I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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Guilty Plea in Rose Cochran photo case

John Mary has pleaded guilty in Madison County to an information that he conspired to violate Miss. Code Ann. 97-45-17.  It alleges that he conspired with Clayton Kelly, Ric Sager, and Mary Mayfield against a victim designated as RC, meaning, of course, Rose Cochran.  The Clarion Ledger is reporting the plea to conspiracy, that Mary is cooperating, and there is an agreement of no jail time.  Jackson Jamabalaya has the information to which he is pleading.

Recall that Kelly was the one who apparently took and posted the video.

This is the code section:

(1) A person shall not post a message for the purpose of causing injury to any person through the use of any medium of communication, including the Internet or a computer, computer program, computer system or computer network, or other electronic medium of communication without the victim’s consent, for the purpose of causing injury to any person.

(2) A person who violates this section, upon conviction, shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than five (5) years or a fine of not more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($ 10,000.00), or both.

No, the Briars was not Jefferson Davis’s “ancestral home.”

So, this weekend, the M-Club is having a weekend in Oxford.  As YallPolitics reports, the M-Club sent out a flyer offering all kinds of things to do in Oxford this weekend.  One thing you can do is for $30 get a tour of the Scruggs home for $30 a head.  In the course of describing the house, the flier notes it was patterened after the Briars in Natchez, which, the flier notes mistakenly, was Jefferson Davis’s “ancestral home.”  Not quite.  He was married there, to Varina Howell; it was her ancenstral home. Well, more accurately, her parents bought the house in the late 1820s and she grew up there.  Given the story of the marriage (and the problems it involved over houses), she probably would prefer that detail to be corrected.

BLACK VOTES DON’T COUNT, or, Ok, I’ve read McDaniel’s complaint, and SURPRISE! there’s no there there.

Update:  Seeing an excerpt from the affidavit exhibit about Lafayette County, I decided to read it.  That affidavit (along with a lot of other ones) starts with frustration by the affiant in getting the clerks and election commissioners to cooperate with the review, a constant in these things (the initial position that the McDaniel person was not going to get to actually see the documents was pretty humorous, if true.  Well, humorous either way).  Then it got to the list of names the affiant suggested had absentee ballots that were defective in some way.  Many of the defects are real, if true (e.g. no checked off reason for voting absentee).  However, a large number of the listed problems involve the affiant declaring that the signatures required in various places don’t match.  I personally know a lot of the folks the affiant claims had non-matching signatures (one, for instance, was John Hailman, a former federal prosecutor and author), and really doubt that many of them would screw up in the way suggested.  To the point that, if I were Cochran’s lawyers, I’d check some of them and possibly even call a few to see if I could get witnesses or at least an affidavit saying, “Oh, both of those are my signature and handwriting.”  These lay handwriting opinions are not going to be worth much, I don’t think, and if you carve those out, McDaniel’s number really starts to sink.  A huge number of the listed names as problem absentee votes were folks I know.  

Thanks to Jeff Seabold on Facebook, I found a link to the McDaniel’s complaint before the state Republican executive committee, and have read it through.

First, some election law. For a succesful challenge, one has to identify illegal votes. If someone votes who should not have, or if someone votes, say, by absentee and does not follow the rules, their vote does not count. A succesful challenge carves away at those votes, basically one at a time. If it shows that the number of bogus votes is greater than the margin of victory, then, BINGO, the challenge wins.

There is some language in election law cases that suggests that there might be circumstances where the voting was SO fraudulent that the whole thing should be thrown out.

What I’ve never heard suggested is the notion that there were enough bad/dubious/wrong votes that whole precincts, counties, etc. could be disregarded. This would be repulsive to democracy (little “d” there folks), because it would suggest that folks in, say, Hinds County, who voted perfectly legitimately to their candidate and possibly even friend of choice, and did no wrong, would have their vote, and their constitutional right to vote, not counted, because some other citizens of Hinds County didn’t follow the rules.

Well, the McDaniel challenge is premised on exactly that kind of thinking. He is saying that, because Democrats (and even African-Americans!) voted in Hinds County, every single Hinds County vote should be thrown out. And! (he argues) Do that and I win!

Got it. I was curious, dubious, but ready to be persuaded. Well, more like interested to see if I could be persuaded. And I’m not.

Title credit to Frank Parker’s book (Black Votes Count) about the effort to achieve exactly that in Mississippi, an effort in which he was instrumental.  Apparently, that’s yet another achievement of the 20th Century the McDaniels folks would like to undo.

Quote for the Day

From the preface to Rick Perlstein’s Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, from a college classmate of Ronald Reagan’s: “I don’t think he was intelligent enough to be cynical.”

The Dog that Didn’t Bark

HottyToddy.com has an “interview” with Dickie Scruggs, by “Steve Vassallo … a HottyToddy.com contributor who interviews Oxford’s and our region’s leading personalities.”

