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Mississippi sheriff charged with extortion, witness tampering

Aug. 31, 2013 at 1:35 AM

PASCAGOULA, Miss., Aug. 31 (UPI) -- The four-term sheriff of Jackson County, Miss., surrendered Friday to face a long list of charges that include embezzlement and witness tampering.

Mike Byrd was accompanied by his lawyer as he walked into the Ocean Springs police station, The (Biloxi) Sun Herald reported.

Byrd was treated as a special case. A former circuit judge named by the state Supreme Court set bail after the county judges recused themselves, and four police chiefs served Byrd with arrest papers.

"We decided to do it together so no one would have to shoulder the burden alone," Pascagoula Police Chief Kenny Johnson said.

Judge William Coleman set bail at $31,000, $1,000 for each count in Byrd's indictment, the result of a lengthy investigation by the county district attorney.

The charges also include fraud, extortion and trying to convince others to lie to a grand jury. Byrd, known locally as a church singer, is also charged with using employees in his department to raise money for the Sheriff's Gospel Sing.

Under Mississippi law, Byrd can remain in office until he is convicted or pleads guilty, the county circuit clerk said.

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