JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd will be in federal court this afternoon in Mobile where he's expected to plead guilty to one count of federal witness tampering.
According to a plea agreement signed last month, Byrd admitted trying to persuade Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Goff to cover up an incident where Byrd kicked a handcuffed prisoner after a car chase.
Read the full plea agreement here: http://bit.ly/1bVwmim
The incident happened in June 2012. The car chase began in Jackson County, but ended across the state line in Alabama, which is why the case was filed in U.S. District Court in Mobile.
The court will decide the exact punishment for the sheriff, but the plea agreement sets certain limits:
-No more than 20 years imprisonment
-A fine not to exceed $250,000
-Supervised release of three years, which would follow any term of imprisonment.
-A mandatory special assessment of $100
The plea agreement also states that prosecutors will recommend Sheriff Byrd be sentenced to just six months of home confinement and six months probation.
The agreement means no more federal charges will be brought against the sheriff in this case, from the United States Attomey's Office for the Southern District of Alabama. No other federal, state or local prosecuting authorities are bound by the agreement.
WLOX News will have a crew at the courthouse in Mobile today, and we'll be tweeting live during the proceedings @wlox. You can also sign up for our breaking news alerts by email or text: http://www.wlox.com/category/217775/preference-center
Sheriff Byrd still faces a 31-count indictment in state court in Mississippi. Those charges include fraud, extortion, embezzlement, witness tampering and perjury.
Read the entire 31 count indictment here: http://bit.ly/1dz4JCb
If the sheriff does plead guilty, as expected, it will be the first admission of guilt. And according to state law, it means he must resign as the county's chief law enforcer. County supervisors have been tight lipped about a possible interim replacement. At Monday's board meeting, WLOX News learned at least 10 people have contacted supervisors about the sheriff's job, but no resumes will be considered until there's an opening.
"Until he [the sheriff] does submit something, there is nothing for us to do," Supervisor Mike Mangum said. "So, maybe in the future we might be talking about that, but not at this time."
Supervisor Melton Harris said it will be important for the board to devise a fair and reasonable replacement strategy.
"We will probably have to start trying to compile a list of criteria we like to see, things such as where the individual could live. What is the law enforcement background? Does he or she have to be a resident of Jackson County? All kinds of criteria that we may ask ourselves," Supervisor Melton Harris said.
An interim sheriff would serve until the next county-wide election scheduled for 2015.