There was one subject the interviewer never brought up.  He did ask the name of Scruggs’s favorite president.  Andrew Jackson.

Andrew Jackson?  “Whipped the British; whipped the bankers; and whipped the secessionists.”

Whipped the Native Americans, too.

YouTube Preview Image

Mildly surprised there’s no video on YouTube of Jimmy Driftwood performing “Battle of New Orleans,” but the link does have audio.

McDaniel: He is filing the challenge but continuing to hide the ball

Update:  This story says 15,000, which makes slightly more sense. Slightly.  But Kingfish also reports the 25,000 number.  This is not a context where you want your legal team to have numeracy issues.

Talking Points describes the McDaniel press conference.

So McDaniel’s people say they have found 3,500 illegal crossover votes.

If those were not supposed to count, that’s still not enough.

They also say they ahve found an additinal 2,275 “improperly cast” absentee ballots.  While I don’t doubt that may be, that still isn’t enough.

So they didn’t get there, and aren’t filing a challenge, right?

Nope.  They saiy they’ve found 9,500 “questionable” votes.  What does that mean?  I haven’t seen their pleadings, wasn’t at the press conference, and don’t know, yet, but I’m mildly dubious.  If they can show 9,500 votes that should not have been cast, they are getting somewhere, maybe.

Of course, it is in the nature of election contests that we don’t know how these allegedly improper votes were voted; if they are thrown out, that means we don’t know the result of the election and thus there’s to be a new one.

But wait!

They also claim that McDaniel won the election by 25,000 votes.  And how is that? It doesn’t seem to match the 14,275 improper votes he claims to have found, which (even if they were all voted for Cochran, which we don’t know) would have meant that McDanial was ahead by 7000 or so, not 25,000 or so.  Where do the other 18,000 come from?

Some magic guess about how people will vote in November? How does that cut only in his favor?  Cochran’s people have hired Butler Snow to litigate this.  It will be headed to the state executive committee and then court.

A reminder to beware of those initial news reports during a crisis.

Last week, there was a good example of this when the New York Times (and others) reported that an Isreali Defense Force officer had been kidnapped and it turned out he’d died in combat (and possibly even from friendly fire).

Here’s one from 8/3/1914, courtesy of Matt Yglesias’s Twitter feed.

Quote of the Day

“Fly specks, fly specks! I’ve been spending my life among fly specks while miracles have been leaning on lampposts at 18th and Fairfax!”

Dr. Chumley in “Harvey.”

Meanwhile, in Oxford: About those Old Taylor Roard roundabouts

They opened today.  I, for one, thought (and still think) they’d be a great thing for an intersection that had become impossible and possibly dangerous.

That said, it’s going to be a bit of an adventure while folks get used to them.  Driving them the first time reminded me a bit of driving the Square before there were parking islands in the middle of it, only with the addition of not-quite-comprehendible directions painted on the asphalt (did that inside lane suddenly become a Highway 6 only lane? How is that going to work?).  I could see the sidewalk to the left, but couldn’t really see what was supposed to be happening with how it was going to cross Old Taylor on the North end and the off ramp to 6-East on the South end (or what it’s going to continue to do for walkers and cyclists headed up the hill to the South on Old Taylor.

All that said, it will make that intersection possible to use even when students are trying to make class at the last minute, I think.

In case anyone from True The Vote is reading and needs help in Jefferson County

Following up on my prior post that folks at True the Vote couldn’t find the courthouse in Jefferson County, here’s some handy pointers.

There is a search engine on the internet called Google, and if you type “address of the courthouse Jefferson County Mississippi Fayette” into it, the fourth entry says, “Circuit Clerk Jefferson County.” If you click on that you get a nice picture of the courthouse, and its address! And, since you were trying to find the Circuit Clerk in the first place, that seems doubly handy!

A glance at the address suggests another way the courthouse could have been found:  Its address, 1438 Main Street in Fayette.  It’s my experience of small towns (and Fayette, with about 1600 folks in it, certainly counts as a small town.  Small enough that one might wonder how someone could get lost there) that, generally, if there is a street called “Main Street,” that’s where you are going to find the courthouse.  Sometimes it may be a block or so over, but in a town that small, Main Street is a good bet.  Another nice thing about choosing Main Street is that it’s almost chosen for you.  In Fayette, if you get off Highway 61 coming either from the North (ask in comments if you want me to explain “North” and “South”) or South, the first possible exit is Main Street from either direction!

If you had trouble with Jefferson County, I suggest hiring a native guide when going to Bolivar County.  Not only is the courthouse off the main drag in Cleveland, there’s another courthouse altogether several miles away in Rosedale.  This sort of problem apparently caused one of your (cough) investigators trouble when they couldn’t remember whether they had been in the Hinds County Courthouse in Jackson (which presumably they could have seen from the front steps of the federal courthouse where they were testifying) or Raymond.