Attorney Merrida Coxwell said the $250,000 bond was excessive for his client, a respected attorney who has no criminal history
Mayfield’s attorneys — Merrida Coxwell and Mayfield’s brother-in-law, former state Rep. John Reeves — quickly posted cash for Mayfield’s release on a $250,000 bond but called it excessive. They and Kelly’s attorney said the case appears to be politically driven.
“There’s a lot of bigger powers moving, and that’s why this case wasn’t handled the way it should be,” said Kelly’s attorney Kevin Camp, who argued Kelly should face, at worst, a misdemeanor. Instead, felony charges of conspiracy and photo voyeurism were added to the count of exploitation of a vulnerable adult he already faced. He faces a total of 20 years in prison.
“It’s all about politics,” Camp said.
Cochran’s opponent in a bitter GOP primary race, tea party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville, continued to deny any involvement with Kelly or the video and to accuse Cochran of gaming the incident for political points.
Authorities said they have no evidence at this point linking the alleged conspiracy to a campaign. But Cochran’s camp has continued to question when and how McDaniel and his staff knew of it, and point to inconsistent answers McDaniel and others on the campaign have given since Kelly’s arrest Friday night.
McDaniel in a statement Tuesday called on Cochran to take down a new ad. It says a “Chris McDaniel supporter has been charged with a felony for photographing his wife in a nursing home. Had enough? … Rise up against dirty politics.”
McDaniel said, “It is shameful for a sitting U.S. senator to engage in such desperate slander and lies.”
Mayfield has been an ardent supporter of McDaniel, as have the Mississippi Tea Party and the Central Mississippi Tea Party, both of which list Mayfield on their boards of directors. Tea party officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
A photo posted recently on the McDaniel campaign’s Facebook page shows Mayfield and other volunteers, saying, “Here’s part of a crew that reached over 500 homes walking in Madison today. Great work team!”
Kelly, 28, of Pearl is a McDaniel supporter and an aspiring political blogger with the site “Constitutional Clayton.” His friends and family say he wanted to make a name for himself and the blog, and was egged on by others over the Internet to do a hit piece on Cochran. He was trying to claim Cochran has a mistress — which Cochran has denied — while his wife languishes in a nursing home.
Kelly’s wife said someone on the Internet gave him info on how to find Rose Cochran at St. Catherine’s Village, and he photographed her on Easter Sunday.
An investigator testified Thursday that it was Kelly’s third attempt to get a photograph of the incapacitated Rose Cochran.
Camp said Thursday that Kelly did not know the others arrested and had never seen them until in the holding room and courtroom.
Camp has argued that the felony exploitation law doesn’t fit Kelly’s alleged actions, in part because he said it would require monetary gain of more than $250 for Kelly. He also tried to kick holes in the photographing charge, which has most often been used to prosecute peeping Toms. It says it’s a crime for anyone “with lewd, licentious or indecent intent” to photograph someone in a place where they would tend to be in a state of undress and have reasonable expectation of privacy.
Camp sparred with Madison Investigator Vickie Currie when she took the stand at Kelly’s hearing Thursday. He said there’s no evidence Kelly profited by $250 or more.
But Currie countered, “I believe (Rose Cochran’s) image is priceless.”
Camp said Kelly’s intentions were “not lewd or licentious.”
Currie countered, “I believe it was indecent.”
Currie also testified Rose Cochran, who is unaware of her surroundings, was unconscious and in “bed clothes,” when Kelly photographed her. She said the photos appeared to be taken at bedside, very close to Rose Cochran inside her room. Camp has claimed Kelly took them from outside her room.
Judge Dale Danks denied Camp’s motion to dismiss or downgrade the charges against Kelly and his motion to reduce his bond. It remains $200,000 after the new charges. Kelly’s wife, Tara, left the courthouse in tears with other family. They had hoped Kelly’s bond would be reduced. Kelly mouthed “I love you” to Tara as he was led from the courtroom.
Tara and other family and friends say Kelly is a good person — a loving father to his autistic daughter — but got too wrapped up in politics and made a mistake.
Camp argued that Kelly had fulfilled his parole and always showed up when required on past drug charges. He said Kelly’s “journalism” use of the photo may not be illegal.
Danks also denied lowering the bond of the others. Sager’s remains at $500,000 total for his counts of conspiracy and tampering. Sager told the judge he doesn’t have an attorney but plans to get one.
Danks bound Kelly and Mayfield’s cases over to a grand jury after Mayfield waived a preliminary hearing and bonded out.
Coxwell argued Mayfield is a respected lawyer and pillar of the community, “of the entire state,” and would not pose a flight risk under lower bond.
“This is not the first time I’ve been in this city where charges were filed against somebody that turned out not to be true,” Coxwell said.
McDaniel on Thursday said, “As we have said since day one, the violation of the privacy of Mrs. Cochran is out of bounds for politics and reprehensible. Any individuals who were involved with this crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
By Geoff Pender and Jimmie E. Gates, The Clarion-Ledger