Saving Kevin Curtis: Legal duo, client bask in media spotlight after hard fight to free him

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Falsely accused Kevin Curtis and his attorneys face television cameras in the Big Apple today, the Mississippi flotsam on a tsunami of national media attention.
Just a week ago, the 45-year-old Corinth Elvis tribute artist faced multiple federal charges that he mailed poison letters to President Barack Obama and other elected officials.
He’s facing intense scrutiny now from network and cable interviews during a media-paid trip to New York City.
Oxford attorneys Christi R. McCoy and Hal Neilson, who stoutly defended Curtis’ innocence for five straight days, will be there, too.
They start out with the “Today” show on NBC.
Kevin Curtis’ attorneys also know what it feels like to be falsely accused.
In just the past few years, both were.
Hal Neilson came away from a two-week criminal trial found “not guilty” on federal charges. In its aftermath, he vowed to take up the cause of people wrongly prosecuted.
Christi R. McCoy, who was Neilson’s attorney in that trial, lost her chance at being Mississippi’s first female U.S. attorney when the Obama Administration put her name on ice because someone told them her legal investigator violated the law somehow.
Speaking from experience, Neilson said, “There’s nothing worse than someone falsely charged. I’m pleased the government saw what Christi and I saw,” which was nothing.
Fast-forward to Wednesday, April 17, 2013.
Federal agents swooped into Northeast Mississippi and scooped up Curtis on charges he plotted and carried out a scheme to mail ricin-laden letters to President Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Tupelo and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland.
McCoy got a call from a Curtis relative, asking her to see him the next day. Her office is across the street from the Lafayette County Detention Center in Oxford, where Curtis was held.
“I knew last Thursday that Kevin had not done this,” McCoy told the media Tuesday.
Late Tuesday, government prosecutors dropped all charges against Curtis, and Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander signed the dismissal order.
They said they had “found new information” about the case.
They did not say, but everyone else did, they had no evidence to directly link Curtis to the crimes.
At a lengthy news conference Tuesday afternoon, a free Curtis termed it “divine intervention” that McCoy came to his rescue.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had real legal representation – I will never let you go,” he said to McCoy.
Curtis was talking about more than a decade of legal complaints against him and a quest to get someone to listen to his personal and political views.
McCoy says that’s what she tries to do, even after her 20 years as an attorney.
“Every time I meet a new client, I do so with an open mind,” said the Prentiss County native.
Neilson brings his 23 years with the FBI and a deep knowledge of how that closed bureaucracy works.
He still feels the sting of that trial on charges he lied about his financial interests in the new FBI Building in Oxford.
“What I went through,” he said, “really opened my eyes.”
McCoy and Neilson also applied their collective experience to save Curtis from being sent away for a psychological evaluation by a U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ expert.
“There was no way I was going to let him go without a fight,” McCoy said. “We felt very strongly about it.”
Had Curtis been sent away indefinitely in custody, the clock to his right to a speedy trial also would have stopped.
Across the three days of hearings and out-of-courtroom conversations with prosecutors, McCoy stared them down.
Under withering cross examination, she grilled the government’s key witness, an FBI specialist on weapons of mass destruction.
The man presented no direct links between the letters and Curtis, but he insisted that he believed Curtis was the one who mailed the poison letters.
Curtis admits he suffers from bipolar mood disorder. McCoy said he may be a little bit crazy but he’s not a criminal.
Late Tuesday, McCoy and Neilson were proven right.
“This case took a lot of planning and determination – it was diabolical and very frightening,” McCoy noted.
“That is sooo not Kevin.”
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com