PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd will not be going to jail and losing $31,000 in bond money.
Back in August, Byrd was charged on 31 counts everything from embezzlement to extortion. Monday, the Jackson County District Attorney and Mike Byrd's defense spent more than two hours arguing over whether the longtime sheriff violated the terms of his bond.
The DA accused Byrd of unlawfully contacting witnesses involved in his criminal case.
"He is the sheriff of this county, with that comes intimidation. With that badge comes intimidation," District Attorney Tony Lawrence said.
"Judge, there is absolutely no evidence before the court that Sheriff Byrd intimated anyone," Defense Attorney Joe Sam Owen said.
Several potential witnesses in Byrd's criminal trial testified they were either called or contacted in some way by the sheriff days after he was indicted. Sheriff's Deputy Mickey Powell said his boss came to his house twice to talk.
"He came up, gave me a hug. I asked him how he was doing and he said he wasn't doing good. He said, 'They are trying to put me in jail.' He told me that I might be preaching his funeral and that he couldn't go to jail," Powell said.
Owen said Byrd had no malicious intent.
"Not any witnesses today said that Sheriff Byrd ever did anything to suggest or recommend to them to get anyone to change their testimony," Owen said.
During closing arguments, the prosecution again pleaded with the court to punish the sheriff for his alleged actions.
"Look at, most important, the use of county equipment, property, personnel and fund to conduct his personal defense. That is the problem. That is the problem that state has," Lawrence said.
Byrd's legal team fired back.
"All this is an attempt to stockpile more stuff on top of more stuff and hope somehow Sheriff Byrd will be incarcerated, which, to me as his defense lawyer, would be catastrophic," Owen said.
In the end, the judge ruled that Byrd did not violate the conditions of his bond.
"I am pleased with the ruling," said Byrd's lawyer.
Even though this is a small victory for Byrd, his attorney said they don't view this decision as a win. Instead they are ready to move forward and deal with 31 count indictment ahead.
"This is chapter one. We have 31 more chapters to deal with. I am just glad we are passed that," said Owen.
Sheriff Mike Byrd will remain free on bond as he awaits his trial, which could be sometime next year. Byrd didn't testify during Monday's hearing and didn't talk with the media after the ruling.