By Emily Wagster Pettus
JACKSON – Authorities say a conservative Mississippi blogger went into a nursing home, photographed the bedridden wife of Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran without permission and posted an image online as part of a video.
Rose Cochran, 72, has lived at St. Catherine’s Village since 2000 and has dementia.
Clayton Thomas Kelly, 28, of Pearl, was arrested Friday and charged with a felony, exploitation of a vulnerable adult, Madison police said. Kelly remained in the Madison County Detention Center on Saturday on $100,000 bond. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he has an attorney.
Police Sgt. Robert Sanders wouldn’t identify Rose Cochran as the person who was photographed. Cochran attorney Don Clark said an unauthorized photo of Rose Cochran was taken in her nursing home room, near her bedside, and it was posted briefly online as part of a video.
Sanders said the video is no longer online.
Cochran’s June 3 Republican primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, said his campaign has no connection to Kelly.
“I’ve reached out to Senator Cochran directly to express my abhorrence for the reprehensible actions of this individual,” McDaniel said in a statement Saturday. “This criminal act is deeply offensive and my team and I categorically reject such appalling behavior.”
Kelly’s Facebook page includes one photo of Kelly with McDaniel at a campaign meet-and-greet event and another photo of a McDaniel campaign sign. Kelly has a blog called Constitutional Clayton, which includes a post that says: “When it comes to Republicans with a bad voting record, you can’t get any worse than Thad Cochran. Thad should represent the ‘Controlled Opposition’ Wing of the Republicans more than John McCain or Lindsey Graham.”
Clark is chairman of the Butler Snow law firm, where former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour works. Barbour is a former Republican National Committee chairman and is supporting Cochran in the Senate race.
“Senator Cochran asked our firm to represent him in this matter,” Clark said in a statement Saturday. “We believed a crime may have been committed and we immediately notified the City of Madison Police Department since St. Catherine’s Nursing Home is located in the City of Madison. The police conducted an investigation, still in progress, resulting in the arrest last night. As you can imagine, Senator Cochran’s first concern was that of the safety of his wife as well as the invasion of her privacy and dignity.”
Clark said St. Catherine’s Village is also investigating.
Cochran, 76, was elected to the Senate in 1978 after six years in the House. He is a former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“I have been fortunate to have a wonderful family, and like so many families, we are deeply affected by my wife’s serious, long-term illness, that we consider to be a very private family matter,” Cochran said in a statement Saturday. “We will continue doing everything we can to protect my wife’s safety and security.”