By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
ABERDEEN – Charges were dropped late Wednesday against Pastor Ricky Bowen with an 11th-hour plea deal in which he agreed not to sue the Aberdeen Police Department for his prosecution.
“Pastor Bowen wants to go on without controversy, and that’s OK,” said his attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, after the decision was announced by prosecutor Robert Faulk.
In city court proceedings that lasted more than six hours, Judge Adrian Haynes presided over conflicting testimony, attorney arguments and a boisterous crowd approaching 150 at its height.
Bowen, who broke down in tears on the witness stand, said all he wanted to do was reveal corruption in his hometown. “If what I did was wrong, I am sorry,” he said late in the day.
After the announcement, Bowen said, “It’s a great day – I’ll take a dismissal any day.”
He was arrested in January on charges he obstructed justice by not turning over documents to the Aberdeen Police Department and that he possessed stolen goods – a city Electric Department water meter determined to be used to steal power.
But Bowen said Mayor Jim Ballard gave him Electric Department documents to turn over to the state Attorney General’s Office, telling him not to trust the local police.
As for the meter, Bowen said it turned up at a local cafe in time for a meeting with Michael Brownlee, an Auditor’s Office investigator, and ultimately wound up in the mayor’s hands.
What became clear is that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has local voting and civil rights issues in its sights, while the State Auditor’s Office has an active investigation under way about alleged corruption in the city’s Electric Department.
At day’s end, Judge Haynes, who is not an attorney, said, “There is a lot of corruption in Aberdeen, and we must join together to root it out.”
Faulk, who served as prosecutor, declined to comment afterward.
The proceedings were not like cases heard in circuit or federal court, where judges rarely make speeches from the bench.
Haynes asked Bowen questions and spoke out against the local bickering and lack of trust that may have been at the root of Bowen’s difficulties. Maybe if you had talked to the police with your attorney, she said to him, all this wouldn’t have happened.
Earlier in the day, Waide insisted to Haynes that she shouldn’t be surprised that Bowen declined to answer police questions and asked for his attorney after repeated television broadcasts the day before showing Chief Henry Randle’s comments that he planned to arrest the Pentecostal minister.
Bowen said he became active in rooting out injustice and corruption in Aberdeen when his nephew was accused of wrongdoing. “If it could happen to him, it could happen to anybody,” the pastor said.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.