James Michael Byrd, 63, was arrested Aug. 30 on 10 counts each of embezzlement and fraud, one count of perjury, and two counts each of second-degree hindering prosecution, tampering with a witness, extortion, attempted subornation of perjury and intimidating an officer in the discharge of his duties.
The scope of the 31 indictments leveled against Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd reflects a pattern of willful, unlawful and felonious activity dating back to 2007.
Byrd, like any defendant, is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. But the Sheriff’s Office’s own operating procedures demand that anyone working for Byrd be relieved of duty without pay under similar circumstances.
In November, Byrd relieved one of his sergeants of duty without pay “due to being indicted for a misdemeanor.”
Byrd now faces 31 charges, most of them felonies. The indictments bolster reports of Sheriff’s Office personnel being used for personal and political gain. But the indictments also allege more chilling aspects of Byrd’s long tenure in office.
They charge he used his authority to conduct “retaliatory surveillance,” in one instance because Byrd felt he had been publicly embarrassed, in another because a restaurant refused to accept a personal check for payment.
They charge he violated not only the legal but the ethical and moral demands of his office, sometimes by trying to unduly influence investigations, at one time by attempting to obtain sexual favors from a female deputy.
After posting a $31,000 bond Friday, Byrd appeared determined to remain sheriff – as the law permits – while defending himself against these charges.
He should reconsider and resign.
The credibility and integrity of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office will be suspect so long as Byrd remains sheriff.
Sun Herald, Biloxi/Gulfport