MOBILE, AL (WLOX) - It will be another three months before Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd learns the price he'll have to pay for federal witness tampering. The sheriff pleaded guilty to the charge Tuesday afternoon inside the federal courthouse in Mobile, Alabama. Sentencing was set for March 11, 2014.
Judge William Steele could send Byrd to prison for up to 20 years, but prosecutors are recommending a much lighter sentence of just six months home confinement and six months probation.
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. That chase began in Mississippi, but ended in Alabama, which is why the charges were filed in that state.
Upon leaving court, Byrd's attorney Joe Sam Owen said, "What happened in the hearing today is what we expected."
A handful of witnesses were on hand for the proceedings. Among them was Pascagoula Police Lieutenant Jeff Barnes who told WLOX News, "Byrd should resign today." He said the Jackson County Sheriff's Department had been tarnished by Sheriff's Byrd's actions, but the damage was not beyond repair.
County supervisors must now decide whether to appoint an interim sheriff. As of Monday, they were not saying much about the matter other than to promise a thoughtful process before naming a replacement.
Byrd's guilty plea Tuesday means no more federal charges will be brought against the sheriff in this case, from the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Alabama. No other federal, state or local prosecuting authorities are bound by the agreement.
Read the full plea agreement here: http://bit.ly/1bVwmim
He 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
Reporter Doug Walker was in the courtroom for today's proceedings and will have more on what happens next later today on WLOX News and WLOX.com.