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For Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, it’s deja vu all over again as he faces new, more serious, criminal charges Wednesday.
The felony accusations, brought by the state attorney general’s office, come one day after misdemeanor charges were dropped.
A grand jury indicted Smith, 45, of Jackson on two felony charges that include conspiring with an assistant district attorney to hinder the prosecution of a criminal defendant, according to Attorney General Jim Hood.
Jamie K. McBride, an assistant district attorney, also was indicted on two felony counts that he and Smith conspired to hinder a criminal prosecution.
The court docket also shows McBride was served with his indictment Wednesday. He was not immediately available for comment.
Smith’s attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, said Smith went to the Hinds County and to be served the indictment and was released on his own recognizance.
“I knew this was coming,” Waide said after misdemeanor charges were dropped against Smith on Tuesday. “I’m just surprised they would charge him with felonies.”
Waide said he and Smith will discuss what’s next, which could be to go to trial and let a Hinds County jury decide what’s true.
The official charge against Smith is conspiracy to hinder prosecution in the first degree, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine per count. If convicted, Smith would face immediate dismissal from office and a ban on ever running for public office again.
A Hood news release also said a grand jury indicted Smith on one misdemeanor count of illegally assisting a criminal defendant, a violation of state law.
In June, agents from Hood’s office arrested Smith on six misdemeanor charges of illegally assisting two criminal defendants. Smith insisted he was not guilty.
Tuesday, a special Hinds County judge dismissed the charges at Hood’s request. A statement from Hood’s office indicated that he would pursue more serious charges through a grand jury.
“As a former district attorney, I have the utmost respect for the work our district attorneys do every day to make Mississippi a safer place to live. They are my colleagues in the fight against crime,” Hood said in Wednesday’s news release. “So it brings me no pleasure to prosecute one of our own. But a Hinds County grand jury has indicted Mr. Smith for serious violations of the law that hamper the ability of our criminal justice system to do its job. My hope is that this case is resolved fairly and expeditiously for the sake of the citizens of Hinds County.”
The three-count indictment alleges that Smith conspired with former Assistant District Attorney Ivon Johnson and with unnamed co-conspirators to hinder the prosecution of a man named Christopher Butler in four different Hinds County Circuit Court cases. The grand jury indicted Smith based on allegations that Smith met with Butler at the Hinds County Jail outside the presence of Butler’s attorney, advised Butler’s attorney about ways to undermine the state’s case against Butler and sought to have Butler released from jail.
In July, Johnson pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to take money in exchange for lowering bond for a criminal defendant. He faces sentencing in a few weeks and was expected to testify in Smith’s case if it goes to trial.