By Jeff Amy
JACKSON – Two men charged with conspiring to photograph U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s ailing wife were released from jail Thursday after a court lowered their bonds.
Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest said his office agreed to reduce bonds for Clayton Kelly of Pearl and Richard Sager of Laurel after their attorneys appealed amounts set by a Madison city judge as too high.
“Based on those motions, the circuit court (with our agreement) lowered the bond for both defendants,” Guest wrote in a text message sent to a reporter with The Associated Press. The cases are now being sent to a Madison County grand jury, he added.
Madison police investigators say the conspiracy was intended to use images of Rose Cochran to advance allegations that her husband, the senator, was having an inappropriate relationship. State Sen. Chris McDaniel, who’s challenging Cochran, has raised questions about whether it’s appropriate for Cochran to bring a female aide on a large number of official, taxpayer-funded trips overseas. Thad Cochran has denied any inappropriate acts.
Rose Cochran has been institutionalized with dementia since 2001, has lost the ability to speak and is receiving hospice care, according to her family. McDaniel has denied having anything to do with photographing the senator’s wife.
Kelly, who has a conservative political blog called Constitutional Clayton, was released from the Madison County jail after posting $75,000 bond, reduced from $250,000. Police say he photographed Rose Cochran, without permission, in a nursing home and posted her image in an online video. He’s charged with exploitation of a vulnerable adult, filming without permission and conspiracy. Kelly has pro-McDaniel photos on his Facebook page and anti-Cochran statements on his blog.
Kevin Camp, Kelly’s attorney, said the lowered bonds are “in line” with the charges. Camp said he expected the case would be presented to a grand jury within the next two to three months.
Sager, charged with evidence tampering and conspiracy, was released after posting $50,000 bond, down from the original $500,000. A physical education teacher, Sager posted a McDaniel campaign event on his Facebook page.
Ridgeland attorney Mark Mayfield, a Central Mississippi Tea Party board member who has helped raise campaign cash for McDaniel, posted a $250,000 bond on one count of conspiracy the day he was arrested.
Police charged former talk radio host John Mary of Hattiesburg with conspiracy involving the exploitation of a vulnerable person and photographing or filming of a person without permission where there is an expectation of privacy. But they did not jail him, citing health problems. Mary took over hosting a conservative talk radio show after McDaniel left that job before being elected to the state Senate.