- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

LAMBERT, Miss. (AP) - The mayor of a 1,600-resident Quitman County town has been indicted on charges that he sexually abused two children.

Attorney General Jim Hood’s office said Wednesday that Lambert Mayor Joe Willie Smith was arrested Tuesday by his office and Quitman County Sheriff Oliver Parker Jr. The 57-year-old is being held in the county jail pending an Aug. 6 arraignment in Quitman County Circuit Court, and it’s unclear if Smith has a lawyer.

Smith was indicted Monday on one count of statutory rape and one count of gratification of lust. The attorney general’s office said he will legally hold his office until he either resigns or in the event of a conviction.

The statutory rape indictment charges Smith with having sex with a 15-year-old in early 2013. The gratification of lust indictment charges that Smith “did touch or rub his hands on the buttocks of a child” who was then 14 in August 2014.

Any conviction on a statutory rape charge is punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment and up to 15 years for gratification of lust.

“We understand the significant impact that an arrest of a public official has on the community,” Hood said in a statement. “This case will be handled in the same manner and with the same integrity as every other investigation.”

Parker, Quitman County District Attorney Brenda Mitchell and Lambert town attorney Jimmy Miller did not immediately return calls.

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