe. It is imperative that we keep a close eye on what our children are doing online and who they are talking to.”

As Internet Safety Awareness Month, observed each year in June, concludes, Attorney General Hood provided these tips to help guard children against online child predators:

  • Talk to your child about their activities online and caution them not to share certain information over the internet.
  • Be familiar with popular chat rooms or social networking sites such as Facebook and always maintain access to your child’s online account.
  • Teach your child the responsible use of the resources on-line and show them how to delete and/or block harmful e-mails, photos or messages.
  • Keep computers in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom, and consider instituting a “media curfew” limiting the time they can use the computer or internet.
  • Report abuses or threats to the Attorney General’s office and your internet service provider.

Anyone needing to report a cyber crime can call the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit at (601) 576-4281.  For more cyber crime tips and information about the ICAC Task Force and Attorney General Hood’s continuing efforts to crack down on sexual predators, visit www.agjimhood.com.


Attorney General Jim Hood Announces Mississippi to Receive $150 Million Economic Damages Payment from BP

June 30, 2016
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The state of Mississippi is expected to receive $150 million from BP on Friday, representing the oil company’s first payment for economic damages resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, Attorney General Jim Hood announced today.

The payment comes three months after five Gulf Coast states, the federal government and BP finalized a nearly $20 billion settlement in federal court. The agreement is the largest environmental settlement in history. In all, Mississippi will receive approximately $2.2 billion in compensation from BP.

Attorney General Hood commended his staff and state agency employees for their years-long efforts to ensure Mississippi held BP accountable for its actions and that the state received appropriate compensation for economic recovery and coastal restoration.

Attorney General Hood said he remained committed to making sure that coastal counties and cities receive fair treatment from the settlement. As part of that commitment, Attorney General Hood reminded the Legislature that, despite a significant budget deficit, the $150 million in recoveries from BP should be directed for projects on the Coast. This initial payment – expected Friday and required to be delivered by BP no later than Sunday – is part of a total of $750 million for economic damages that Mississippi will receive over the next 17 years.

“After years of litigation and work to identify the economic damage caused by this catastrophe, we reached an agreement that would help to make our coastal communities whole again,” Attorney General Hood said. “However, I am deeply concerned that the state’s legislative leaders may use this payment to try to cover up their self-created budget hole.” 

Attorney General Hood noted that the Legislature has already earmarked approximately $46 million from the $150 million disbursement. Legislative leaders would do a disservice to their coastal constituents if they use that money to fund anything other than areas impacted by the spill, he said.

“Those who created this budget emergency by providing self-serving tax cuts to big business should not use this money to cover up their mess at the expense of our neighbors on the Coast,” Attorney General Hood said.

 

 


AG JIM HOOD ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT WITH VOLKSWAGEN OVER EMISSIONS FRAUD- Mississippi to receive $2.5 million in compensation

June 28, 2016
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Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that Mississippi and 42 other states and jurisdictions have agreed to a $570 million settlement with Volkswagen over the automobile manufacturer’s sale of vehicles equipped with software designed to circumvent federal and state emissions standards.

Mississippi will receive $2.5 million. The agreement is among a series of state and federal settlements that provide cash payments to affected consumers and require Volkswagen to buy back or modify certain VW and Audi 2.0-liter diesel vehicles. More than 1,000 vehicles in Mississippi are covered in the settlement.

“Volkswagen lied to its customers and to the American people about the emissions levels in its diesel vehicles,” Attorney General Hood said. “The company’s actions harmed our environment, all in an attempt to skirt pollution standards and generate more profits. This settlement requires the company to pay consumers harmed by its scheme and institute environmental programs to offset the damage caused by its misrepresentations. I’m glad to have worked with a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general to reach this agreement.”

A multistate investigation confirmed that Volkswagen sold more than 570,000 2.0- and 3.0-liter diesel vehicles in the United States equipped with “defeat device” software intended to circumvent applicable emissions standards for certain air pollutants. Volkswagen actively concealed the existence of the defeat device from regulators and the public. Volkswagen made false statements to consumers in their marketing and advertising, misrepresenting the cars as environmentally friendly or “green,” and stating that the cars were compliant with federal and state emissions standards, when, in fact, Volkswagen knew the vehicles emitted harmful oxides of nitrogen (NOx) at rates many times higher than the law permitted.

Under today’s settlement, Volkswagen must institute a restitution and recall program for more than 475,000 owners and lessees of 2.0-liter diesel vehicles from model years 2009-2015. This includes 1,025 vehicles in Mississippi. Affected car owners will receive at least $5,100 in restitution from the company and a choice of a buyback of the vehicle or a modification to the vehicle that, if approved by regulators, would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.

Lessees and sellers who sold their affected vehicles after Sept. 18, 2015, will also be eligible for benefits and restitution.

In addition, Volkswagen must pay $2.7 billion to support environmental programs intended to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and mitigate the total excess emissions from the flawed VW vehicles. Volkswagen must also commit to invest $2 billion over the next decade to the development of nonpolluting cars known as Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEVs).

Today’s action resolves consumer protection claims raised by attorneys general against Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Porsche AG and Porsche Cars, North America, Inc. – collectively referred to as Volkswagen. They also resolve actions against Volkswagen brought by the federal government, California and car owners in private class action suits.

For full details, visit VWCourtSettlement.com, ftc.gov/VWSettlement or the Attorney General’s web site, www.AGJimHood.com. The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline is: (800) 281-4418.

The list of affected vehicles:

2.0 Liter Diesel Models

Model Year

(MY)

EPA Test Group Vehicle Make and Model(s)
2009 9VWXV02.035N
9VWXV02.0U5N
VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagen
2010 AVWXV02.0U5N VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagen, Audi A3
2011 BVWXV02.0U5N VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagen, Audi A3
2012 CVWXV02.0U5N VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagen, Audi A3
2013 DVWXV02.0U5N VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible, VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagen, Audi A3
2014 EVWXV02.0U5N VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible, VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportwagen
2012

2013

2014

CVWXV02.0U4S DVWXV02.0U4S EVWXV02.0U4S VW Passat
2015 FVGAV02.0VAL VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible, VW Golf, VW Golf Sportwagen, VW Jetta, VW Passat, Audi A3

 


Ridgeland Resident Going to Prison for Child Exploitation

June 28, 2016
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A Madison county man has been sentenced to prison for possessing child pornography, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

David Stough, 46, of Ridgeland, pleaded guilty to one count of child exploitation Monday before Madison County Circuit Judge John Emfinger. He was sentenced to 40 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with five years to serve and 5 years of post-release supervision.  Stough was ordered to pay $1,000 to the Mississippi Children’s Trust Fund and $1,000 to the Mississippi Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund.  Stough must also register as a sex offender.

Stough was arrested at his home Sept. 4, 2014, by investigators with the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, with assistance from the Ridgeland Police Department, an ICAC Task Force affiliate.  The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that Stough had downloaded numerous images of child pornography on his computer.

“Our attorneys and investigators worked diligently with the Ridgeland Police Department to ensure this man was convicted and off the streets,” Attorney General Hood said. “We will continue to focus all our resources, including advanced computer hardware and software, to seek out and find child predators and bring them to justice. We thank Judge Emfinger for this sentence.”

“The relationship that exists between these agencies to come together and work hand in hand throughout an investigation into these predators is of most importance for a successful prosecution,” Ridgeland Chief of Police John R. Neal said.  “The Ridgeland Police Department is fortunate to have a partnership with General Hood and the agents of the ICAC Task Force to work diligently in building these cases. The sentence imposed should send a message that law enforcement in Mississippi takes these crimes very seriously and will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”

This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn of the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Division.