Former mayor-warden to report to federal prison

By Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Pres

JACKSON — A former prison warden who was also one of the longest serving mayors in Mississippi will soon be an inmate himself for telling a prisoner to lie about having sex with him.

Grady Sims, who served as the mayor of Walnut Grove in east-central Mississippi for 31 years, is scheduled to report to a federal prison in Miami by Monday to begin serving a seven-month sentence for witness intimidation. He is also to serve six months on house arrest and two years of probation.

U.S. District Judge David Bramlette in Jackson allowed him to report to prison on his own.

Sims’ attorney did not immediately respond to a message seeking an interview with Sims or a comment.

A letter filed in court records in May by Sims’ lawyer, Christopher Collins, requested permission to travel to Tampa, Fla., this past week to visit a relatives before reporting to prison. The judge allowed it.

During his sentencing hearing in April, Sims apologized to the court and his family and said he made a mistake that embarrassed him and his family, and cost him his job as mayor and his personal vending business.

He said he was a Christian who lost his way, but later “came back to God” and accepted responsibility for his mistakes.

“I am ashamed and sorrowful to be here,” he said then.

Sims, 61, was first elected mayor in 1981 and served in a part-time capacity for the town of about 1,900. In October 2009, he became warden of the Walnut Grove Transition Center, a privately-run prison designed as a “re-entry” facility where inmates are allowed to get jobs in the private sector.

Court records do not describe how he became involved with the female inmate or what kind of relationship they developed, but prosecutors said he drove her to a hotel in a nearby town to have sex in November 2009. He was secretly recorded a few months later in telephone conversations telling the inmate to lie to investigators in an attempt to influence the grand jury investigation.

Sims was indicted in October 2011 on two counts, sexually assaulting the prisoner while acting in his official capacity and intimidating a witness. The assault charge was dismissed when he pleaded guilty to witness intimidation. He was forced to resign as mayor and was barred from seeking office again.

The private prison industry was big business for Walnut Grove and Sims’ involvement led to at least one other investigation.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering demanded in October 2011 that Sims pay more than $31,500 for using city employees and city equipment to work on private prisons in Walnut Grove and for using city equipment on personal property.