- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 16, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A Jackson man linked to a case against Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith has been indicted for having a cellphone while incarcerated at the Jackson Detention Center.

Attorney General Jim Hood’s office says 39-year-old Christopher Butler was indicted on one count of possession of a cellphone within a correctional facility. He was arraigned Tuesday.

Smith faces six misdemeanor charges of illegally aiding defendants, including Butler. Smith claims Hood criminally charged him to destroy his credibility as he investigated Hood’s employees for wrongdoing. The dispute appears to center on Smith’s claims that someone tampered with video that he says proves evidence was planted against Butler in a drug-dealing investigation.

If convicted as a habitual offender under the latest indictment, Butler faces up to 15 years in prison.

Five of the counts against Smith deal with Butler. They claim Smith wrote a letter to Butler’s lawyer, Sanford Knott, advising Knott how to attack the state’s case, that Smith tried to pressure a circuit judge into dismissing marijuana possession charges against Butler, that Smith twice visited Butler in jail without Knott, and that Smith referred to Butler as his “client,” and worked to obtain his release from jail, where he’s being held without bond.

The charges also accuse Smith of improperly aiding another man, Darnell Turner, who faces charges of aggravated assault. They say Smith improperly turned over emails of conversations between Circuit Judge Jeff Weill’s office, himself and the attorney general’s office. Those emails show Smith resisting Weill’s order to convene a grand jury to hear evidence on another Hinds County case Hood’s office wanted to prosecute.

Smith also alleged investigators were hiding evidence clearing Butler.

Since Hinds County Court Judge Melvin Priester Sr. sent the case to the grand jury, criticizing Smith’s actions, Hood’s office has won three separate indictments against Butler for stealing money from a mattress store where he worked and a rent-to-own business.

Because Butler has previously been convicted on four separate counts of selling marijuana or cocaine, he faces sentencing as a habitual offender, meaning he would have to serve the maximum sentence for the crimes.

Meanwhile, Hood’s office wants to block attorney Jim Waide from representing Smith in the case.

The Clarion-Ledger reports (https://on.thec-l.com/2bw9bDX) the attorney general’s office on Friday asked the court to remove Waide because prosecutors consider him a potential witness against Smith.

Two weeks ago, the Mississippi Supreme Court appointed Senior Status Judge James D. Bell to Smith’s case and Senior Status Judge Larry E. Roberts to several Hinds County Circuit Court cases. In the case of Roberts’ appointment, one of the cases listed in the order was actually Smith’s case, which is in Hinds County Court. The order, which involves four sealed cases, has since been corrected.

However, the attorney general’s office has asked the court to stay Smith’s case and move it under Roberts.

Waide did not immediately return a request for comment, and the attorney general’s office would not comment.

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