- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Republican challenger Mike Hurst says he thinks Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s office leaked information years ago to a police chief who was the target of a corruption investigation. But, Democrat Hood’s campaign manager says Hurst “has manufactured a complete lie using a defeated sheriff as a mouthpiece.”

On Friday, Hood’s campaign released a statement from Denver Smith, retired supervising investigator for the state auditor. Smith said he and other investigators in the auditor’s office worked with the FBI on the 2010 probe of Mendenhall police chief Donald “Bruce” Barlow.

“In all the time that I worked on the Barlow case, we never heard anything about the attorney general’s office doing anything illegal or improper,” Smith said.

Hood, who’s seeking a fourth term, has said his office investigated Barlow and turned information over to the FBI.

Barlow is serving a five-year federal prison sentence for conspiring to demand money and property from people in exchange for dropping criminal charges. He pleaded guilty in early 2014.



In Hurst TV ads that started airing this week, Simpson County Sheriff Ken Lewis says Hood’s office interfered with his investigation of Barlow.

Lewis, who was defeated in the Republican primary in August, also appeared with Hurst during a Thursday news conference at the state Capitol. Lewis said he had called the public integrity division of the attorney general’s office in 2010 to leave a tip about Barlow demanding money from people facing charges in Mendenhall.

“When I called the attorney general’s office for help, it took them a couple of days to get back with me,” Lewis said. “When they finally did, they said that they weren’t going to be able to do anything for me since this was more of a local matter.”

Lewis said he was puzzled by that response. After he called the attorney general’s office, Lewis said, “The police chief came to me and told me that he was aware of what I was trying to do, that I was trying to gain control, and that he had friends in high places.”

Hurst was the lead prosecutor in the federal case against Barlow, and he said Friday that Smith never worked directly with him on the case.

Hurst said Thursday that based on the timing of conversations between Lewis and Barlow, “it appears that office tipped off the corrupt public police chief to the investigation.” However, Hurst said he didn’t know who might have leaked information.

In the Hood campaign statement Friday, campaign manager Jonathan Compretta condemned the Hurst ads.

“Mr. Hurst owes an apology to the dedicated investigators and staff in the attorney general’s office who he shamefully and falsely accused of wrongdoing,” Compretta said. “We call on him to cease airing his fabricated television ads and stop the lies.”

Hurst on Friday stood by his accusation against Hood’s office.

“If allegations come forward like this when I am attorney general, I will investigate the leak, not insult the whistle-blower,” Hurst said in a news release.

Hood and Hurst are the only two candidates for attorney general in the Nov. 3 election.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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